The chairperson of the board of St Johns College in Harare has apologised to parents and stakeholders after one of the schools’ teachers announced to students that he was gay at a special assembly last week. The chairperson, Charles Msipa, said that the move had been necessitated by the fact that the Daily News newspapers had sent questions to the school after allegations had been raised about Dr Neal Hovelmeier the Deputy Headmaster.
We publish the letter from the board to the parents in full below,
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24th September 2018
Dear Parents/Guardian, the purpose of the letter is to provide some context and background to the communication that was made by the College management to school stakeholders on Friday, September 21 concerning the sexual orientation of the Deputy Headmaster of the College, Dr Neal Hovelmeier. The sequence of events was as follows;
- Late on Thursday 20 September. 1 received communication from management indicating that Hovelmeier had received an email communication from a daily newspaper asking him to confirm or deny allegations that he was gay and how he could reconcile that with his position as Deputy Head of the College. Management had consulted with the school’s legal advisor, on the basis of which they recommended that it would be preferable for school stakeholders to learn of Dr Hovelmeier’s sexual orientation from them rather than from a news story on the same subject-publication of which seemed imminent.
- In view of the fact that time was of the essence for management to communicate to stakeholders prior to publication of the story in other media sources, I endorsed management strategy to communicate to stakeholders and proceeded to update/inform colleagues on the board to seek their ratification of this action. By Friday, September 21 morning I had received email responses from some board members requesting that communication on the matter by the school should be stayed pending convening of an emergency board meeting to deliberate on the matter. Shortly thereafter, I received a separate communication from a media source indicating that publication of the story on the online news section of the newspaper was imminent I concluded that the strategy for the school to communicate directly to stakeholders in an open, transparent manner was preferable to situation where stakeholders would first learn of this matter through a news report-and authorized management to do so-and advised my colleagues on the board of this development. I made the decision with knowledge that this strategy’ had not been sanctioned by the board – but that it was in the best interests of the College.
- In the event, the publication of the story in the Daily News newspaper of Saturday, September 22 was based on the management communication of the matter – rather than on conjecture and rumours.
I take full responsibility for the events that transpired and extend my unreserved apologies to all stakeholders for any distress occasioned by the management communication and publication.
On a personal level, it is my respectful view that the should continue to strive to provide a safe, caring, inclusive, diverse and tolerant environment and spare for all persons regardless of race, religious beliefs, gender, sexual orientation, abilities or disabilities.
I thank you for your continued support of staff and management team at the College whose professional abilities, record and commitment to the education of our children is impeccable.
As previously communicated, you are welcome to join a stakeholders meeting held at the College Hall today at 17:30.
Chairman SJET Board
Parents are reported to be against the move and are agitating for the teacher to be relieved of his duties.