‘Give us answers’ on principal’s sudden exit

PARENTS paying up to $20,000 a year to send their children to an elite Gold Coast school are demanding the veil of secrecy be lifted on the abrupt resignation of the principal.

Frustrated parents at St Hilda's School contacted the Bulletin yesterday to say they had been left in the dark about what prompted the sudden departure of Dr Julie Wilson Reynolds.

Her shock resignation comes just weeks after the loss of junior school principal Tracey Maynard.

Dr Julie Wilson Reynolds. Photo: Supplied
Dr Julie Wilson Reynolds. Photo: Supplied

 

In a day of mixed messages yesterday, parents, the school and insiders told the Bulletin:

● Last Friday, Dr Wilson Reynolds submitted a column about leadership to be published in a Bulletin magazine later in the year. She also had meetings scheduled this week.

● In a brief statement yesterday that shed no further light on why she was leaving, Dr Wilson Reynolds said she was "looking forward to spending time with family interstate". However, students were told by teachers that the principal did not resign because of a family matter.

● Dr Wilson Reynolds was not present at the school yesterday.

● The school said the departures of both Ms Maynard and Dr Wilson Reynolds were not connected. Ms Maynard will be replaced by All Saints Anglican School teacher Amanda Shuttlewood.

● All the school would say about replacing Dr Wilson Reynolds was that it was "business as usual" and her role would be filled in "due course".

St Hildas School principal Dr Julie Reynolds resigned abruptly on Monday. Photo by Richard Gosling
St Hildas School principal Dr Julie Reynolds resigned abruptly on Monday. Photo by Richard Gosling

● Dr Wilson Reynolds, described as a bold education leader, was at odds with some of the St Hilda's old guard.

One angry parent said Dr Wilson Reynolds had "renewed my faith" in the school.

"She was innovative and trying to instigate change and that was met with two points of view - people who loved her and the old school people who want to keep controlling everything.

"When Dr Wilson Reynolds arrived it renewed my faith in change and the toppling of archaic old-girl views.

"That has been shattered now with the two women who came to instigate that change walking away."

Genevieve Mullins, the mother of eight-year-old student Gisele, said she was in shock.

"We had Ms Maynard leave before the end of last term - two very strong women have now left,'' she said.

"They were strong leaders at the school and we don't know why they left. There's something else going on here."

Patrick Wallas, Headmaster, All Saints Anglican School. Photo: Supplied
Patrick Wallas, Headmaster, All Saints Anglican School. Photo: Supplied

One parent whose child attends the primary school said she had "been told nothing''.

"How does this just happen so suddenly?'' she asked.

"We pay $20,000 a year so these people can teach our girls and yet it all changes overnight."

In her statement, acting principal Wendy Lauman said: "The Diocese of Brisbane and St Hilda's School Council thanked Dr Wilson Reynolds for her leadership, outstanding contributions to the school and her devotion to the pastoral care of students and staff.

"In due course, a new principal will be appointed to St Hilda's.

"In the meantime deputy principal Wendy Lauman will be acting principal and continue to provide leadership and support to staff, students and the school community during this period of transition and renewal."

St Hilda's School.
St Hilda's School.

Parents were urged to contact Ms Lauman if they had any concerns.

Amanda Shuttlewood, the assistant head of junior school at All Saints Anglican School, will fill Ms Maynard's role next term.

All Saints principal Patrick Wallas praised Ms Shuttlewood and congratulated her on her position. He also praised Dr Wilson Reynolds for her time at St Hilda's.

"Julie is a trusted colleague. While I don't know the circumstances of her departure, she is a valued and lovely person,'' he said.

"St Hilda's is a fantastic school and this loss is a hiccup from which they will recover."

In a statement yesterday afternoon, St Hilda's acting principal Wendy Lauman said "extensive planning" was under way to ensure no disruption at the school.

Ms Lauman said while both Dr Wilson Reynolds and Ms Maynard indicated their desire to return to home and families interstate, their resignations were in no way related.

"The Diocese of Brisbane and St Hilda's School Council has thanked Dr Wilson ­Reynolds for her leadership, ­outstanding contributions to the school and her devotion to the pastoral care of students and staff," the statement read.