Brindabella Christian College slates review as parents raise governance concerns

Brindabella Christian College slates review as parents raise governance concerns

The board of Brindabella Christian College has announced a review of the school's operations amid rising tensions with some parents over a perceived lack of transparency and consultation in key decisions that affect the college community.

It comes as the Canberra college's board hit back at what it called a "deceptive and misleading" campaign against a proposal to build a community sports facility on the neighbourhood oval.

The school has contacted residents to explain "misinformation" about its plan, which was withdrawn late last year following anger aired at a public meeting.

A revised proposal was presented at a community meeting in June.

The information in the leaflet was also distributed in an email by college board deputy chairman Greg Zwajgenberg, under the heading, "Truth and Lies", and claimed the Lyneham community had received "a great deal of misinformation" about the proposal.


One parent, who did not want to be named, said the board's handling of the controversial plan had worried some parents who felt the approach was not in line with the school's values.

More than 30 parents met in Gungahlin last month to express concerns they said had simmered for months over the board's governance of the independent Christian college, which has campuses at Lyneham and Charnwood.

A letter distributed to parents ahead of the meeting and obtained by Fairfax Media outlined grievances over a lack of elected parent representatives on the school's self-appointed six-member board.

Parents were worried the board didn't have a "broadly based membership structure" that enabled them to express their views and vote on significant matters, including the prospect of parental representation on the board and the strategic direction of the college.

In the letter, parents advocated for greater openness and disclosure on major decisions and policies, better communication between the board, the P&F group and the rest of the college community and clear separation between the responsibilities of the board and school leaders.

In a recent email to staff, the board announced it had approved a review panel of two experienced principals to carry out a formal review of the college's operations.

"The review will include the entire college, the board, staff, parents, community, educational processes and relationships within the college," the email read.

"The board encourages all staff to openly and honestly participate in this review with a commitment from the board that we will genuinely work to improve the college in the knowledge of what is received."

"The board remains committed to quality Christian education and is seeking to position the college into the future."

Mr Zwajgenberg declined to comment on the review and said if parents had concerns about the board's operations they should raise them with the principal or executive through official channels.

"At the moment we're just doing business as usual so we're not doing anything untoward," Mr Zwajgenberg said.

Mr Zwajgenberg said there was "strong sentiment" from the school family that the Lyneham development should go ahead.

Christian Schools Australia chief executive Stephen O'Doherty said the college had grown considerably and it was important for the board to "check in every now and again" with external voices through a review.

"This is a very normal process and it's very healthy and it's something each school should look to do once in a generation.

"Independent schools are not run by parent committees. That said, they have to be accountable to the wider school community and that includes staff, parents and students and I'm sure that's what the board is endeavouring to do."

ACT Education Minister Joy Burch said non-government schools were free to manage their own affairs within territory laws and regulations.

"As this school is an independent school it would be incumbent upon the school to resolve issues of this nature internally through their processes."

The Lyneham development will be discussed at a meeting of the North Canberra Community Council on September 15 after a period of public consultation.

Megan Gorrey is a reporter at the Sydney Morning Herald. She was previously a reporter at The Canberra Times.