Principal pleads guilty to ‘bizarre’ stalking of successor
A disgraced former primary school principal has pleaded guilty to stalking her successor in a bitter poison-pen campaign that left him stressed and on the brink of mental collapse.
Sharon Saitlik, 50, wrote dozens of offensive letters to Jason Walker over 12 months after he replaced her at Mont Albert Primary School in April 2016 when she was promoted to oversee principals in another area.
A victim impact statement read to the Ringwood Magistrates' Court today heard the letters, which criticised Mr Walker for his lack of leadership and called him "foolish", left him "emotionally spent" and needing medical treatment for anxiety.
The court heard it was not uncommon for his wife to notice him crying in his sleep and he would often wake up at night drenched in sweat.
Many mornings she also found him curled in the foetal position unable to get ready for work, and he became distant from his family, started binge eating and experienced marital strain as a result of the letters, the court heard.
"At work I still park my car where the CCTV will capture any attack", the statement read.
Saitlik's vicious campaign against Mr Walker started in June 2016 and saw letters sent first to Mr Walker's school and later to his home.
They were purportedly signed by unnamed, concerned or frustrated parents, and said he was ruining Saitlik's seven years of hard work, that he was the "wrong choice" for the school and should leave.
They continued even after he took three days off work to seek mental health treatment for anxiety, and letters were also sent to the school council president, Mr Walker's supervisor, the local MP, the Education Department and departmental heads.
An internal probe by the Education Department found no fault with his work.
Saitlik initially denied sending the venomous notes when she was arrested and interviewed by police in July 2017 and said she would fight to clear her name.
But she changed her tune today when she pleaded guilty, and her defence counsel sought a community corrections order with a therapeutic component instead of unpaid community work by way of punishment.
Magistrate Nunzio La Rosa said Saitlik's behaviour was "bizarre" and there were clearly "significant psychological" factors that would need to be considered prior to sentencing.
He accepted Saitlik's defence counsel's suggestion her reputation was in tatters and future career as a teacher was in question.
The court also heard prosecutors were not seeking a jail term for the offence.
Mr La Rosa reserved his decision and will sentence Saitlik on November 25.
Saitlik's bail was extended to that date.