11 May 2017

Principal forged signatures on school cheques

12:13 pm on 11 May 2017

A former principal who forged signatures on school cheques has been banned from education leadership roles for five years.

Cheque being signed

Marie Hinehou Thornton forged signatures on school cheques, the Teachers Disciplinary Tribunal said. Photo: 123RF

The Teachers Disciplinary Tribunal said Marie Hinehou Thornton forged the signature of the chairperson of the board of her Tokoroa kura kaupapa Māori several times in 2014.

She signed four cheques totalling nearly $3000 in payments to herself and three relatives, which the school board had approved, and two official forms including the renewal of her practising certificate, the tribunal said.

Ms Thornton also over-stated the school's roll on documents that determined government funding, the tribunal said, but it did not believe she did so with the intention of misleading the Education Ministry.

The tribunal's judgement said the school board became aware of Ms Thornton's actions in 2014 after its bank refused to honour a cheque because it had doubts about the signature on it.

The decision said there were problems in the relationship between the board and Ms Thornton, and she told the tribunal that she signed the cheques because of delays in getting the board to sign them.

The board dissmissed Ms Thornton at the start of 2015.

The tribunal said Ms Thornton had acted dishonestly and her actions amounted to serious misconduct.

It banned her from holding a position of financial responsibility or a leadership role in a school or kura for the next five years.

Teacher refuses drug test

In a separate decision, the tribunal has found early childhood teacher Bobbette Hanna Harrington guilty of misconduct for refusing a drug test after admiting occasionally using cannabis.

It said the Rotorua teacher admitted past use of cannabis to her manager in 2015.

The manager introduced random drug testing last year, but Ms Harrington felt targeted and refused to cooperate when she was the first person selected for testing.

She later resigned and her employer notified the Education Council about the situation.

The tribunal said it was not clear when Ms Harrington used cannabis or how often, but her refusal to take the test raised concerns about her fitness to teach.

It said her actions amounted to misconduct, but not serious misconduct and it did not censure her.

The tribunal ordered Ms Harrington to undergo a drug test every three months of the next 12 months.