Months after authorities of the Bishop’s School were forced to revoke their decision to remove CEO and Principal Frank Freese from his post, after vehement protests by parents against the move, the governing body of the school on Wednesday asked Freese to step down from his post. When Freese didn’t come to the school to hand over charge to his successor, acting principal Joel Edwin, the authorities went ahead and sealed his office.
The decision of the governing board — to ask Freese to step down — was taken on May 13 in a closed-door meeting. The board claimed that the decision had been communicated to Freese in advance, and he had been told that he would have to hand over charge by 12 pm on Wednesday.
Despite repeated attempts to contact him, Freese remained unavailable for comment. On April 11 and 12, the school had witnessed dramatic scenes when a group of parents staged protests against the governing board’s decision to ask Freese to step down on May 31. The board’s reasoning was that Freese, who is in his 70s, was on superannuation. Owing to his age and health reasons, the board decided not to give him a further extension.
But parents of the students protested the “indignant manner” in which Freese was asked to go, and the fact that they hadn’t been informed of the decision.
The protests took a violent turn when parents clashed with school authorities, and police was called on campus. In the wake of the protests, the board released a statement, assuring that Freese would be allowed to stay on till December 31.
Within a fortnight, the governing board filed a police complaint against the protesting parents, on charges of vandalism. In another meeting on May 13, the board decided to discontinue Freese’s services on May 31. Speaking to Pune Newsline, Laurina D’cruz, a member of the governing body and local trustee, said the decision taken on April 12 was “under duress and threat of physical violence”.
“On April 12, the governing body meeting was gheraoed and a decision was coerced out of us, after school property was vandalised and board members were threatened and abused. However, after lodging the police FIR, the video footage and witness evidence was reviewed at a subsequent meeting on May 13. Board members were of the opinion that since that decision was taken under threat, the previous decision, made on September 19, 2015 by our Society, which is senior to the governing body, that Mr Freese be given no extensions beyond May 31, would be implemented. He was present at the meeting and was also informed in writing,” she said. Stating that employees who are superannuated serve at the ‘good will’ of the governing body, which is under no pressure to grant an extension, D’cruz said that so far, Freese has not communicated any disagreement with the board’s decision.
Anticipating trouble, the school’s governing body did inform the local police station after sealing Freese’s office, but the school didn’t witness any protests until late evening.