An Auckland kura principal has been awarded nearly $73,000 for lost wages and compensation after being found to have been unjustifiably dismissed. Photo / Google

An Auckland kura principal has been awarded nearly $73,000 for lost wages and compensation after being found to have been unjustifiably dismissed.

In its decision, released today, the Employment Relations Authority (ERA), awarded Katene Paenga $47,564 for lost wages and $25,000 for humiliation and loss of dignity after being dismissed from Te Kura Kaupapa Maori O Puau Te Moananui A Kiwa in Glen Innes.

Paenga failed to obtain an order for permanent reinstatement because, as ERA member Nicola Craig said, it was difficult to see the parties re-establishing a trustful working relationship.

There was also uncertainty about Paenga regaining his practising certificate without endorsement from the kura board.

Paenga began working as a teacher at the year 1-13 Maori language immersion school in 1988 before becoming principal.

He was dismissed in September 2015 for alleged inadequate reporting to the board; issues identified by the Education Review Office; annual audit reports and failure to respond to those; and inappropriate employment of teaching staff.

In an earlier ERA decision, Paenga also objected to statements he said were made about him by board chairman Pereniki Tauhara at a hui after his dismissal.

“[Paenga] alleges that Mr Tauhara informed the hui that Mr Paenga had been dismissed for serious misconduct and had misappropriated funds in the kura’s investment account containing $270,000.”

Tauhara denied having said “misappropriation of funds” and claimed someone had tried to put words in his mouth by asking whether he was saying Paenga had done this. Tauhara reported that his response was that no, he had not said that.

The ERA said it appeared the board had gained a sense in the first half of 2015,
after Paenga went on sabbatical leave, that it could get better from a principal.

“The issues which the board raises are largely performance or competency issues
which should have been addressed in that manner,” the earlier decision said, finding that Paenga was unjustifiably dismissed.

Craig said in the latest decision she was satisfied Paenga had lost substantial remuneration and he should be reimbursed for the $8479.26 remuneration lost in the month before he found another job, as well as for the decreased pay he received in his new role. He was awarded a total $47,564.

Craig accepted that Paenga’s distress at losing his job was “profoundly exacerbated by the impression gained by community members at the hui of his dismissal being due to dishonesty”.

“Mr Paenga was a relatively long-serving employee with around nine years’
service,” the decision said.

“His family’s life was intertwined with the kura. He had been intensively involved in the expansion of the kura. His role as teacher and tumuaki was an important part of his life and his self-esteem suffered due to his removal from that role and that community.”

Craig found Paenga had done nothing blameworthy to reduce the remedies.

He was awarded $25,000 compensation.

Source: NZ Herald

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