Priit Jõe, the principal of Muraste School in Harku municipality, resigned after a long disagreement with the rural municipality government on Thursday. Erik Sandla (Isamaa), mayor of Harku municipality, said that it was Jõe's own decision to resign.
Priit Jõe was the head of school for five years. Conflicts between Jõe and the rural municipality government started last autumn as he had different views with the rural municipality government regarding the developments of the school network.
The director and parents of the pupils did not want Muraste School to expand as the rural municipality government had plans to build the school into Meriküla Sports and Training Center. Before the center, Muraste Border Guard College used to be located on the site.
Jõe has said that after the disagreement, the rural municipality government started to behave in a hostile manner towards him and pushed small issues into a corner that did not play a role in the management of the school.
Jõe recalls having a meeting with the finance department and how everything needs to be written out in the budget: "Last year, I gifted jackets as Christmas presents for the teachers of Muraste School. I asked the finance department if I have to pay the fringe benefits tax. In January, I was told by the deputy mayor and current counselor of education that this is a serious activity of corruption. I was asked why I am using the rural municipality authorities to not pay for the fringe-benefit tax."
Jõe said the rural municipality government issued the problem about the presents again in April. He added: "The authorities asked me why I even purchased those red jackets and why they do not have the school logo on it. I had paid the tax. These jackets were only a present to the teachers, but the audit committee had put the issue on the table again, stating that the jackets need to have a school logo on it. These are not the big topics that school management should discuss every day, but it seems like they have so much time left to explain to the rural municipality government and the members of the council why I have made these kinds of decisions."
Even though the school building of Tabasalu Ühisgümnaasium (Tabasalu Joint High School) will now be opened in Meriküla in the new academic year, it did not improve relations between rural municipality and the principal. The high point of the disagreement culminated in July as the Harku rural municipality government launched a monitoring procedure against Muraste School. Mart Eensalu, a member of the board of Muraste School, said the reason came out of nowhere.
Eensalu added: "The principal of the school actually gave about €3,000 for small repair works. The work was ordered from a small company. The members of the rural municipality government identified the reconstruction works are correctly done but the authority found that there was no written agreement and so on. These deficiencies can be done in a better way, but these cannot be the real reasons why these things happen."
The resignation came as a surprise for the mayor of Harku municipality
Jõe believed that after all parties had identified the problems and the construction work was done, the situation was solved but that the rural municipality government decided to launch a monitoring procedure. The employer wished to suspend Jõe's annual leave. Jõe thinks that this was not a sufficient reason to interrupt his vacation. His lawyer also agreed with it. The principal of the school and the rural municipality government did not find a compromise in the correspondence.
According to Jõe's information, the mayor of Harku municipality, Erik Sandla, did not confirm during their last meeting if their cooperation will continue or not. After that, Jõe decided to submit a letter of resignation.
Jõe said: "I met with mister Sandla on June 18. I understood that there are small technical issues that severely affect the relations between me and the rural municipality government. On behalf of my own initiative, I had a meeting with the mayor of Harku municipality and asked directly if he wants to continue the contractual relationship with the employer or not. The rural municipality mayor did not give a definite answer. I assume that Sandla expressed hard feelings against me as he thought that I am not the best person to discuss how to develop the school in the future and be a strong partner for the rural municipality government."
Jõe's resignation came as a surprise for Sandla.
Sandla commented: "I cannot really relate to this, whether someone had put a lot of pressure on the principal. I believe it was his own decision to resign from this position. Personally, I feel very disappointed that he made this decision. The school has developed a lot under his hand and, so far, the parents have approved his work."
Editor: Katriin Eikin Sein