April 29, 2021 12:47 pm
Kylie Lang | The Courier-Mail
Brisbane Boys’ College old boy Peter Barker has been announced as new chair of the Presbyterian and Methodist Schools’Associationfollowing the resignation of Morgan Parker after only 13 months in the top job.
Mr Barker is chief financial officer of infrastructure company Cardno and has more than 30 years’ experience with multinational corporations.
Vice-captain of BBC in 1985, he said the PMSA had undergone “comprehensive reform and professionalisation” under Mr Parker and its focus was on “enhancing the experience of students at our four outstanding schools”.
The PMSA runs BBC, Somerville House, Clayfield College and Sunshine Coast Grammar School but has faced ongoing criticism over its governance and handling of numerous crises.
Mr Parker, in confirming to The Courier-Mail on Wednesday his departure as chair, described the overhaul of the church body as a “Herculean task”.
The real estate tycoon, who has been appointed chair of SunCentral and sits on four other boards, likened the PMSA to “a vintage car that needs to be taken apart and rebuilt”.
“You can really work to fix parts of an organisation, but until all parts understand each other and are functioning at best practice, you’re always going to have crises before you,” he said.
This year the PMSA has been accused of “unfairly pushing” BBC principal Paul Brown to resign, conducting a farcical recruitment process for his replacement, and treating school staff in a “reprehensible” way, resulting in a mass staff exodus.
Board member Bridget Cullen resigned after The Courier-Mail exposed a facebook page she had set up in which she allegedly stereotyped poor people.
Last year the expulsions of four BBC boys embroiled in an alleged gang bashing incident were overturned after their parents took Mr Brown and the school to court in a $750,000 negligence claim. The PMSA investigated, and the case has since settled.
Meanwhile, Somerville House has been without a functioning P&F association since November amid allegations of a million-dollar cash freeze of its funds by principal Kim Kiepe.
In 2017 the PMSA was dogged by an integrity crisis involving an alleged data breach and texts between the then PMSA chair, Robert McCall, and then executive manager, Rick Hiley, in which they arranged a meeting in a nude Korean-style bathhouse. The PMSA investigated and cleared them of wrongdoing.
That same year popular Somerville House principal Flo Kearney and several staff exited the school, and the once-vocal BeyondPMSA breakaway group called for a shake-up in the governance structure at all four schools.
In a statement released on Thursday by the PMSA, Mr Parker said of Mr Barker’s appointment: “I believe a critical component of an effective board is its ability to renew itself and this is what this transition achieves.
“I have given my heart and soul to this volunteer role over the past three years and it has been an enormously rewarding period,” said the former BBC school captain who joined the PMSA board in 2018.
“Having served in this role, I am convinced, more than ever, in the bright future of the PMSA and our schools.
“Our focus has been ensuring the sustainability of our schools over the next 100 years and they will reap the benefits of the changes we have made.”
The PMSA said Mr Parker had “overseen more than 50 changes to the governance model that has led to greater autonomy forschools, improved compliance, transparency and commercial management across the PMSA group”.
“Key reforms during his leadership include the revitalisation of governance officers leading to greater diversity and community representation; creation of a child protection and safeguarding committee; development of an industry benchmark HRIS and enterprise agreement improving efficiencies and the PMSA’s ability to attract and retain quality staff; and leveraging of the group’s scale to save $1 million annually through joint procurement efforts.
“Mr Parker was also instrumental in developing the PMSA’s new strategic plan, which challenges the organisation to think beyond the day-to-day operations of the school and contemplate our greater purpose in developing Australia’s next generation.”
In other changes, educator Margaret Berry will take on the deputy chair role replacing Wayne Knapp, who will remain on the board.
Mr Parker will remain as chair until the AGM in mid-June.