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AA students veto head’s new contract

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A meeting of students yesterday (21 February) voted to reject AA school head Brett Steele’s terms of reappointment

The vote followed a week of discord at the school which erupted when the head of school signed a new ‘dual’ contract on 11 February.  

Students attending the meeting claimed Steele’s new contract failed to take account of demands made by the student body when it endorsed his continued leadership a year earlier.

A statement read: ‘Following a lengthy discussion on the topics concerning the signing of Brett Steele’s new contract, the overwhelming majority of the 102 members of the student body present at the meeting this afternoon [voted] that the current contract as it stands is not a valid representation of the contract with which Brett Steele was re-elected last year, and as a result the student body does not recognise it.’

On 11 February Steele and the Architectural Association (AA) council agreed new terms of appointment, formally recognising him as both ‘director of school’ and ‘director of association’.

A student said: ‘Members are upset because the new contract puts Brett as “Head of Association” but they didn’t elect him as “Head of Association”.

‘The students are [also] upset because they elected him as “Head of School” and not something else, and they didn’t want him changing jobs later.’

Steele’s initial 5-year contract to run the school terminated last year and was renewed on an ongoing basis up until the point, earlier this month, when his second 5-year contract was signed. AA students endorsed Steele’s continued leadership of the school one year ago.

A flurry of anonymous articles in AA student publications have criticised the new contract, claiming it was signed without the school community and members’ full consultation.

Yesterday’s meeting was organised following the announcement of a student consultation with Brett Steele which is scheduled to take place at the school today (22 February).

A document circulated to the school community prior to yesterday’s student meeting said: ‘The administration must acknowledge that its membership take great pride in the liberal, free-thinking and home-like nature, which results in the School’s excellence in education.

‘While evolution is absolutely part and parcel with the AA’s philosophy, so too must be the preservation of the AA’s utterly unique qualities.

‘These cannot be let go flippantly, to be traded in favour of marketing, branding strategies, regulations, anonymity and bureaucracy.

‘We are optimistic that the evolution of the school can take place, courageous changes can be made and experiments in education can be carried out while the principles of liberty and lack of hierarchy that distinguish the school remain in place.’

Past AA presidents Marina Adams, Michael Foster and Michael Pearson, plus 11 other signatories, have also called a special general meeting on 3 March with the aim of debating the appointment.

The AA school was unavailable to comment.

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