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Alice Springs news



Alice Springs news


Alice Springs news; NewspaperNT




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This publication contains many links to external sites. These external sites may no longer be active.




Community newspspers; Australia, Central; Alice Springs (N.T.); Newspapers

Publisher name

Erwin Chlanda

Place of publication

Alice Springs


v. 10 issue 44

File type



Copyright. Made available by the publisher under licence.

Copyright owner

Erwin Chlanda



Parent handle


Citation address


Page content

He still has his drum kit and you can see him guesting at gigs with a number of bands around town. He used to put his drum kit in the classroom: the kids in the bush community could play it in the morning."Then they owed me some reading, some maths. "They loved travel, sport and arts. I built my program around those things and our senior class went from an attendance of five, seven on a good day to a peak average of 33. "It was working, it was funny, fantastic, fun. "Then it was all smashed." After one year and two terms Mr Close was pulled out of the school at short notice and, while not sacked, has not been able to regain permanent employment in the region since. Mr Close's problems began on September 24, 2001 when the deputy principal of the school gave him an unfavourable probation panel report, the contents of which Mr Close has always vehemently contested. It was signed on this date by the school's principal. However, a fortnight later the principal withdrew his signature, stating that he had signed "under duress" and did "not support in any way its contents". Mr Close says he was given no notice that the report was due, but was simply told to attend a meeting to have it read out to him. He says the report was faxed the same day to the then director of schools in the Centre, Russell Totham. Mr Close was not given a copy of the report until 10 days later. It did not recommend that Mr Close lose his job, only that he improve his performance in some areas. On October 17 Mr Totham was at the community and told Mr Close to attend a meeting in Alice Springs two days later, to respond to the allegations in his probation report. In the meantime, the principal, who had supported Mr Close's teaching style, had been transferred and demoted and the deputy principal had been instated as acting principal. Mr Close says he asked for at least the weekend to prepare for the meeting with Mr Totham. Mr Totham refused. "He insisted I respond two days later," says Mr Close. "During that time, I was expected to teach, sleep, eat, travel and do whatever else I needed to do, and prepare for allegations that could see me lose my job and reputation. "Nothing like the natural justice I have read about." Mr Close says at the meeting Mr Totham referred to letters and faxes about Mr Close but would not show them to him. The News has sighted copies of these letters and faxes, now in Mr Close's possession, some clearly solicited by Mr Totham. All of them were written in the critical month of October, 2001, although some related to concerns that were supposedly long-standing. Mr Close asks, "Why did people write about me on these particular dates?" He suggests it was because the deputy principal at the school, who he alleges was being groomed for the position of principal and did not want to work with him, "solicited and coordinated negative assessments and stories" about him. It is important to remember that the probation report had recommended all sorts of ways in which Mr Close could improve his performance. The assumption in the report is that he would be able to address the issues raised in the course of on-going teaching duties at the school. REASONABLE A reasonable person might expect that some sort of agreed plan would be put in place to allow Mr Close to improve his practice. After all, his probation report had acknowledged a number of positives about him, including having built the number of students attending his class from "very few to an enrolment of over 20" no mean feat in a bush school. Yet, just two weeks into term, at the October 19 meeting with Mr Totham he was told he would be "stood down" from his duties forthwith and until November 2, accommodated at departmental expense in Alice Springs. At the time he says he was working with his class of teenage boys and initiated young men on the topic of volcanoes, chosen by the students. "They were never able to finish," says Mr Close. "After I was stood down no relief teachers were employed to take my place. Hardly any young men or boys were going to school then." During the stand-down period, on October 25, Mr Close went back to the community "to live in my own house as