Is it Hill's last stand?

28th February 2003 at 00:00
THE fraught relations between Ann Hill, the chief executive of the Scottish School Board Association, and her executive board look likely to boil over in the next few weeks, The TES Scotland has learnt.

The association's executive, which met on Saturday, is believed to be split down the middle on whether Mrs Hill should stay in her post. The executive will hold an unscheduled further meeting on March 8 in advance of a crucial annual meeting on March 22.

Mrs Hill, currently on sick leave, is said to have become increasingly disenchanted with lack of support and appreciation from some executive members. They feel she has not made a successful transition from the early days of the SSBA, when she was its sole volunteer leader, to acting as a professional officer who is expected to be answerable to an elected executive.

Alan Smith, the SSBA president, who is in his second term after the resignation of John Tierney, would not comment on Mrs Hill's position, beyond saying she was off ill. Mr Smith confirmed there would be a meeting of the executive on March 8 but bristled at its description as an "extraordinary general meeting", preferring to call it an "additional executive meeting."

Mr Smith said the whole future of the SSBA, including its structure, staffing and location in Dumfries, was having to be reviewed in any case following the wide-ranging recommendations of the Banks report on school boards.

This suggested that boards and parent-teacher associations could be merged, which would lead to the disappearance of the SSBA and the Scottish Parent Teacher Council. The two organisations, along with the Scottish Consumer Council and the Association of Directors of Education in Scotland, are due to meet Nicol Stephen, Deputy Education Minister, next Thursday to discuss implementation of the Banks proposals.

Mrs Hill declined to comment.

The SSBA has never been far from controversy since it became embroiled in the furore over repeal of Section 28 and the promotion of homosexuality in schools, which it opposed. Its links to the "Keep the Clause" campaign of the religious right champion Brian Souter did it no favours. There was further embarrassment when it emerged that Mr Souter had offered pound;39,000 to bankroll an international conference the SSBA was organising, which he then withdrew.

Accusations of financial and general mismanagement were then levelled at the association, which led to Mrs Hill's temporary suspension. She was reinstated before the outcome of an inquiry into the SSBA's handling of a pound;17,700 grant from the Scottish Executive to wind up its ill-fated Furbie Foundation, which offered refurbished computers to schools at knock-down prices.

The association noted that the inquiry found no evidence of financial impropriety although it did find administrative weaknesses and said that "basic good housekeeping had been persistently neglected in order to pursue more immediately attractive, high-profile causes".

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