Hill flounces out with final bitter broadside

25th April 2003 at 01:00
ANN HILL has marked her final departure as chief executive of the Scottish School Board Association with further bitter attacks on its leaders, accusing them of bullying and harassment.

It has also emerged that before a settlement was reached between senior SSBA executive members and Mrs Hill, thought to be worth pound;10,000, she was briefly suspended on April 8 by Alan Smith, the president, over "allegations made regarding your employment".

In a 15-page "private and confidential" farewell letter circulated to the executive last week, Mrs Hill says she learnt at a meeting later that day from Michael White of the Professional Association of Teachers, her union representative whom she subsequently ditched, that he had been told by Mr Smith that her suspension had to do with money.

The SSBA leadership subsequently retracted Mrs Hill's suspension in an attempt to reach an agreement. It now regards her widely circulated letter as a breach of that agreement but, The TES Scotland understands, it is not proposing to take action against her.

She claimed bullying tactics had been used at that meeting in Glasgow's Central Hotel to persuade her to sign an agreement to leave her pound;42,000 post. After two hours, she says, she had to telephone her husband to ask him to fetch her. "I was being bullied, I was extremely stressed and in tears by this time."

The allegations of bullying have been dismissed by one participant as "total nonsense".

Mrs Hill, who had been on sick leave, claims that only two of the directors, Mr Smith and Tom Hughes, knew of her suspension. "I believe this is wrong," she wrote. "Suspension is normally the result of gross misconduct and should have been a decision reached by the whole board.

"However, recent past experience shows that the SSBA is not the democratic organisation which I set up so I would expect this is the first time many of you will have heard about it."

She added: "Each of you were my employers. I hope you are proud of your treatment of me during the past few months when I have brought this situation to your attention time and time again . . . I just hope you have your answers ready for your member boards when they ask what happened."

Mrs Hill also alleges that the SSBA's finances were "very low", forcing the organisation to admit that it may not be able to meet its financial obligations. This has been firmly denied by SSBA insiders, particularly as it will not now have to pay a chief executive's salary.

The SSBA's stewardship of its finances was the subject of an external inquiry in 2001 in which it was told to put its house in order. There have been subsequent wrangles about overtime payments to Mrs Hill and her assistant.

THE OFFICIAL STATEMENT

"Given the potential changes which lie ahead for school boards and the debates around future parental involvement, Ann Hill, chief executive of the SSBA, has decided that now would be an appropriate time for her to leave the organisation and to pursue other interests.

"SSBA gratefully acknowledges the energy, effort and enthusiasm shown by Ann in her various roles during the past 12 years as founder, president and latterly as chief executive and wishes her well in whichever future career she pursues."

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