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MALTATODAY 23 October 2022

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4 maltatoday | SUNDAY • 23 OCTOBER 2022 NEWS MATTHEW VELLA A senior educator at the inde- pendent San Andrea school has alleged a former chairperson of the school board has defrauded the school of over €200,000. Trevor Templeman, who re- signed his post as assistant head of the school in the wake of the revelations on 14 October, says he was given this information in the presence of other staff em- ployees, by the school principal and the head of finance. His allegations have been me- ticulously recorded in state- ments he sent to the parents of San Andrea pupils, with a re- cording of a detailed testimony he gave to the school board in September. Templeman, 41, joined San An- drea school in 2005 and has been a teacher of various subjects. He is a former Sliema Wanderers F.C. midfielder. Now having stepped down from his role, Templeman sent documentation to San Andrea parents in which he says school principal Stefania Bartolo and finance head Leanne Spiteri told him and other staff mem- bers that the former San Andrea chairperson, Kevin Spiteri, had issued €200,000 in cheques for unaccounted 'miscellaneous' payments without official con- sent. Templeman says Spiteri called this "fraud", and that she also re- vealed that a former administra- tor was paid on his departure not to blow the whistle on the alle- gations. Templeman said that in this meeting he learnt that Spi- teri had demanded that his chil- dren's school fees are waived, and that he had engineered the rental of a private warehouse of his in Mrieħel to the school, right before his term as chair- person came to an end, for a sum running into millions. School board testimony Templeman sent parents a re- cording of his detailed, 40-min- ute testimony to the San Andrea board, recounting how princi- pal Bartolo and Leanne Spiteri had "made a whole scene" when communicating the allegation of fraud. He said Bartolo had "stated she hated [Spiteri] and did not want to have anything to do with him anymore… she felt betrayed by him. At this point, I was speechless… did the ex-chairperson steal a large sum of money from the school? "My colleague asked at point blank: 'Are you saying Kevin Spiteri actually stole the money?' Sefania's answer was: 'Of course! Who could have taken them then?'" The shocking revelations deep- ly hit Templeman, who knew Spiteri personally. But the next day, a turn of events further complicated mat- ters: at an after-work dinner between Templeman and the three witnesses, Kevin Spiteri was asked to join the party, by none other than Stefania Barto- lo herself. "I thought I was going crazy. Stefania's attitude was very relaxed as if nothing had happened. She ordered a bot- tle of wine, and asked us to toss our glasses to celebrate our 'true' friendship," Templeman said. Shocked at this attitude, Tem- pleman and another colleague confronted Bartolo three days later. "Bartolo apologised and started crying. She said that she should have never given us this information and that she did 'use us to her benefit in an egoistic way'." Templeman decided to take the allegations to the present chairperson of the school, Alex Tortell, the detail of which he relayed on 1 June, 2022 in the presence of the school's head of wellbeing Ryan Portelli. "I was shocked... I could not believe that Mr Tortell took Ste- fania's side at all times," Tem- pleman said. The next day, the school board wrote to Tem- pleman to recommend he take three days' leave: "We take al- legations against members of the staff seriously, so the board will give you the opportunity to explain yourself and substanti- ate any allegations you levelled against the Principal." Two months passed – during which the school board learnt of a pending, cyberbullying crimi- nal case against the teacher. The incident concerns the use of Templeman's smartphone by his 15-year-old niece, who sent a harassing message to a girl she accused of bullying her, using his Instagram account. The alleged bully's mother engaged a lawyer to inform the school of the incident. Tem- pleman says the letter was sent on 31 January 2022 to principal Bartolo. "Ms Stef told me 'don't worry... I'm throwing it in the bin'... in the presence of Kevin Spiteri, who although no longer a board member, was then still present in the offices. I insisted that the letter be given to Mr Alex Tortell." Templeman relayed these de- tails in his school board testi- mony, his voice clearly showing the emotional impact that the death of his sister-in-law, had had on his niece. "My sister-in- law passed away in December 2021. My brother entrusted his daughter to my academic super- vision, given that she had spent two months away from school, so that she prepares for her O-levels." Templeman's niece, distraught at the loss of her mother, told her uncle that she had been bul- lied by a girl at school, who had taunted her over her mother's death. "She showed me her In- stagram profile on my smart- phone... I told her to report the matter to the school head," Templeman said, having previ- ously piloted San Andrea's very own anti-bullying policy. Days later Templeman learnt his niece had used his smart- phone to react to her bully's Instagram 'story' with the com- ment "pig's nose" (Imnieħer ta' ħanżir). Templeman called the girl's mother to apologise for the incident, who instead proceeded to take legal action. "I reported all this to Stefania Bartolo and Alex Tortell. I had nothing to hide," he told the school board. Two months after having told Alex Tortell of Bartolo's claims of fraud, the school chairperson emailed Templeman, inform- ing him that he was being re- assigned. "The school is taking an extremely serious view of the fact that an assistant head is currently undergoing crimi- nal proceedings aggravated by the fact that the alleged victim is a minor. Additionally, we take a very serious view of the fact that a professional... did not feel the duty to disclose a fact such as this to his employer," Tortell said in a letter. Templeman has now told par- ents he felt the school was intim- idating him foir having reported the alleged fraud. "Mr Tortell wanted to find a reason to fire me so as to shut me up and as revenge for disclosing that infor- mation as regards the school's finances," he told parents in an email. Templeman also told parents he had sent principal Bartolo a legal letter, over rumours she had spread throughout the sum- mer school period, claiming he was facing an online sexual har- assment case with a minor. Templeman finally testified to the school board in September 2022, in a 40-minute testimony that was brought to an end with no reaction from board mem- bers. His lawyer, Chris Said, also informed the school that his cli- ent should be reinstated as assis- tant head. But on 10 October, Tortell is- sued a final warning to Temple- man, claiming insubordination after the teacher had not trans- ferred himself to another office to take up his new 'coordinator' duties. "Your attempt to link this matter with other issues, which are being dealt with appropri- ately, does not hold water. Your status as a defendant in a crimi- nal case involving a minor, war- rants the precautions the school is obliged to put in place... given the very serious insubordina- tion, you leave the school with no other option but to adminis- ter a final warning..." Templeman submitted his resignation on 14 October, tell- ing parents that Tortell and Bar- tolo were protecting each other. "As a result, it is very obvious that unfortunately I cannot con- sider myself being part of the staff of San Andrea School any- more." Veteran San Andrea teacher claims pressure brought on him to resign over whistleblowing incident Teacher's resignation raises storm over fraud allegations School board reacts Contacted for a reaction to the allegations, especially those on financial fraud by his predecessor Alex Tortell said Templeman's allega- tions to the board were fol- lowed up with immediate action to set up a board of inquiry. "We are awaiting the outcome of the investiga- tion. At this stage therefore, the School will not enter into the merits of the allegations made." Tortell said Templeman had abused of confidential information at school by us- ing parents' personal data to reach out to them, as well as disclosing the school board recording of his testimony, despite a prior written warn- ing to ensure confidentiality. "This regrettable behav- iour on his part has left the school with no option but to proceed with the author- ities in order to protect the parents and other individ- uals whose personal data has been disclosed without their consent. Mr has never claimed whistleblower status and his actions in disclosing confidential information and breaching data protection surely negate any such sta- tus," Tortell said. Tortell said the school has suffered the repercussions of the precautionary measures it took over Templeman's situation, due to the cyber- bullying charges he faces in court. "San Andrea School is proud to be one of the fore- most independent schools and has an excellent track record in the care and edu- cation of its students." Trevor Templeman

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