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Heathfield High principal has until Friday to decide whether he will accept a demotion

Wesley Neumann, principal of Heathfield High School, has until Friday to decide whether he will accept a demotion to head of department. Picture: Tracey Adams/African News Agency (ANA)

Wesley Neumann, principal of Heathfield High School, has until Friday to decide whether he will accept a demotion to head of department. Picture: Tracey Adams/African News Agency (ANA)

Published May 16, 2022

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Cape Town - Heathfield High School principal Wesley Neumann, who was sanctioned with dismissal after the loss of his disciplinary hearing, is weighing up prospects for a review of the Western Cape Department of Education’s (WCED) dismissal of his appeal.

Neumann has until Friday to decide whether he will accept a demotion to head of department as an alternative to his sanctioned dismissal after former education MEC Debbie Schäfer dismissed his appeal on five charges and acquitted him of assault.

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Neumann was sanctioned with dismissal in October last year when he was found guilty of six charges of misconduct as a result of a disciplinary process following his refusal to reopen the school amid the Covid-19 infection peak in 2020.

Schäfer upheld presiding officer Ronélle Raubenheimer’s finding of guilt on the following charges of misconduct: failure to carry out a lawful order without just or reasonable cause; disrespect in the form of abusive or insolent behaviour; bringing the WCED into disrepute; misconduct for misusing his position and breach of the employer’s social media policies.

The department claimed Neumann incited personnel, learners and the community on social media not to attend school and irresponsibly criticised government policies.

Heathfield High School special action committee said Neumann was offered the HOD position at either Malibu High, Zeekoevlei High or Wittebome High.

Brian Isaacs, the committee’s interim spokesperson, said: “Nowhere in the entire world has a teacher or principal been taken to task by an education department and disciplinary action taken against a teacher or principal who took the necessary steps to protect their students.

“This indicates that in the Western Cape the WCED practices racism and hides behind a cloak of so-called fairness.”

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Neumann’s lawyer, Vernon Seymour, said they would need to engage further with the WCED and consider whether its new leadership under the helm of David Maynier may have a different view.

“I understand the rationale they have used to justify their decision,” he said.

Seymour said they would weigh the prospects of taking the matter on review but the ruling lacked clarity on its practical implementation.

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Commenting on Neumann being acquitted of assault of a learner, Seymour said: “It was a concoction and a fabrication that was exposed to be exactly that.”

Neumann had argued that his dismissal be set aside on the grounds of procedural and substantive unfairness. He further claimed that charges against him were “politically motivated” due to his union membership.

The WCED said: “Given the MEC’s concerns that he still does not understand his role as principal in relation to the SGB, and that the MEC is upholding the finding on the merits of all but one charge, it is untenable for appellant to continue in his position as principal.

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“However, he is afforded the opportunity to continue in employment in a lower post. As a matter of law he must however agree to take up that demotion for that decision to be of effect.”

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Cape Argus

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