For openness, below you will find all of the dialogue between ourselves and the school
(except the reply from the Board and out rebuttal, which have their own page here).
Note: The issue here is not the behaviour of the children involved and we have blanked out their names where they occur.
1 - Email to Nikki Shakeshaft 03/09/2010
We have just been informed by our son that, as a consequence of the incident on Wednesday (when ***Girl-2*** was injured by him), that you have decided to exclude him from the trip to Palmerston North.
I have to say that your behaviour in this matter displays a level of unprofessionalism that we would not have expected from a teacher at Taradale Intermediate.
When the incident occurred Karen Hogg very correctly (and very promptly) contacted us.
She described the incident as she knew it and explained that as a consequence he would be internally excluded for two days. We expressed our disappointment at his behaviour and made it clear that we fully supported the school on taking this action.
But you apparently decided to act separately and impose your own sanctions.
You saw fit to do so with neither the professionalism nor the simple good manners to inform us personally.
In doing so you have also seen fit to punish him twice for the same incident.
Might I also remind you that had our son not been experiencing bullying from ***Girl-1*** and ***Boy-1*** (whilst in a class environment) he would not have been in a situation that led to ***Girl-2*** being injured.
I have yet to hear that any disciplinary actions have been taken against either ***Girl-1*** or ***Boy-1***, yet our son is apparently to be punished twice.
Last year he was the victim of frequent bullying by ***Boy-1*** (particular when his form teacher was that inept ***Teacher A***). We allowed the school to deal with the matter internally (we believe in part by moving on that teacher). Now we find that he is still being victimised by ***Boy-1*** and you, in acting unilaterally, are compounding the matter.
In recent newsletters, Dennis Coxon has frequently spoken out against bullying.
What we did not expect was for him to be bullied by one of his teachers.
Regards, John and Judith McNally
2 - Response from Mrs Shakeshaft 04/09/2010
Good Morning John and Judith, thank you for your e-mail regarding your son and the Palmerston North trip.
Did he tell you that my decision to not take him to Palmerston was not solely on the incident during the week? Out of 16 drama club practices he has only turned up to four.
The kids knew that if their commitment wasn't there that they wouldn't be coming. ***Girl-2*** is actually in the drama group as well and to be honest, the trip away is a privillege (her spelling, not ours) for kids as a representation for our school.
I spoke with Leah who is organising the trip and told her that I didn't feel he with his current commitment level and behaviour would be an asset to our drama club.
I am sorry that you feel he is being done an injustice. Maybe if he had come to more drama practices then he would have a solid case for remaining there.
Regards Nikki Shakeshaft
3 - Response to Mrs Shakeshaft 04/09/2010
Thank you for your reply (below).
But I am afraid that your response in not satisfactory.
You say that a major factor in dropping him from the trip was his lack of commitment to the Drama Club. Well no, he did not tell us that. But then again, you didn't tell him that either did you.
The first he knew was when you told him that you were angry that the injury to
***Girl-2*** had meant you had had to find an alternate for a soccer match.
That as a consequence you were considering his suitability for the Palmerston North trip.
When you later informed him that he had indeed been dropped from the trip you did not elaborate further. So understandably he was led to believe that your anger over the extra work afforded you was the reason for your decision.
(Might I point out at this stage that a girl has been injured, a boy bullied and behaviour in the class highlighted. I would have thought there were larger issues here than the fact that you were inconvenienced).
Your decision to drop him from the trip, the manner in which you informed him, the timing of that decision and the fact that you did not see fit to approach us suggest that it was a knee-jerk reaction from yourself because you were angry at being inconvenienced.
It is only after your behaviour is questioned that you bring up the matter of his commitment to the Drama Club.
(Whilst on that subject, he knows he missed a couple of sessions due to illness. But there haven't been 16 Tuesdays since the trip was announced in July.)
So once again, your behaviour brings into question your lack of professionalism.
- Karen Hogg was dealing with this incident. You have seen fit to interfere and impose your own sanctions.
Am I to understand that you doubt Karen's ability to deal with the matter?
- You see our son regularly at rehearsals.
If your decision was not a knee-jerk reaction to the incident than why have you not mentioned his lack of attendance until now?
- During his time at TIS we have had contact with various members of staff on a variety of matters.
We have always been approachable and supportive of the school.
Why did you not have the common courtesy to contact us about your decision?
- If, as you claim, that your anger over the incident involving ***Girl-1***,
***Boy-1***, ***Girl-2*** and our son (and the inconvenience it had caused you) was not the primary reason for your decision to drop him from the trip.
Then why did you not ensure that he properly understood your motives?
What is the point of punishing him if he doesn't fully understand why?
No, your decision and the way you dealt with it was simply a knee-jerk reaction that you are now seeking to justify.
Even the tone of the closing sentence of your email comes across as simply petulant.
To conclude I can only say that I consider your performance and behaviour in the matter is not good enough and certainly below the standard we have come to expect from the staff at Taradale Intermediate.
Regards, John and Judith McNally.
4 - Email from Dennis Coxon 06/09/2010
Dear Mr and Mrs McNally
My response at this point is an interim one as I do not yet have all information at hand. I am seeking that information and due to the nature of your comments about Mrs Shakeshaft I will be involving the Board Of Trustee Chairperson, Mr Warwick Thomas and probably a personnel subcommittee. My comments below expand on this.
I will look into the management of the trip to Palmerston North and the fact that he has been told he will not be travelling, along with the incident that involved your son kicking another student in the head. These are matters that have been dealt with by senior staff including Mrs Hogg, Team Leader and Mrs Brinsley Senior Teacher, with input from Mrs Robyn Eddy Deputy Principal. I will be asking for reports from these teachers and then passing the information that they supply to the Board Chairperson. He and I will make the decision as to our response to your range of accusations.
There are issues that you raise that I must admit that I am struggling to come to terms with. Several of these I must comment on immediately:
Your comment about ***Teacher A*** is totally unfounded. ***Teacher A*** was a highly respected teacher at TIS and I can categorically refute your implication that her leaving was for the reason you imply or that she was in your words 'inept'.
I must point out that Mrs Nikki Shakeshaft is considered a highly respected teacher at TIS ( from both students, parents and staff perspective) and I say this in the context of being the professional leader of this school. She is a Senior Teacher, highly committed and dedicated as a teacher and staff member of TIS. Her commitment to extra-curricular activities outweighs most if not all staff at TIS. She has my full respect as a teacher and for her teaching talents. For this reason I am somewhat surprised by the strength of your comments hence my involvement from here on of the Board of Trustees. I believe I need the advice and guidance of our employers and governance body before a full response is made. That way you can be assured that I am not acting in a way that you may consider biased. It might be that future communication comes via the Board Chairperson, that decision I imagine will be up to the Board to make.
You are upset about what has happened to your son. While I find that understandable we need to look at this objectively and that is what we will do. I would ask that you wait for our response as this email records formally your contact with staff at school and with me as principal. This email and Mrs Shakeshaft's response will be forwarded to the Board Chairperson tonight.
Dennis Coxon, Principal, Taradale Intermediate
5 - Email to Dennis Coxon 06/09/2010
Dear Mr Coxon,
Thank you for your reply.
I understand the difficult position this puts you because it is incumbent on you to back your staff at all times.
But I am afraid that my comments stand.
It is not the Palmerston North trip itself that is the issue it is the manner in which Mrs Shakeshaft tacked it on to the punishment already imposed on our son (a matter that was being dealt with by Karen Hogg properly and with consultation with ourselves and Mrs Brinsley).
In fact our feelings are that strong at the moment that we are not sure we would even want to commit him to the care of someone like Nikki Shakeshaft.
With regard to ***Teacher A***, you may recall that we were on school camp with her last year.
We were able to observe first hand her attitude toward bullying by males.
For example. On one occasion, whilst on a tramp, ***Boy-2*** came close to blinding another pupil by deliberately flicking something into his eye. She simply bathed that child's eye with water and did nothing about ***Boy-3***. I would hazard a guess that she never documented the incident.
Throughout the camp, ***Boy-1***, ***Boy-2*** and others were basically left to act as they pleased.
In class our son was having a lot of trouble with ***Boy-1***, ***Boy-2*** (he would come home with scratches or bruises where one or the other had pushed him or picked him up and dropped him in a box).
When we had the consultation evening just before she left the school she made no mention of any problems. Then when the bell rang for the end of the session, as she was walking us to the door, she said that our son was having some trouble with
***Boy-1*** but that it was his own fault because when ***Boy-1*** physically bullied him, our son 'talked back'.
You can understand therefore why we do not hold her in high regard.
The problem had reached a stage where our son was having problems sleeping, including sleepwalking.
My wife had a meeting with Leane Beale to discuss the problem with her in charge of the class the problem with ***Boy-1*** was much reduced.
I think therefore you will understand our concerns.
We were appalled when we heard that he had hurt ***Girl-2***.
Then we found out what led to the incident and that once again it involved ***Boy-1***.
Then we have the actions of Nikki Shakeshaft whereby he gets punished twice for the same incident.
(By the way, her email suggests that he wasn't attending rehearsals for the Drama Club. But apart from days when he was off sick he was only aware he'd missed one meeting which was when room 12 didn't receive the relevant notice).
Regards, John and Judith McNally.
6 - letter from Warwick Thomas 13/09/2010
This is the reply from the Board of Trustees that totally ignored our complaints
about Nikki Shakeshaft and went off at a tangent discussing our son's behaviour.
They did so by making slanderous statements
that were designed to frighten us into silence.
That is the nature of the Board of Trustees at this school.
This letter and our rebuttal can be viewed here.
7 - response to Warwick Thomas 24/09/2010
This was our rebuttal to the Board of Trustees.
It is this rebuttal that they refuse to discuss
because they know that they are in the wrong.
Their letter (above) and this rebuttal can be viewed here.
8 - email to Warwick Thomas 21/10/2010
I note that it is now 28 days since you received my response to your letter of 13 September, 2010.
You have not yet responded, in fact you haven't even had the common decency to acknowledge receipt of my reply.
I would have thought that since the matter at hand concerns a teacher at Taradale Intermediate acting inappropriately the Board of Trustees would have dealt with the matter with some urgency.
9 - email to Warwick Thomas 26/10/2010
(sent at the suggestion of Gilian Melville - Ministry of Education, Napier)
Despite repeated requests you have still not responded to my email of 24/09/2010 nor even acknowledged it's receipt.
I wish to have a meeting with yourself to discuss both the matter of Mrs Shakeshaft's unprofessional behaviour and also your refusal to properly investigate and deal with the matter.
Yours, John McNally.
10 - email to Gilian Melville (Min of Ed) Sunday 31/10/2010
As you suggested, I again emailed the Chairperson of the Board of Trustees asking for a meeting to discuss my grievance with Taradale Intermediate School.
As before, I have had no reply whatsoever.
Since they still will not enter into a dialogue on this matter it is necessary for me to ask the Ministry of Education to intervene.
As you are aware, this matter started with the inappropriate behaviour of one of the teachers at the school, Nikki Shakeshaft.
To avoid dealing with the matter the Principal, Dennis Coxon, immediately handed it on to the Board of Trustees.
He did so secure in the knowledge that the Board would just try to whitewash the issue and, when that failed, simply refuse to acknowledge any further communications.
In the meantime, Nikki Shakeshaft's behaviour remains unchecked and she still has daily access to children.
Regards, John McNally.
11 - email from Dennis Coxon 01/11/2010
Note: we only get this response AFTER they see that we have asked the Ministry of Education to intervene.
This email is notification of its receipt by Warwick Thomas BoT Chair and myself as principal. You will be receiving correspondence from the Board later today.
For and on behalf of the Board of Trustees, Taradale Intermediate
12 - email to Dennis Coxon 02/11/2010
I have yet to receive the promised correspondence.
Mr Coxon this is getting very tiresome, presumably your reply (below) was simply so that you had a reply of sorts to copy to the Ministry of Education.
This is a serious matter which has become more serious by the refusal/inability of the Board and yourself to deal properly with this matter.
I can see why Nikki Shakeshaft is free to behave as she does when you (as the Principal) and Thomas (BOT chair) collude to stonewall any complaints.
13 - fatuous email from Dennis Coxon 02/11/2010
You assume so much.
Dennis - from iphone.
14 - email to Dennis Coxon from John McNally 02/11/2010
That I have not received the correspondence (promised by you) is not assumption,
it is fact.
15 - email to Dennis Coxon from Judith McNally 02/11/2010
Thank you for your flippant reply to John's email, yet another example of your refusal to take this matter seriously. Is it any wonder that your staff think they can act as they wish.
But the fact of the matter is your promised correspondence has not been received.
Though I do find it odd.
Until now both you and the board have have remained essentially silent.
Now that the Palmerston North trip is over, getting responses from you becomes possible.
16 - email from Warwick Thomas - Chairman of the BoT 03/11/2010
Dear John and Judith
I acknowledge receipt of all your correspondence via email to myself and various other parties.
As Chairperson of the Board of Trustees of Taradale Intermediate I need to inform you that the matter you have raised was discussed fully and appropriately as a matter of urgent concern. The board carefully and deliberately addressed all aspects of your complaint. I communicated to you the decisions and therefore the matter was considered closed.
I acknowledge receipt of your follow up email (September 24) and the detail it contained. Your dissatisfaction was re-considered but the matter had been dealt with and I along with the Board felt that the matter had already been closed and it was not constructive to revisit our decision
As BOT Chair I consider communication important and regret that apart from the automatic reply's I did not acknowledge receipt of your emails, and therefore I apologise for that. I have found that some of your emails have been directed to a folder that I don't often access as it intercepts possible spam emails, this includes your Oct 26 email.
John, I am prepared to discuss further a possible meeting with yourself, Judith and the Board, if the purpose of that meeting is to aim for a positive outcome. As a Board we have made our decision re your complaint, it was communicated to you and as I have said, from the board this was closure.
You have asked 'I wish to have a meeting with yourself to discuss both the matter of Mrs Shakeshaft's unprofessional behaviour and also your refusal to properly investigate and deal with the matter.' I believe we need to take further advice as to whether we can work with your agenda as stated or work towards an agreed agenda. We will do this and communicate further when we have taken advice.
This last email from Warwick Thomas is priceless:-
'John, I am prepared to discuss further a possible meeting with yourself, Judith and the Board, if the purpose of that meeting is to aim for a positive outcome.' (Whatever that means ?????)
'You have asked "I wish to have a meeting with yourself to discuss both the matter of Mrs Shakeshaft's unprofessional behaviour and also your refusal to properly investigate and deal with the matter." I believe we need to take further advice as to whether we can work with your agenda as stated or work towards an agreed agenda. We will do this and communicate further when we have taken advice'.
Rambling psychobabble which apparently means
'Yes of course we can have a meeting........except that we can't'.
'As BOT Chair I consider communication important and regret that apart from the automatic reply's I did not acknowledge receipt of your emails, and therefore I apologise for that. I have found that some of your emails have been directed to a folder that I don't often access as it intercepts possible spam emails, this includes your Oct 26 email'.
So here he is telling us that he has a spam filter that sends 'read receipts'
An obvious lie that is as ludicrous as it is pathetic.