MLC parents demand board reinstate sacked principal

ALMOST 600 people last night unanimously passed a motion of no confidence in the board of elite Melbourne school Methodist Ladies College over the sacking of principal Rosa Storelli.

A public meeting of supporters of Ms Storelli also called on the board, which is chaired by Melbourne University Publishing CEO, Louise Adler, to resign.

The 2½ hour meeting also called for the reinstatement of Ms Storelli.

MLC alumna and patron Marjorie Nicholas, whose husband Hilton is an heir to the Aspro fortune, told a public meeting last night the board had destroyed ''in one fell swoop'' both the reputation of Ms Storelli and the ''prized and hard-won standing of MLC itself''.

''I am utterly dismayed at the damage that has been wrought, both to the image of MLC and to the reputation of Ms Storelli,'' said Ms Nicholas, who helped raise $3 million towards the school's swimming and gymnastics complex and redevelopment of the oval in the early 1990s.

The Nicholas family's philanthropic involvement with MLC goes back 90 years, with some school buildings named after George and Alfred Nicholas.

''It seems to me the board has got its priorities very seriously wrong and I, for one, am not prepared to contemplate any ongoing support to MLC whilst this debacle continues,'' Ms Nicholas said.

The meeting also called for the board to withdraw proceedings started in the Supreme Court yesterday to stop the Uniting Church intervening.

Parent Ben Gardiner said a vote of no confidence in the board made a moral difference, regardless of the legal outcomes.

Another parent, Peter Fitz, waved a placard that said ''Back Stozza. Sack Board.''

''I'm very upset my school is being trashed and I think it's abominable Rosa should be treated in this way,'' Mr Fitz said.

''I want to see them [the board] go before they do any more damage or spend any more money.''

Other proposals included withholding fees and putting them into a trust account until someone took charge, and chipping in to help Ms Storelli with her legal fees.

Ms Storelli was sacked on September 17 after she disputed the findings of a Deloitte investigation of her salary sacrificing arrangements, which found she had received more than $700,000 in ''overpayments'' over 10 years.

She was paid out more than $300,000 in lieu of being given six months' notice.

But on Tuesday the church's moderator, Isabel Thomas Dobson, determined she had powers to intervene in the affairs of the school, after she received advice from former solicitor-general Gavan Griffith, QC.

She directed the board and Ms Storelli to attend mediation.

But chairwoman Louise Adler said the board had different views to that of the moderator.

''We believe that the question of whether the moderator has that power should be resolved by the Supreme Court of Victoria, and the board has now asked the court to determine this,'' Ms Adler said in a letter to parents.

However, she said, the board had agreed that an independent arbitrator would determine the amount owed to the college by Ms Storelli.

''Ms Storelli will be required to repay the sum determined by arbitration to the college,'' Ms Adler said.

''We wish to assure you once again that we are seeking to act in the best long-term interests of this great college.''

Documents lodged in the Supreme Court just before 4pm seek a prohibition order preventing Ms Thomas Dobson from exercising jurisdiction over Ms Storelli's sacking.

They say MLC is a company subject to the Corporations Act and, subject to its constitution, the board can terminate the principal's employment according to the terms of the employment contract.

jtopsfield@theage.com.au

The story MLC parents demand board reinstate sacked principal first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.

Smartphone
Tablet - Narrow
Tablet - Wide
Desktop