More intrigue and suspicion as the
battle for the hearts and minds of parents at Ascham private girls
school in Sydney’s eastern suburbs settles down into trench warfare.

The
the annual Hillingdon school (for kindy children) cocktail party
tonight is expected to be a subdued affair, while tomorrow the
executive committee of the Concerned Parents group to plan a campaign
for changes to the School Council, stepping up the pressure on the
governors and the chairman, Justice Margaret Stone.

The dispute
is over the hardline attitude of the school council, led by Federal
Court judge Justice Margaret Stone, in rejecting attempts to have the
school’s recently appointed headmistress, Susan Preedy, re-instated.It
has led to an increasingly acrimonious series of exchanges between the
Concerned Parents group (who number between 600-800 of the 900 parents
involved with children at the school), the School Council and Justice
Stone and their supporters, including former head, Rowena Danziger. It
was her dramatic re-appearance as interim head to fill in for Ms
Preedy, in late February, that sparked the parental revolt.

This week there’s been a story in The Daily Telegraph on Wednesday that said Ms Preedy would not be re-instated, and another in TheSydney Morning Herald yesterday which revealed some parents had briefed a barrister to look at the legal ramifications.

The Tele’s
story, which involved the new advisers to the council, well known spin
doctors, Jackson Wells Morris, is still resonating through the parents
group at Ascham.

This email was circulated to parents yesterday explaining the background:

This article [in the Tele] was based on a statement
from Ascham Council Governors faxed (to the paper) from Justice Stone’s
Judge’s Chambers early Tuesday evening. Subsequently, Justice Stone
attended a Committee Meeting of Ascham Old Girls. At that meeting,
amongst other things, Justice Stone urged parents to refrain from
issuing statements to the media.

The statement that the Council issued and which TheDaily Telegraph
reported said that Ms Preedy had returned home to England. Taken by
itself, this suggested that Miss Preedy has returned permanently and
does not wish to resume her position as Headmistress. In contrast, as
Ms Preedy said at Monday night’s meeting at UNSW (of concerned
parents), she was leaving to spend a few days with her sick mother and
will be returning and wished to resume her position as Headmistress.

Ms
Preedy did withdraw her resignation on 28 February 2005 in a letter
sent to Justice Stone, as reported in today’s [Thursday’s] Sydney Morning Herald article. This statement contrasts with the Sydney Morning Herald’s
further notation that Justice Stone informed members of the Committee
of Ascham Old Girls on Tuesday night that she had never received any
indication from Ms Preedy that she wished to return to the School.

As
those of you who attended Monday night’s meeting at UNSW know, there
were restrictions imposed upon what Ms Preedy could say on Monday night
about the circumstances of her resignation. Justice Stone typed a
letter in her chambers late on Monday afternoon which she asked Ms
Preedy to sign.

After negotiations with a mediator, Justice
Stone agreed to allow Ms Preedy to attend Monday night’s meeting but
she was not to discuss the circumstances of her resignation.

Given
Council’s statements about Ms Preedy’s successes as Headmistress, it is
difficult to understand why it refuses to accept her return as
Headmistress.

Get more Crikey, for less

It’s more than a newsletter. It’s where readers expect more – fearless journalism from a truly independent perspective. We don’t pander to anyone’s party biases. We question everything, explore the uncomfortable and dig deeper.

Join us this week for 50% off a year of Crikey.

Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
50% off