Picket at hearing to support Cape Town principal ’being targeted by WCED in witch-hunt’, Newsline

Cape Town – Vasoula Bailey, who has three children who have either attended or are current pupils at Heathfield High, believes principal Wesley Neumann is the target of a Western Cape Education Department (WCED) witch-hunt.

Neumann was one of four principals who wrote an open letter to the department, raising their concerns around the safety at schools when the infection rate was still high during the pandemic.

He has being charged for 10 alleged transgressions, including not getting teachers and pupils back to class in August as per the directive of the WCED. Neumann has also been charged with assaulting a pupil when it’s alleged CCTV proved otherwise.

Neumann has served the school with distinction for the past 12 years and his pre-hearing takes place from 12.30pm today at the WCED offices in the Cape Town CBD.

Tanyan Gradwell said in a statement on social media on Sunday: “An injury to one is an injury to all. They (four principals) took a bold, moral decision to prioritize the safety of our children when many were silent and whispered in their own little corners.

’’We therefore call on every parent to come out and support the SGB of Heathfield High in picket tomorrow, Monday 28 September 2020, at 12.30pm, to show our support and solidarity to Mr Neumann and the SGB.

’’We won’t make it easy for the WCED to play with the careers and future of our people. Please take your placards, as parents, let’s show up each and every time, like these principals showed up for us.’’

Bailey told IOL on Monday: ’’A lot of people have indicated they will be attending the picket. There has been huge support for principal Neumann.

’’This whole situation is unfair. Mr Neumann didn’t agree with what they (WCED) were saying about the opening of schools. Now they are going after Mr Neumann because he had a different point of view.

“The charges are in my opinion ridiculous, especially the one where they accused him of assaulting a learner after they had seen footage where he had done nothing of the sort.

’’They are grasping at straws, are upset and are making an example of him because he didn’t agree with them.

”Mr Neumann has always been a very strong leader with his own views. (Former Settlers High principal) Brian Isaacs was fired by the WCED (on charges relating to insubordination and false statements in the media) and, like Neumann, he was a very good principal.

’’I have four children and this is the first principal I have met who is so committed to his work and his learners. He is a very good principal and to lose him – who is young and vibrant – would not only be a big loss to the community but the education department as well.’’

23 September 2020

Dear Parents / Guardians

I address this letter to you with a heavy heart—this year will…

Posted by Wesley Neumann on Wednesday, September 23, 2020

In a statement to parents/guardians last week, Neumann – who indicated that if he is dismissed, ’’it will be a small price to pay to be able to retain my freedom of speech and my right to deliver constructive criticism’’ – said: ’’I address this letter to you with a heavy heart – this year will mark 12 years of service to the Heathfield High School Community.

’’During the 12 years, I have dedicated myself entirely to the holistic development of children. I undertook a personal commitment to contribute to various organisations including sporting, community, professional bodies and Union organisations affording our children the best opportunity to succeed.

’’Furthermore, I have dedicated my career to fighting injustice within the Education sector. From a young age, I was taught the values of justice as opposed to the effects of injustices.

’’I was taught to fight injustices as it may occur and was also influenced positively to have a love for educating others. My life thus far, as the record can show has been dedicated to the holistic education of children and to oppose any form of injustice.

’’On 16 September 2020, the Western Cape Education Department formally instituted disciplinary charges against myself. It is in this regard that I decided and deemed it necessary that I make a statement on this issue and take the school community into my confidence.

’’The Education Department has brought 10 charges in total against myself. The charges against myself must be viewed in a serious light as the Education Department intends to pursue a sanction of dismissal should I be found guilty.

In summary, the charges against me are as follows:

Charge 1

1. You attempted to assault or threatened to assault a learner at Heathfield High School, by pointing your finger in his face’. In response to the above charge, it must be noted that the learner was intoxicated and physically attacked my person when he was asked to follow reasonable instructions.

The physical assault against me was recorded on CCTV and was in full view of learners, parents, visitors to the school and educators. In good faith, I forwarded the video footage to the Education Department, where the footage clearly shows that the learner attacked me and also provided all affidavits of witnesses to this incident.

Furthermore, the same learner was recommended for expulsion by the School Governing Body for dealing in drugs at our school’s annual athletics inter-house.

One of our learners who bought the “drugs” from the learner overdosed and was hospitalised. Subsequently, the Head of Education Department upheld the recommendation of the expulsion of the School Governing Body. Parents, in light of the above, what would a reasonable person do when attacked as explained above?

Charge 2-10 all relates:

It is alleged that you are guilty of misconduct in terms of Section 18 (1) (i) of the Act, in that on or about 24 July 2020, as Principal of Heathfield High School, you failed to carry out a lawful order or routine instruction without just or reasonable cause issued to you by Mr BK Schreuder, Head of Education, to action the following:

(1) Issue letters to parents of Grade 12 learners ensuring that they attend school from 03 August 2020; and /or

(2) Ensuring that educators teaching Grade 12 learners are on duty and teaching the learners every day of the school week; and/or

(3) Informing the School Governing Body in writing of these instructions and that instructions or coercion to the contrary fall outside their functions of governance and oversight.

’’It must be noted that charges 2-10 relates to the unprecedented period in the history of our country and the world. Countrywide parents, learners and teachers were anxious due to the rapid rate at which the Covid-19 virus was spreading.

’’The number of infections increased exponentially, reaching well over 12 000 infections daily. This, despite the Government’s noble mass screening and testing strategy as a country, we struggled to contain the spread of the virus.