Six members have left the Perth Modern board since December last year.

High-profile departures from Perth Modern board

Friday, 9 February, 2018 - 13:13

Three high-profile business people have resigned from the board of Perth Modern School, just weeks after two other board members did not seek re-election, as the fallout from a governance dispute and a review by KPMG continues.

Business News understands that King & Wood Mallesons partnerNigel Hunt recently resigned mid-term as the board vice chair, while HealthEngine founder and chief executive Marcus Tan, and National Energy Resources Australia board member Erica Smyth resigned as community board members.

Ms Smyth and Dr Tan joined the board in February 2016.

This comes after two board members did not seek re-election after their terms ended in December 2017 – Edith Cowan University senior executive Scott Henderson and Sandover Pinder executive chairman Michael Henderson.

(An earlier version of this article reported King & Wood Mallesons past-senior associate Mary O’Hanlon Creed did not seek re-election; Business News has subsequently learnt she stood for re-election but was not successful.)

The changes come after 10 board members, including nearly every independent member, called last year for the resignation of principal Lois Joll because of concerns over governance practices at the school.

The dispute focused on a disagreement around plans to build a $10 million, 700-seat auditorium at the school.

The majority of board members said they were not consulted about the plans and, as Business News understands it, felt funds should have instead been put towards improving inadequate science facilities and STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) opportunities for the students.

Department of Education director general Sharyn O’Neill responded by establishing an independent review by KPMG.

The review resulted in Ms Joll being kept on as principal and recommendations were made to improve transparency and communication between both parties.

Several board members that pushed to have Ms Joll removed as principal remain on the board, at this stage.

The dispute between the board and principal of Perth Modern exists on top of the controversy that arose around the relocation of the school last year.

A backlash from parents and students was provoked, following plans made by Education Minister Sue Ellery to move the school to a high-rise campus in the CBD, and to repurpose its campus for a new western suburbs high school.

Minister Ellery retracted her decision to move Perth Modern, and instead plans to build a new western suburbs high school on Kitchener Park, next to Subiaco Oval.

Business News sought to contact Perth Modern for comment.

We were referred to the Education Department, which issued a statement saying the three board members chose to not continue on the board "due to other commitments".