Two elite colleges are in turmoil, with board resignations, sudden staff departures and the principal under investigation amid concerns about a 'sex scandal'.
Two elite colleges are in turmoil, with board resignations, sudden staff departures and the principal under investigation amid concerns about a 'sex scandal'.

Elite schools’ turmoil: Staff exodus, principal investigated

TWO elite colleges are in turmoil, with board resignations, sudden staff departures and the executive principal under investigation amid his concerns about an alleged school sex scandal.

James Sloman, executive principal of Moreton Bay College and Moreton Bay Boys' College, has been on personal leave for seven weeks and under investigation since August over allegations including "inappropriate, intimidating and belittling behaviour".

An independent investigation was launched by the schools' joint board after complaints were received from angry parents and current and former staff.

Mr Sloman has hit back, calling in his own lawyers and lodging formal bullying and whistleblower complaints against the Uniting Church-associated school over allegations he is being victimised.

James Sloman, executive principal of Moreton Bay College and Moreton Bay Boys’ College, has been on personal leave for weeks. Photo: AAP Image/Richard Gosling
James Sloman, executive principal of Moreton Bay College and Moreton Bay Boys’ College, has been on personal leave for weeks. Photo: AAP Image/Richard Gosling

Mr Sloman denies the allegations against him and believes he is being targeted by a group of parents upset at a major overhaul of the school swimming program after he raised concerns including an alleged relationship between a swim coach and a married parent, college sources said.

An investigation into the swimming program last year raised concerns about "dubious practices, underperformance and a poor culture".

Mr Sloman this week lodged a "stop bullying" complaint against the colleges with the Fair Work Commission.

The bitter and protracted battle has resulted in a mass staff exodus as well as senior board members, including chairman John Eisenmenger, resigning in January.

Sources said up to 50 staff, including two swim coaches, had left or been sacked since Mr Sloman's appointment in 2015. Sources also said Mr Eisenmenger and another board member, Sylvia Grigg, resigned in protest at Mr Sloman's alleged treatment.

New board chairwoman Samantha O'Brien said it was not appropriate for the board to discuss the matter.

The issue has divided the joint school community of PrePrep to Year 12 colleges, with some parents and staff bitterly opposing Mr Sloman and others strongly supporting him. Picture: AAP Image/Attila Csaszar
The issue has divided the joint school community of PrePrep to Year 12 colleges, with some parents and staff bitterly opposing Mr Sloman and others strongly supporting him. Picture: AAP Image/Attila Csaszar

The Uniting Church in Australia, Queensland Synod, declined to comment.

The issue has divided the joint school community of PrePrep to Year 12 colleges, with some parents and staff bitterly opposing Mr Sloman and others strongly supporting him.

Anxious parents and staff told The Courier-Mail that popular, long-term staff had been "shafted".

"More alarming, though, are the quick exits," one parent said, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

"The high turnover is unacceptable and the kids don't get to say goodbye. It's having a huge effect on learning - many would be much-loved, and here one day, gone the next.

"Little kids are very distressed, and for older students heading into Year 12 it can't help but have an impact on their mental health and academic output."

Another parent said: "Girls in the senior school had seven different maths teachers in one year."

But another parent said Mr Sloman had been targeted by "activist parents" upset at an overhaul of the swim program, including the departure of two coaches, and an investigation into a board member over conflict-of-interest issues.

"These activist parents got the ear of the board, made a lot of noise and the board sided with the parents," he said.

The Courier-Mail understands several current and former staff are receiving treatment for mental health issues after the alleged bullying by the executive principal. Picture: AAP Image/Attila Csaszar
The Courier-Mail understands several current and former staff are receiving treatment for mental health issues after the alleged bullying by the executive principal. Picture: AAP Image/Attila Csaszar

"It's nothing more than vindictive retribution against James for trying to clean up a long-running problem."

In September, the colleges, through their solicitors Clayton Utz, engaged Q Workplace Solutions to "conduct a private, confidential and legally privileged investigation".

The colleges' business operations director, Nicole Hawkins, left at the end of 2019.

Parents were not notified of Mr Eisenmenger's resignation and were only told of Mr Sloman's extended "personal leave" on February 27, four weeks after Term 1 began.

A former senior member of staff said parents and staff were "beyond frustrated".

"The lack of transparency and communication from the board are not in line with Christian values and have created a culture of fear and mistrust in the community."

Moreton Bay College Principal James Sloman has hit back, calling in his own lawyers and lodging formal bullying and whistleblower complaints against the Uniting Church-associated school over allegations he is being victimised. Picture: AAP Image/Richard Gosling
Moreton Bay College Principal James Sloman has hit back, calling in his own lawyers and lodging formal bullying and whistleblower complaints against the Uniting Church-associated school over allegations he is being victimised. Picture: AAP Image/Richard Gosling

The Courier-Mail understands several current and former staff are receiving treatment for mental health issues after the alleged bullying by the executive principal.

Since 2015 when Mr Sloman was appointed, enrolments at Moreton Bay College have dropped from 1198 to 1118 (in 2019) - or almost 7 per cent.

At Moreton Bay Boys' College, 2015 student numbers were 513 and have fallen to 487, down 5 per cent.

There are allegations of scholarships being freely handed out to counteract falling enrolment numbers.

In last year's OP results, 31.3 per cent of eligible girls at MBC achieved an OP 1-5, down from 34.8 per cent in 2018.

At MBBC, 18.8 per cent of eligible boys received an OP1-5, plummeting from 41.4 per cent in 2018.

MBC fees top out at $16,492 for Years 8-12, and $13,670 for Years 7-12 at MBBC.

Mr Sloman, who lives on campus with wife Angeline and their two sons, previously was headmaster at Mansfield State High in Brisbane, Pimlico State High in Townsville and Moranbah State High in Central Queensland.

His personal leave is due to finish on March 20.



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