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Sydney principal quits after bullying

Bondi Beach Public School principal Debbie Evans has resigned from the NSW Department of Education after a 10-month investigation into bullying allegations. Courtesy: Sydney Morning Herald

The Sydney eastern suburbs principal who was accused of bullying dozens of teachers and students has resigned after a 10-month investigation.

Debbie Evans, the head of Bondi Beach Public School, was accused of causing eight senior teachers to leave and “breaking the school” in August last year, sparking an investigation by the NSW Department of Education.

“Ms Evans has resigned from the Department of Education and the department recognises her 38 years of service,” the department wrote in a letter to parents this week.

“This has now created a vacancy for position of principal…the community will be notified once a new substantive principal is appointed to the community.”

The department did not respond to questions about whether the investigation was completed or made any findings, why it took 10 months and whether it included interviews with teachers, parents or students.

The school community says the entire process has left them in the dark, raising further concerns about the department’s secretive investigation unit, the Employee Performance and Conduct directorate, which theĀ Sun-HeraldĀ previously revealed has been criticised for its lack of transparency and described as unfair and slow.

“The process is still not transparent, parents have complained that we’ve gotten an outcome but what’s changed?” president of the school’s P&C Rob Keldoulis said.

“They spent 10 months on a relatively straightforward claim with lots of people stepping forward, and we didn’t get any information or a timeframe for the investigation.”

Mr Keldoulis said the length of the investigation was particularly difficult for the teachers who gave evidence.

“It’s actually been very fracturing for the school, the biggest pressure was on the teachers who stepped forward, their careers were on the line,” he said.

EPAC is currently being reviewed by former crown prosecutor Mark Tedeschi QC.

Ms Evans was stood down from her position during the investigation and the school had three relieving principals while it waited for an outcome.

The latest acting principal Alexia Duncan will stay in the role while the department looks for a permanent replacement.

Ms Evans, who started at the school at the beginning of 2017, was accused of bullying and humiliating staff and students.

“I’ve been bullied, verbally and non-verbally and [Ms Evans] bullies staff daily,” one teacher wrote as part of a complaint that was submitted to the department and included written statements from 21 current and former staff members.

Mr Keldoulis, who compiled the complaint, told the department last year that teachers reported “18 months of stories of fear, frustration, humiliation and what they describe as intimidation at the hands of our new principal”.

“Some teachers report that they no longer want to get out of bed in the morning,” Mr Keldoulis said.

“One parent said the principal was trying to get her son to stand up in front of the assembly and read out an apology for something he said he hadn’t done.

“Even if he had done it, that’s a pretty humiliating thing to make an 11-year-old do.”
Ms Evans’ lawyer Kieran McArdle said: “All things alleged against our client Debbie Evans are false.”

Ms Evans was previously the deputy principal at Wahroonga Public between 2014 and 2016, assistant principal at Eleebana Public between 2013 and 2014, and assistant principal at Glenorie public between 2003 and 2006.