Newspaper clipping  - The Sunday Times – 14 June 2009

School wins right to pick its principal

The parents of a Northern Cape school have scored a significant victory against the provincial education department over the appointment of a principal for the 37-year old school.

Kimberley Junior School has won a Supreme Court of Appeal ruling to set aside the appointment of Seatile Rantho following a three-year battle to give acting headmaster Paul Theunissen the job.

Theunissen, who has been at the school for 14 years, scored 98.8 points against the 56.1 scored by closest contender, Rantho, a high school teacher. However, the department, citing the need for affirmative action, appointed Rantho. Former Head of Department Edcent Williams said his decision was made taking into account Rantho’s ability and the need to “address the imbalances of the past”.

Rantho would have been the school’s first black and female principal since it was established in 1972. Currently 60% of the school’s 700 pupils are African, 25% coloured, 8% Indian and 7% white. At the time the school’s top management was made up of four white staff members only.

The school’s governing body approached the Kimberley High Court to challenge the department’s decision. They lost when the court ruled that after a “rigorous and extensive process of sifting and evaluation”, Williams had exercised his discretion to promote equity, redress and representivity.

The school then headed to the Supreme Court of Appeal where, last week, a full bench overturned the initial court ruling.

Rantho has brought Labour Court proceedings against the department over the delay in her transfer to the new school. The Sunday Times was unable to track her down for comment.

Parent and governing body member Deon Moeti, who served on the initial selection committee, said transformation was important, but it should not come at the expense of the effective running of the school. Moeti believes that the ultimate appointment should be one that was capable of maintaining the high standard of education at the school.

Wasiela Arthur, whose son is in grade 4, said the school was in demand among Kimberley residents because it had an “impeccable” reputation for quality education.

“Race is not an issue. It is simple. Theunissen is the best candidate for the job. If the other teacher was better qualified and had experience in primary school, then she would have been the automatic choice.”