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February 21, 2018

Principal told to resign over asbestos

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“Chris has been a hard-working and popular principal of Wales Street Primary for the past seven years,” she wrote.

Ms Nagorcka said the school council had been working with the leadership of the school to address health and safety systems since the asbestos incident.

Mr Sexton refused to comment.

More than 500 people signed a petition to Education Department secretary Richard Bolt on change.org calling for the reinstatement of Mr Sexton.

“He is excellent at his job and is much loved by both the children and parents,” says the petition written by Vivian Hardwick.

“The school community has written hundreds of letters to the department requesting that Mr Sexton be reinstated immediately.”

Thirty-nine preps and their teachers were potentially exposed to the deadly asbestos fibres for a week in February.

An independent report provided to the department in April said it had “significant concerns about the works undertaken by the school and their subsequent response”.

It said an asbestos audit should have been completed before the renovation began, the school’s asbestos register and risk-management plan appeared to be substantially out of date and the classroom was reopened before appropriate clearance had been given.

“In our opinion the school should not have allowed this classroom to be used once potential concerns were raised.”

Parent Michael Sullivan said he was disappointed Mr Sexton would not return.

“There was an expectation that Chris would be back next year – we didn’t think it would come to this,” Mr Sullivan said.

“I do not believe he was solely responsible. Fundamentally the school loses twice. We’ve had the disappointment of the incident occurring in the first place and then the loss of a principal who has done an exceptional job in seven years at the school.

“I don’t see that is in the interest of parents and particularly children.”

Australian Education Union state president Meredith Peace said it would have been a difficult decision for Mr Sexton to resign.

“We have supported him throughout what’s been a pretty long and difficult process and we will continue to support him,” Ms Peace said.

“We remain very concerned that a significant responsibility such as asbestos is left up to school principals to manage. Asbestos is an incredibly dangerous substance and requires significant expertise which our principals don’t have. While they continue to be expected to do this we will continue to get incidents like this occurring.”

Ms Peace questioned what had been done to put in place a long-term plan for the removal of asbestos from school buildings.

Ms Nagorcka said the principal role would be advertised with a view to the person beginning in term one next year.

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