Taipei European School (TES) CEO David Gatley was in the hot seat at a townhall-style meeting on Wednesday night at the school’s Swire European Secondary Campus, where close to 100 parents gathered to learn why Peter Sloan and Stuart Glascott, section heads for the British primary and secondary sections respectively, were abruptly fired for gross misconduct. However, the parents did not get the answers they were looking for.
The meeting was the second held on Wednesday by the school’s beleaguered chief executive, and, as with the first — to which hundreds of parents showed up — the meeting soon became less about the firing of two administrators than about the governance of the school.
The parents had on Tuesday learned of the dismissals in a letter signed by Gatley.
Stephane Riverain, whose two children attend the school’s French section and previously attended the British section, said he was stunned by Gatley’s responses to parents’ questions.
“We are still no nearer to understanding what happened,” he said on Friday. “Whatever happened ... if you are going to be talking about safety and someone has been fired for gross misconduct, I believe the parents have a right to know [why].”
Riverain, who attended the first meeting, was referring to a paragraph in Gatley’s letter that said the school “suffered from an unhealthy atmosphere” and that it was “essential” the school “serves as a safe environment for all our students, parents and staff” — words that also raised alarm bells for parents at the evening meeting.
At that meeting, Gatley told parents that he was referring to the safety of faculty and staff, not necessarily that of the students.
“What I said is that [staff] feel sometimes unsafe about raising things at meetings. I said we need an open atmosphere just to feel safe, where people feel they can feel safe in saying what they need to say and we can have a proper debate on how to work through it,” Gatley said.
However, for parents, it was Gatley’s vague explanation about concerns over the children’s safety that led to the broader issue of transparency and accountability and how much a role parents should have in school governance — an issue that had been rumbling below the surface since at least last year, when Gatley took the place of the previous CEO and the board of directors changed the school’s Articles of Organization without informing the parents.
“It seems to me that the [firings were] reactionary: quick, impromptu, parents don’t know, child councilors don’t know, teachers don’t know, children don’t know,” one parent said. “It is extremely unnerving that the children that we care for and for us as parents — it’s difficult for us.”
Glascott and Sloan said through a TES parent that they could not comment.
A source told the Taipei Times that TES sent out a memo informing the heads of the German and French sections, like all employees of the school, not to speak to the media.
As of press time last night — and after the Taipei Times sent a list of questions to Gatley on Friday and to Taipei European School Foundation board chairman and former Straits Exchange Foundation secretary-general C.V. Chen (陳長文) on Saturday — the school had still not revealed why Glascott and Sloan were dismissed and how it specifically plans to proceed with the school’s governance and regain the trust of the parents.
Neither Gatley nor Chen responded to the questions posed by the Taipei Times.
However, according to a statement Gatley sent to the Taipei Times on Friday, the board of directors is “consulting [with] the community and hopes to restructure the board soon,” although it was not immediately clear who in the community they are consulting.
When reached for comment on Saturday, the TES Parent Community, which is made up of the 1,100 families with children enrolled in TES, told the Taipei Times that the board had not yet addressed how they would handle parents’ specific concerns, adding that they had not heard anything from school officials.
Gatley’s letter also said that the board of directors has “now established a standing committee and some sub-committees addressing matters on governance and policy, facilities, finance, communication and strategy.”
However, at stake for parents is that the standing committee is composed of members appointed by the board of directors.
Although the committee is composed of the section chairs and parents, a source on the committee said that “we don’t feel listened to, since, for example, accreditation requirements are still questioned despite extensive documentation and explanations provided to the CEO.”
Another parent echoed the sentiment to Gatley at Wednesday’s evening meeting.
The committee replaced the board of governors, an oversight and decisionmaking body composed of eight elected parents — four chairpersons from each school section (there are two British sections) and four parents who have children in the school.
The parents are concerned that these changes curtail to insignificance the parents as decisionmakers in the operation of the school, reduce transparency and raise possible conflicts of interest.
“It’s supposed to be a parent-run school,” a parent said. “That’s what we are.”
According to a letter obtained by the Taipei Times that was in September last year sent by the TES Parent Community to the Taipei Bureau of Education, the competent authority, the board of directors had made administrative changes to the school’s governance in July without the parents’ knowledge or consent.
Signed by 133 TES parents, it said that the merger of the board of directors and the board of governors should be postponed, because if it were allowed to go through, “parents will no longer have voting rights for the operation and management of TES.”
In the letter, the parents said they were not consulted before the vote, and that parents elected to the parent-run board of governors were only informed by letter that the changes had been made “without validation through a general assembly meeting,” according to the September letter.
The TES Parent Community wrote that the changes violated several articles in the school’s Articles of Operation, including merging the board of governors with the board of directors, stripping parents of their voting rights and removing parents from decisionmaking over proposals for facilities, operations and management of the school.
Meanwhile, the bureau rejected the board of directors’ changes to the articles because there was an error in the application, which means that the board of governors theoretically remains active.
However, a source with knowledge of the board of governors said that they have not met officially since last summer, although they remain in weekly contact.
After months of inaction, the TES Parent Community on Jan. 22 put a petition online and sent it, along with 606 parent signatures, to the bureau on Jan. 30.
In it, they reiterated their concerns that “TES continues to be in disarray with no effective structure or strategies in place to ensure that the educational goal and objectives for expatriate children will be cared for.”
A bureau official, who identified herself with the surname Su, on Friday said the changes had been made and that there was no longer a board of governors.
However, seeking clarification from another official resulted in the bureau making no comment at this time. The Taipei Times remains unclear whether the bureau has approved the board of directors’ changes to the articles.
In response to the petition, the school on Jan. 25 issued a statement to the parents, signed by Chen, that said the “accusations are based on rumors originating from questionable sources and are factually incorrect.”
Chen added that articles in the petition “reflect on the roles no longer delegated by the BOD [board of directors]; the opinion stated is written without offering a full perspective from all parents.”
Gatley at Wednesday’s meeting said the board of directors was to meet on Friday to discuss the firings and future direction of the school.
A TES employee, who was not authorized to give their name, said Gatley and the board of directors did meet on Friday, but the employee was not privy to its contents.
In a letter obtained by the Taipei Times that was sent to parents on Friday, the CEO said that he “will not give examples of reasons behind the actions taken.”
“It is not only morally unethical to speak about the wrongdoing of individuals publicly, there are also legal implications,” Gatley added. “Please be assured that there is nothing that affects the safety of your children or the school.”
However, for parents such as Riverain, there is much that remains to be clarified.
“I think a lot of parents still want answers and we deserve answers. In fact, if they’d communicated this better and found ways of saying things in a much better way, possibly the parents wouldn’t have pushed for more,” he said.
OVERHAUL NEEDED: The government should improve its agricultural processing capabilities and expand to new markets to limit its reliance on China, an expert said China’s ban on Taiwanese pineapples was “unsurprising,” and Taiwan should have years ago altered its produce export strategies and target customers, experts said. China on Friday abruptly suspended imports of pineapples from Taiwan, saying that it had on multiple occasions discovered “harmful biological entities” on the fruit. Calling it an “unfriendly” move, the Council of Agriculture (COA) said that 99.79 percent of the pineapples sent to China since last year have met China’s import standards. Chiao Chun (焦鈞), the author of Fruits and Politics — A Recollection of Cross-strait Agricultural Interaction Over the Past Decade (水果政治學：兩岸農業交流十年回顧與展望), said that China’s announcement is clearly targeting
DECADES OF INFLUENCE: Over the past 20 years, China has made inroads with Aborigines, funding political campaigns and trips, a legislator said Lawmakers have called on the National Security Bureau to investigate claims of pervasive Chinese influence among Aboriginal communities. Legislators pointed to a surge in communist propaganda and Chinese-funded projects over the past few years, which they say are aimed at infiltrating and buying political influence among Aboriginal communities. “China has for decades carried out wide-ranging ‘united front’ tactics and propaganda campaigns targeting Aborigines,” said Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Chen Ying (陳瑩), a member of the Puyuma community in Taitung County. “Now, they are influencing elections for local councilors and village chiefs, offering money for candidates to mount their campaigns, and to
DISSATISFACTION? If the referendums collect more than 700,000 signatures each, they would have gotten the most signatures in the shortest time, the party said The Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) two referendum petitions — one on banning the importation of pork with traces of ractopamine and the other on holding referendums on the same day as national elections — had as of Thursday gathered 691,398 and 674,497 signatures respectively, the party said yesterday. If the petitions collect more than 700,000 signatures apiece, they would have garnered the most signatures in the shortest time since the Referendum Act (公民投票法) was amended in 2017, party officials said. The KMT proposed the “anti-ractopamine pork” or “food safety” referendum just days after President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) announcement on Aug. 28 last
Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) early yesterday morning set off on his third one-day cycling trip from Taipei to Kaohsiung, but had to cut the journey short after arriving in Changhua about three hours behind schedule. Ko finished his first 520km “twin-tower” cycling trip from the nation’s northernmost Fuguijiao Lighthouse (富貴角燈塔) in Keelung to the southernmost Oluanpi Lighthouse (鵝鑾鼻燈塔) in Pingtung County on Feb. 28, 2016. On his second run, on Feb. 28, 2019, Ko only rode from Taipei to Hsinchu, returned to Taipei for a ceremony, and later continued the trip from Tainan. The Taipei Department of Sports said that the city