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Heathfield High School’s Wesley Neumann says he rejected demotion out of principle

Heathfield High School. Picture: Sisonke Mlamla Cape Argus

Heathfield High School. Picture: Sisonke Mlamla Cape Argus

Published May 18, 2022

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Cape Town - Heathfield High School Principal Wesley Neumann said he has rejected the demotion offer made by the Western Cape Education Department (WCED), as a matter of principle.

Neumann has been embroiled in a legal dispute with the WCED, after defying departmental orders to resume school amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

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In October 2021, Neumann was found guilty on six charges of misconduct. A sanction of dismissal was imposed by the presiding officer in respect to five of the six charges. Neumann filed a notice of appeal on November 4.

Last week, the WCED said a sanction of dismissal stands, unless Neumann is prepared to accept a demotion to department head at one of three schools, by no later than Friday.

Should he accept the demotion, Neumann would retain his current salary and benefits.

In a letter penned to the school community, Neumann said he rejected the offer as a matter of principle.

“I want to reiterate that, throughout this period, my intentions and actions were motivated by the children's best interests. I maintain my innocence of any wrongdoing.

“This case has been politically and personally contrived against me by the former MEC and HOD of Education Debbie Schäfer and Brian Schreuder. I have resolved to fight this matter to the bitter end.”

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“In pursuit of justice, regrettably, this will mean my temporary end of employment at Heathfield High School,” said Neumann.

Neumann expressed gratitude to all those who had stood by him and his family amid the ordeal.

In an emotional address, Heathfield High School principal bids farewell to pupils and staff. Neumann served as principal since 2018. Picture: Supplied

Pupils and community members have protested the move by the WCED, calling for his reinstatement, through protests.

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There have been several reports of unruly behaviour displayed by protesting students.

In a statement released by the Special Action Committee in support of Neumann, the committee said a pupil had been assaulted by a member of the public while protesting on Monday.

“On their return to school, the pupils were met with the full might of the law – Saps, Metro and the local domestic security company, that all behaved like typical apartheid police. The sight of this really incensed the pupils and led to angry protests from the pupils,” the statement read.

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Committee spokesperson Brian Isaacs said: “The opposition will always try to be on the side of order, when it is the WCED who creates disorder. If WCED reinstated Mr Neumann, I guarantee things will return to normal.”

Action Committee member Abdurahman Khan said 16 teachers have refused to cooperate with whoever will be replacing Neumann. During a community meeting held at the school on Tuesday, parents suggested an interdict should be pursued against the department, Khan said.

Pupils and parents have made it clear that no other leadership would be taking over the school, as of Monday.

WCED spokesperson Bronagh Hammond said the department has not yet received formal correspondence outlining Neumann’s decision, and awaits further correspondence.

“What needs to be addressed by Mr Neumann and any other individual, should be addressed outside of the school and should not, and cannot, affect teaching and learning time. Their pupils’ best interests, rights, and futures should take precedence,” said Hammond.

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