Tuesday 25 July 2017

'Unfit for office' teacher fights to save her career

Tim Healy

A SCHOOL principal is challenging a bid by the Education Minister to sack her.

The minister claims Catherine McSorley, of Annamult, Bennettsbridge, Co Kilkenny, is "unfit for office".

Ms McSorley has brought a High Court action against the minister and Co Kilkenny VEC.

She has been principal of Kilkenny City Vocational School since 1999 and she claims she has been credited with turning the secondary school round.

Ms McSorley is seeking an order from the court quashing the decision of the Education Minister on July 28, 2011, to remove her.

She is also seeking an injunction restraining the minister and the VEC from terminating her employment or from stopping the payment of her salary, benefits and pension.

Ercus Stewart, counsel for Ms McSorley, said the minister's decision last year was irrational. If Ms McSorley is removed from her post it would be the end of her chosen career, Mr Stewart said.

When she took over at the school, it had been in decline for several years, but she had turned it around, he said.

Enrolments increased by 54pc and she was popular with pupils, parents and teachers, the court heard.

In 2006, then Education Minister Mary Hanafin appointed Torlach O'Connor, a retired assistant chief inspector, to carry out an inquiry in to Ms McSorley's performance, the court also heard.

The terms of reference of the inquiry were drafted to include various allegations regarding the management of the school, which had been the subject of four previous investigations.

The minister specifically ordered an investigation into the organisation and administration of the school in the area of human resource management and the alleged failure of Ms McSorley to effectively apply the school's disciplinary policy. It also dealt with her alleged engagement in bullying staff members and her alleged payment to students to attend school.

None of the allegations against Ms McSorley were upheld.

The report also advised that Ms McSorley was "a very considerable force for good in the school" and that " there is no doubting her commitment to the school".

The case before Mr Justice John Hedigan continues.

Irish Independent

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