Sacking of MLC principal 'gutless'
A FORMER vice-chairman of Methodist Ladies College has launched a stinging attack on the board over its ''gutless'' and ''irresponsible'' decision to sack principal Rosa Storelli, which was ''destroying'' the school brand.
The criticism comes as the Uniting Church conceded the board had the right to terminate a principal's employment after Ms Storelli asked church moderator Isabel Thomas Dobson to help to resolve the dispute.
The third tumultuous day since the shock dismissal of Ms Storelli saw a groundswell of support for the deposed principal from parents, students and old collegians.
Rosa Storelli. Photo: Angela Wylie
Businessman Geoff Drucker, who was a board member from 1999 to 2008, said the school community should call for a vote of no confidence in the board and a vote of confidence in Ms Storelli, whom he described as a ''most remarkable woman''.
He accused the board of destroying the MLC brand, which ''is one of the best in the land''.
''Rosa's reputation was damaged by the fact she was sacked but [it was] restored and built to a higher level by the massive volume of support out there for
her,'' Mr Drucker said. ''I think the board's reputation is going down by the hour to the point where very senior business people have to take a good hard look at their decisions. I know they haven't made the right decision.''
Corporate high-flyers on the MLC board of directors include Melbourne University Publishing CEO Louise Adler, Australia Post CEO Ahmed Fahour and KPMG partner Bernard Salt.
Mr Drucker said he could not believe Ms Storelli had been sacked given her calibre as an educational leader. ''When I was on the board we hoped she wouldn't resign because someone had headhunted her,'' he said.
''What is gutless about the board is that they announced this while the girls were on holidays. If this happened during the term parents would have been outside the school with placards.''
Parent Damian Ferrie said he had asked the MLC Parents Association to arrange a forum for parents to vote on a motion of no confidence in the board.
''Rosa is widely regarded as one of the best educationalists in the country,'' he said. ''Why would you lose someone of that calibre? It's almost breathtaking this approach would be taken.''
Year 12 students also emailed The Age, asking to pass on a message to Ms Storelli, who has been denied access to her work email.
''We are going to miss Mrs Storelli like no tomorrow, she has been the most amazing, inspirational and dedicated principal … This has gotten out of hand and completely ruined her reputation and given the wrong impression of her to the community,'' the email said.
In a letter to parents, acting principal Debbie Dunwoody said she acknowledged ''the sadness many families will feel for Rosa and the college''. She said the school was committed to ensuring the students, staff and families were supported during the transition period.
The board was not commenting yesterday. However, after heated discussions between the board and the Uniting Church, Ms Thomas Dobson issued a statement saying she recognised the MLC board had responsibility for recruitment and termination of the principal.
''The board has the right to terminate the principal's employment. The board has now exercised this right and this is not disputed by the moderator of the Uniting Church,'' Ms Thomas Dobson said.
She said she had made a formal complaint about an ''incorrect'' report in the Herald Sun that said she ''threw her support'' behind Ms Storelli.
MLC's constitution has been progressively modified since it was codified in 1982, reducing the influence of parents and the church over the management of the organisation.
In its original 1982 constitution, the school was to be governed by a council of 24 members, with the church synod, the MLC Parents Association, the Old Collegians Club and the existing council each appointing six members. The synod also held a power of veto over nominations made by parents, old girls and the council.
When MLC's constitution was modernised in 1997, the council was rebadged as a board and the number of directors reduced to 17.
The constitution was again changed in 2008, reducing the number of directors to 12, all of whom are elected by the existing board except for the principal.
This, the most recent version of the MLC constitution The Age was able to locate, preserves the right of the synod to reject nominations and specifies that two board members must be ''members or adherents of the Uniting Church in Australia''.
Under the 2008 constitution, ''a decision to terminate the employment of the principal must be passed by not less than eight directors at two successive board meetings held over a period of not less than 14 days''.