Neumann’s fight will continue

A press briefing was held on Friday May 20, which was Wesley Neumann’s last day.

Wesley Neumann bid his final farewells to staff and pupils at Heathfield High School on Friday May 20 at an emotional press briefing.

While the principal, who is now officially dismissed, didn’t say much – for legal reasons – he rejected the Western Cape Education Department’s (WCED) offer to take up a position at another institution. While he would retain his salary and pension benefits, he would be demoted to head of department (“Heathfield principal bids farewell to supporters”, Southern Mail, May 18).

At the briefing, his attorney, Vernon Seymore, outlined what the next steps would be to try to have all the charges against Mr Neumann dismissed.

This week – on Monday May 23 – Mr Seymore applied to appeal Mr Neumann’s dismissal.

Pupils, parents and organisations including the student councils, School Governing Body (SGB) members and other schools and organisations had an opportunity to publicly explain why they supported the axed principal.

Attorney Vernon Seymore addresses the crowd at the Heathfield High School hall.

Mr Seymore said there had been no decisive reasons for Mr Neumann’s dismissal and that the process had been “deeply flawed”. He added that, at the time it had been the parents, pupils and the SGB who had appealed for the school to be closed amidst a steep increase in Covid-19 cases in 2020 and that Mr Neumann had merely done what was in the best interest of the school community. He accused the department of not being transparent and said they had failed to give enough proof for his dismissal.

Mr Seymore also listed what he called “odd things” about the case, including the Western Cape Education Department’s alleged refusal to meet formally with Mr Neumann, the School Governing Body or representatives to discuss the charges.

“All these things and more render Mr Neumann’s dismissal as unfair so he has decided to challenge the dismissal in the Education Relations Council which is mandated to resolve labour disputes within the education sector,” he said.

He said there would be a tribunal and hopefully the case would be looked at on its merits.

Parents, staff, SRC’s, the SGB and pupils supported Mr Neumann at the press briefing.

Former South Peninsula High principal Brian Isaacs, presenting a Special Action Committee spoke at the press briefing and voiced his support for Mr Neumann’s decision to keep pursuing the case.

“We will never accept the fact that Mr Neumann is not the principal of Heathfield High. The WCED has to realise that they cannot rule education as it has in the last 10 years – with fear.

“Mr Neumann has done nothing wrong, in actual fact he should be lauded for protecting his students against Covid-19. He made the correct decision with his SGB and we have a huge respect for him. The WCED has to reverse the decision immediately and return Mr Neumann to his rightful place.”

As he thanked all his supporters, Mr Neumann said Friday was a bitter-sweet occasion. “I’m sad that I’m leaving today. I’m leaving something that I really enjoy and I am going to miss the children because they are my purpose for coming to the school and doing what I’ve been doing.”

He wished the pupils, parents and staff all the strength and courage to take the school to greater heights and greater level of excellence.

“When I do return I would like to see that the standards have been raised to take us further,” he said.

A crowdfunding initiative has also been started to support Mr Neumann’s legal campaign.