NEW ZEALAND - St Peter's School: Mystery surrounds circumstances of executive and deputy principals' absence

NEW ZEALAND - St Peter's School: Mystery surrounds circumstances of executive and deputy principals' absence

By: Belinda Feek

Mystery still surrounds the abrupt departure of the executive principal and his deputy principal wife from a Cambridge private school.

It's unclear exactly when executive principal Dale Burden and deputy principal Yevette Williams were last at St Peter's School, but it's believed to have been before the end of the first school term.

The school is now in the hands of chief operating officer Rob Campbell who today reiterated its stance of being unable to comment when approached again by the Herald.

Board of Trustees chairman John Erkkila referred the Herald's questions to a PR company last night, which said there was no comment due to privacy reasons.

The Teaching Council this morning confirmed it hadn't been notified of any issues about Burden or Williams.

Parents remain in the dark today, and many spoken to by the Herald repeated rumours their children had heard circulating at school.

One parent said he's "shocked and bemused" by the pair's unexplained absence.

"It's an amazing school and the level of communication is amazing, you get a weekly newsletter and so for that [email] to come out on Monday, that was really odd."

However, another parent was supportive of Burden and said the email sent out by the board had only "created more questions than answers".

"The staff and parents that I know have all very much enjoyed working with Dale, and the heads of department that I have become close with.

"He has a big presence at the school and he's very engaging with the students.

"He's a very stand up guy."

She said she wasn't concerned about the rumours and was more concerned about a sudden change in leadership and the effect on her child's education.

She said the school had only been back a week and she didn't think anyone had noticed his, or his wife's, absence.

The rumours have been put to the school, which is yet to comment about them.

The Herald tried to reach Burden near the end of the first term but was told he was on leave.

In the email sent on Monday evening, the school acknowledged queries from parents and caregivers about the two senior staff members but said it was unable to comment further due to privacy reasons.

It assured parents and caregivers that all operational matters would be taken care of by Campbell, while teaching and learning matters would be looked after by campus principal Julie Small.

Katrina Casey, deputy secretary of sector enablement and support at the Ministry of Education, said private schools were registered with the Ministry of Education under section 214 of the Education and Training Act 2020, they were governed by their own independent boards.

"There is no requirement for them to inform us of matters such as this. However, should the board need some guidance we would be happy to support them if we can."

Deborah James, executive director of the Independent Schools of NZ, referred the Herald's queries to the school.

St Peter's alumni chairman Peter Coles said it was "not appropriate" for him to comment.

Burden joined the elite Waikato school in 2016 after a decade as headmaster of Mt Albert Grammar School in Auckland, which was at times controversial.

In 2013, he started random drug testing of students caught smoking cannabis, and had also hit the headlines for his less than subtle stance on tackling body odour.

Williams started at St Peter's at the same time as her husband, and their daughter also attends the school.

Williams also came from Mt Albert Grammar where she was the deputy principal.

Burden has been approached for comment.

The Anglican-affiliated school, with a history that dates back more than 80 years, teaches

students from Year 7 to Year 13. It has boarding facilities on site.

Annual tuition fees to attend the private school start from $20,750 for Year 7-8 day students.

It offers a broad sports curriculum covering rowing, equestrian, cheerleading, rock climbing and lacrosse.


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