ESF gives insurance manager top job
Groundswell of revolt grows over appointment of someone without educational background
The English Schools Foundation faces a growing internal revolt after appointing an insurance manager as its chief executive and secretary.
Mike Haynes, who was managing director of Euler Hermes Credit Underwriters (HK) Limited until October, beat two education managers, from Australia and Canada, in interviews this week to replace Jonathan Harris who resigned abruptly last June.
ESF chairman Jal Shroff e-mailed staff an announcement that Mr Haynes, chairman of West Island School Parent Teacher Association and an ESF executive committee member, had been offered the job. But there is widespread opposition to the decision made by a selection sub-committee among teachers, parents and senior foundation members.
'The consensus is that Haynes is a nice man but not up to it. People say this job is too big for him. His background in insurance does not qualify him,' said one senior foundation member. 'I could understand if Haynes had support, but no one backed him.'
Tim Hoffman, chairman of Island School's council, said: 'I was surprised to find that the e-mail had been sent out before the executive committee had voted. My understanding of the ESF ordinance is that a decision of who is chief executive is a matter for the executive. Sub-committees can only make recommendations.'
The senior foundation member who requested anonymity said: 'I am appalled and this is not the end of the story. This appointment is clearly subject to ratification by the ESF executive and given the opinion and sentiment expressed by all quarters one wonders how the executive will approve it.' The source said it would be inappropriate for Mr Haynes, one of nine members on the executive, to vote.
The three candidates were interviewed over three days this week, including by three formal panels comprising ESF stakeholders before a final interview with the selection sub-committee.
None of the panels recommended Mr Haynes, according to the source. One candidate was assistant director of education for New South Wales, Australia, the other an assistant minister of education in Canada. He also questioned why two highly respected ESF principals who had applied were not included in the final nine. 'They know the system and Hong Kong, and have the leadership and management skills,' he said.
Staff association chairman David Reeves said: 'Eyebrows were raised at the outcome of the selection. I am now waiting for the executive committee meeting of February 10 when the appointment will be up for ratification.'
Nury Vittachi, chairman of Kennedy School's PTA, said he had received a number of complaints. 'Many think he is not the right man. If we wanted a businessman to educate our children we would educate them at home. Good education needs a good educator in charge,' he said.
Mr Shroff said: 'The selection committee felt he was the best candidate for the job.' He said the ESF was not necessarily looking for an educator and that there had been a 'slant' towards someone with financial experience, as well as knowledge of Hong Kong.
'We have excellent education officers and we are appointing a director of education shortly,' he said. That, he said, would provide Mr Haynes the necessary professional support. He admitted the decision had to be ratified by the executive. 'But that is normally a formality,' he said.
Mr Haynes, who departed from Hong Kong for a skiing holiday soon after the decision was made, declined to comment on his plans. 'I am just very excited and looking forward to working with an excellent team,' he said.