Cutbacks spark council rift

The opening of Emerald Secondary. 176141_04

By Rowan Forster

A former head of Emerald Secondary College’s council has lambasted the “systematic” dismantling of the school’s inclusion program.

It comes after the Gazette last week revealed student aide positions had been slashed in a series of cutbacks.

Rachelle Mechielsen, former treasurer and vice president of Emerald College’s school council, claimed the positions were “strategically” slashed to fund other initiatives.

“It was a bad decision but they wouldn’t let the council have a say because it was an operational matter, and we were only responsible for oversight,” she said.”The school used to be really good at supporting students with additional needs, but now that has all changed.”

Ms Mechielsen, who left the position after a series of disagreements in February, believes the shortfall needs to be urgently addressed.”They just aren’t receiving the support that they should be,” she said,Gembrook MP Brad Battin has also rallied behind calls for the Andrews Government to address the reported issues at the school, also citing “hazardous mould, dangerous floors and rotting roofs” inside the school’s walls.“While James Merlino and Daniel Andrews run around promoting Victoria as the ‘Education State’, it is clear this doesn’t apply for Emerald Secondary College who are having their urgent pleas for help ignored,” he said.

A petition, demanding action from the Department of Education, has surpassed 500 signatures in the span of a week.

Frustrations continue to simmer among Emerald parents, who feel let down by the department’s “lack of support” for the school.

“As if these kids don’t already have enough challenges in life and at school,” Lynne Pearce said.

“The extra support and assistance from an integration aide can make all the difference for a student with special needs.”

In one instance, a child reportedly climbed atop a bench with an active bunsen burner and the teacher was left to manage the chaos while managing the rest of her class.

When contacted by the Gazette, the Department of Education said Emerald Secondary College was adequately funded to support its students.

“Emerald Secondary College currently employs seven teacher aides and provides a range of additional support including a speech pathologist, counsellor, physiotherapist, and through its literacy and numeracy intervention program and social skills program,” a department spokeswoman said.

“Teaching staff and coordinators are being provided with ongoing professional learning to ensure they continue to meet the individual educational and well being needs of students.”