Emergency general meeting demanded in the wake of Roger Ward's resignation as AOC chief executive. Ngaio Crequer reports
College principals are collecting signatures to call an emergency general meeting meeting to dismiss the entire board of the Association of Colleges.
Members are deeply unhappy with the way the board handled the allegations against Roger Ward, its former chief executive.
They are also outraged that despite legal advice that they could sack Mr Ward, the board instead asked him to resign and, most importantly, gave him a three-month pay-off. The AOC's own policy is against severance payments when wrongdoing is involved.
An EGM needs only the support of 10 per cent of the membership and principals are confident that this can be achieved.
There is broad support for Jim Scrimshaw, chairman of governors of Barking College, in London, who has succeeded Howard Phelps as AOC chair, but many principals feel the call for a "fresh start" must mean elections and new faces. They are using the phrase "collective responsibility" to show Mr Ward is not the only person involved. They are adamant that the McKeag inquiry into the affair should be continued.
Colin Flint, principal of Solihull College, is backing the move to seek an EGM and to sack the board. "I am of the opinion that we need to demonstrate that we are having a new start. I think we need this before we appoint a new chief executive. The whole sorry saga, which is clearly not yet finished, has done further education no good at all.
"Some members of the board have been with Roger Ward since the beginning. There are other matters of serious concern. Who made the decision that he needed a Jaguar with a personalised numberplate? In the spirit of Nolan we need to show the world that we are making a new start.
"I would have no difficulty if any members of the board stood again if they wanted to, but then they would have a greater authority," he said.
Dorothy Jones, principal of Southwark College in south London, said: "Like many other principals up and down the country, I feel that there needs to be a full understanding of the evidence considered by the AOC board so that openness is shown and the issue is put to rest. I want to see six good menwomen and true on the shortlist for the vacant chief executive post.
"I think an emergency general meeting of the AOC would be good so that these issues can be properly aired. We didn't air them in November and we must do so now. Rumours circulating that the AOC board has decided to have a quick appointment followed by an election for board members do not help. If they are true, it feels like putting the cart before the horse."
Jim Scrimshaw said: "If they get the number of signatures then we will have an EGM, we will explain our decisions and it is up to membership colleges to make judgments. My view is that since these allegations of impropriety came forward the board has acted wholly appropriately."
Commentaries on Ward, page32