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De La Salle parents may protest at return of Belfast principal


Extended leave: Claire White

Extended leave: Claire White

Kevin Scott / Presseye

Extended leave: Claire White

Parents of children at a troubled west Belfast school are considering their response after it was confirmed the principal is to return to her job after two years away.

Claire White will return to De La Salle College in west Belfast after being on leave since May 2016. She had been on extended leave after a dispute broke out among staff.

The board of governors said that given "significant improvements" at the school it was "the right time" for her to return.

The governors said they were fully supportive of her return and had confidence in her ability to "continue our journey of improvement".

The Concerned Parents of De La Salle group said it is considering protesting or holding a public meeting as their response to Mrs White's return but wanted to hear from more people on what they should do.

In a post on their Facebook page, it said that parents had been kept in the dark.

"Parents have not been provided with any information in relation to an investigation into the conduct of the principal during and prior to 2016," the post read.

"Due to the amount of overwhelming feedback from parents, students and staff who are in clear agreement for Mrs White's non return, we have been asked to consider organising a public meeting or protest.

"Before we do so we would like more concerned parents to give their thoughts and view for this."

In April 2016 then Education Minister John O'Dowd ordered an independent panel to review the situation at the Catholic secondary. Parents expressed concerns over their children's education following a dispute among staff.

A large number of the staff staged protests in the school and called in sick over the handling of a disciplinary matter.

Marian O'Neill is currently acting principal at De La Salle.

In a letter posted on the school's website, chair of the board of governors Monica Culbert confirmed that Mrs White was returning to her role.

It also said that Mrs White had the governors' full support.

"The board of governors have deliberated on the arrangements for the long-term leadership of the college moving forward and have been in discussions with our substantive principal Mrs Claire White," the letter reads.

"In light of the significant improvements that have taken place within the college, the board of governors are in agreement that it is now the right time for Mrs White to return to her post as principal at De La Salle College. In discussion with Mrs White we have agreed that she will return to her post at the end of this academic year.

"Mrs White has the full support of the board of governors in returning to her post as principal of our college. And we are confident in her ability to lead the staff as we continue our journey of improvement."

In a statement, Mrs White said she was pleased the governors had decided on her return and was looking forward to working with the school community again.

The Council for Catholic Maintained Schools had not responded to a request for comment by the time of going to press last night.

Belfast Telegraph