Education minister faces tough questions over school merge

By Liz Mellino

What was planned to be a positive visit to Shepparton for Education Minister James Merlino yesterday morning turned sour during an announcement at Wanganui Park Secondary College.

Mr Merlino announced free public transport for students of the new Greater Shepparton College (interim name) along with the school's new leadership team, when he was greeted with a group of concerned and frustrated members from the Facebook group "Stop Shepparton's News Super School".

Students attending the college will receive free travel assistance during the transition period, with bus ticket costs reimbursed through the Conveyance Allowance Program until the college opens. 

Mr Merlino also announced the new leadership team for the school merger which would be led by executive principal Genevieve Simson.

The new team will see John Sciacca become the principal of the McGuire campus, Mooroopna campus principal Stephen Bolton, Wanganui campus principal Ken Murray and teaching and learning assistant principal across the three campuses Megan Michalaidis.

"A new leadership team will be delivering certainty for our communities - this is a big change but it is a big change for a big reason and we've got to do better for the kids in Shepparton," Mr Merlino said.

Stop Shepparton's New Super School Facebook group founder Robyn Boschetti was one of the frustrated parents who greeted Mr Merlino yesterday to raise her concerns about the planned amalgamation and voice her disagreement with the plan.

During the heated discussion, Ms Boschetti said she felt Mr Merlino was not listening to her and questions of the group had not been answered during previous public consultation sessions.

"(Mr Merlino) took the opportunity to put his side out but it was like he didn't want to listen to ours," Ms Boschetti said.

"We do have concerns regarding this it's mainly the interim system - to come along and rip our children out of the schools they are at at the moment is ridiculous."

The Minister for Education, James Merlino talked to Robyn Boshetti about her Super School concerns yesterday.

The Facebook group has organised a public meeting next month to offer the community an opportunity to ask questions directed at Mr Merlino, State Member for Shepparton Suzanna Sheed and a number of other members from the education department and Shepparton community.

After speaking with the parents yesterday, Mr Merlino said he had been engaging with parents, students and staff about the Shepparton Education Plan for more than two years and would continue to do so in the future.

He said student outcomes in the Shepparton region had been below national minimum standards for decades and, therefore, could not "continue to go down that path".

"I understand if you're concerned, I understand if you’re a little bit anxious and we will walk with you every step of the way as we deliver this project," Mr Merlino said.

Ms Sheed could not confirm whether she would be attending the meeting next month, instead encouraging the group to provide her with a list of questions which she would take to the education department.


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