TO lose one college head is unfortunate but to lose two and a couple of senior staff within a matter of months smacks of carelessness or worse. Teacher trainees returned to Colaiste Mhuire in Marino for classes this week only to find the college plunged into a series of new staffing problems. It's the last thing the college on Dublin's northside needs after the shock exit of director Caoimhe Mairtin in April. She and her Coiste Stiurtha (senior management committee) and staff had built up the college into a fine academic institution with over 500 students.
But clashes with the Christian Brother trustees and some members of the governing body resulted in her going to the High Court. On the eve of a full court hearing the Brothers agreed a €400,000 settlement for breach of contract, defamation and psychological abuse and bullying. Intensive discussions internally and with the Department of Education followed. They resulted in agreed terms of reference for a new college head which lecturer Gene Mehigan agreed to accept. The terms were agreed by the governing body on July 15 but within a month were unravelled.
A letter signed by all seven members of the management committee dated August 25 claims the terms of the July agreement had been breached. "This was exacerbated when Mr Mehigan was presented with a contract for the position in which the terms of reference were further disregarded. Therefore it was impossible for him to take up the position.
"This stance was taken with the full support of the Coiste Stiurtha because, in our view, the contract presented was not in the best interests of the college, both students and staff," added the letter sent to all staff.
Last month 34 members of staff signed a letter to trustees expressing extreme dismay agreed terms of reference were not honoured. One of the signatories was Colm O'Leary, the director of Information Technology in the college who resigned last Friday and who is taking up a post with the new teaching council. In a letter to staff he said that he prevaricated for weeks on whether to stay or go but "what I witnessed at governing body over the past year was what finally pushed me to leave".
The same day Cora O'Farrell resigned as head of religious studies. A warning that other staff might leave was given in a letter send in mid-June to the Department of Education and Science by the chaplain Fr Liam MacRabhartaigh. In it he wrote how he was sickened and disillusioned at the way the leaders of the Christian Brothers had allowed the governing body to restructure the organisation. He added: "I doubt very seriously if their long-term plan for Marino is education." There is also annoyance at the dropping from the staff of Christian Brother Rory Geoghegan who has publicly criticised his own congregation for the way in which they have dealt with the concerns of academics.
He was told finally last month that he is no longer required to teach in the college and to date has not been assigned any new teaching role. The staff have signed a letter of total support for him. However, Pat Diggins, director of the Marino Institute of Education, insisted there is full co-operation from all staff and students..
John Walshe - Education Editor