Held to ransom
MACLEAN High School has forked out $4740.80 to Clarence Valley Council to get the keys to Maclean showground's Jim Thompson Pavilion so its students can sit the HSC next week.
Principal Tony Carr said when the school inquired with the council if it could collect the keys to set up for the exams they were told to pay up or they would be locked out of the pavilion.
With the first exam rapidly approaching, Mr Carr said after 19 years of using the pavilion to conduct HSC exams for free, the school "was stuck between a rock and a hard place" and had to write the cheque from its own bank account to pay the council.
Mr Carr called on the council to rescind the decision to charge the school to use the pavilion.
"I would like them (council) to reconsider it in light of the fact we are a government school and we service over 1100 kids at the school," he said.
"I think a community resource like a school shouldn't be billed for something like that, particularly when it lies dormant for most of the year.
"It's not as though we are in competition with somebody and they are sort of saying we have to give it to the highest bidder."
Last year the council absorbed half the cost and told the school from 2011 it would charge for the use of the pavilion.
Mr Carr said earlier this year he wrote about the issue to Mayor Richie Williamson, who replied saying thank you for your request to seek a full fee waiver but unfortunately things are tight and the decision stands.
As the exams are administered by the Board of Studies and not the Education Department, Mr Carr asked if they would bear the cost.
"I contacted the board and they indicated to me they don't have any money to pay for things of this nature," Mr Carr said.
"I could go cap in hand to the department about this, but I think I would be told that it's an internal school matter."
Mr Carr said the school regularly allowed organisa- tions to use the school facilities for free for events including the Maclean Show, the Lower Clarence Arts and Craft Association annual exhibition and the Rotary Club's annual carols by candlelight.
He rejected the council's claims that the exercise was cost shifting by the NSW Government onto local government.
"For 19 years they kindly gave us use of the facility without charge and all of a sudden they started to charge," Mr Carr said. "So I can't understand how it can be cost shifting when for 19 years they were able to carry it."
Mayor Richie Williamson said the council would be banking the school's cheque.
He said as far as he was aware the council had not received a fee-waiver application from the school for the use of the pavilion.
He said council had already donated the school $3371.60 in May this year for the hire of Maclean Civic Hall.