Board showdown looms at Moriah
Moriah College AGM

Board showdown looms at Moriah

Amid concerns over Moriah’s HSC rankings and accountability following a multimillion dollar fraud, the school is heading to the most contested board election in years.

Moriah College.
Moriah College.

MORIAH College president Stephen Jankelowitz has told parents the college must regain a spot on the HSC top 30 schools list, despite the board telling voters at its upcoming AGM that experience in education is the sixth most important skill a board member could bring.

In what’s been described as the school’s “most contested board election in more than a decade”, eight high-profile contenders are vying for five spots on the board, to be decided in a vote on Monday, May 31.

They include early learning centre boss Jacqui Scheinberg, Commonwealth Bank identity Teri Esra, Scentre Group executive Elliott Rusanow and Microsoft veteran Mark Leigh.

In a letter to Moriah association members on May 7, Jankelowitz said there had been a “higher than usual number of nominees this year” and “in the interest of greater transparency” published a skills matrix of candidates.

The AJN can reveal that education was placed sixth in a graph showing “skills prioritised according to order of importance”, with finance listed as eighth most important. There were nine skills in total.

The most important skill, according to the matrix, is “honorary secretary”, followed by “gender diversity”.

However, in an official board nomination form, the skills “honorary secretary” and “gender diversity” did not appear on a list of skills candidates were asked to directly address to support their nomination.

When The AJN asked Jankelowitz why the skills of “honorary secretary” and “gender diversity” were most valuable, ahead of education, he said the skills of education, technology and finance were already covered by members of various sub-committees of the board, as stated in the matrix.

While the matrix did not include who those members were, it was revealed to parents last week that the principals of Cranbrook and Queenwood schools are among the figures on Moriah’s education sub-committee, who will “provide expert advice, feedback, and recommendations regarding the educational strategy of the college”.

Meanwhile, a Moriah parent, who wrote to The AJN last month, lamented the school’s “deteriorating HSC results over a number of years”, noting there had been “an exodus of both teachers and students from the high school, in particular, the students from the OC classes [opportunity classes]”.

The AJN understands the exodus refers to students leaving Moriah for Reddam House, a consistently strong performer in the HSC.

Moriah came 41st in the state last year on The Sydney Morning Herald’s HSC school rankings list, down from 15th in 2017.

Stating it had been “a tough few years for the school” and blasting anonymous critics who he said had failed to “put forward a practical plan”, Jankelowitz said the school had made new appointments to the leadership of its primary and high schools, introduced formal assessments for high school students, and reintroduced marks and rankings, moving away from using only a rubric-based system as a feedback, assessment and reporting tool.

“Moriah College should be a top 30 school as measured by the SMH HSC rankings, and we will be there again,” Jankelowitz said.

A number of parents who wrote to The AJN also expressed concern over a lack of accountability by the board following the Gus Nosti affair.

Nosti, the school’s former financial controller, is awaiting sentencing after pleading guilty to stealing more than $7 million of school funds.

Jankelowitz, who was the school’s treasurer for a large period of time during Nosti’s offending, said the fraud issue was “undoubtedly one of the most difficult the college has faced, and the board is more than aware of how this has shaken confidence in our processes”.

“Rather than try to downplay the issue, the board has responded strongly, by acting swiftly and decisively,” he said.

“It appointed forensic accounting experts McGrath Nicol and lawyers Arnold Bloch Leibler, to investigate potential claims against the former auditors for their failure to detect the fraud.”

He said the board had also appointed an entirely new finance team, led by chief financial officer, Gavin Sher.

However, parents say that is not enough and heads should have rolled in the wake of the fraud.

“The passing of the buck has to stop, accountability is required,” one parent wrote to The AJN this week. Several others called for Jankelowitz to step down.

Jankelowitz told The AJN on Tuesday, “I appreciate that there are many different views within the community, some very supportive of the board’s practical approach to the challenges the school faces, and others not. That is to be expected and the proper forum for resolving these differences is the forthcoming AGM.”

He added, “The lengthy and detailed communication that has been widely distributed to the school community and the media has clearly and comprehensively addressed the issues that underlie the calls for my resignation.

“The communication has outlined how the Moriah board has demonstrated its commitment to the college, and why it deserves the ongoing support of the community.”

Jankelowitz – who has been on the board for 14 years – did not reveal who he was voting for other than to say, “I am pleased that there are several committed and qualified members who have decided to nominate … Our stakeholders want to see immediate change; however, we note that regaining excellence will take multiple years, and we are confident that we are on the right path.”

Meet the candidates in this week’s AJN.

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