New head at Maris Stella Kindergarten

SINGAPORE - A popular kindergarten has replaced its principal after just one year.

When Maris Stella Kindergarten reopened after the June school holiday, it was Mrs Monica Koh and not Sister Agnes Poon who greeted pupils and parents.

Parents were informed of the change on June 28. They began complaining soon after Sister Agnes took over.

They complained not only to the school's management committee, but also to the Ministry of Education and Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA).

Madam Venus Yang, 40, whose daughter is in the kindergarten, said: "When a group of six parents holding a petition signed by more than 20 parents had a meeting with her in April, she gave weak reasons behind the dismissal of several long-serving teachers, claiming that the teachers themselves had chosen to resign."

One teacher told The New Paper that she was told to leave after she had a difference of opinion with Sister Agnes on the usage of a classroom for enrichment programmes.

Caterer replaced

Another mother, Madam XL Huang, a 46-year-old housewife, also alleged the acting principal replaced the approved caterer with a cook who prepared food for the children on the premises.

"She served bruised and rotten fruits to our children and even prepared egg sandwiches on Friday to serve the kids for breakfast on Monday," claimed Madam Huang.

The kindergarten's provincial supervisor, Sister Mary Soh, denied it.

The school had found out that the previous caterers were giving the children processed foods.

"We prefer to give the children at Maris Stella freshly prepared food, fruits and vegetables," she said.

An ECDA spokesman said that after receiving complaints from parents regarding the learning environment at Maris Stella Kindergarten, its officers met with its supervisor and acting principal, Sister Agnes.

The officers visited the centre twice - once by appointment, once unannounced.

ECDA officers advised Maris Stella Kindergarten employees on how to make improvements to the learning space and environment, health and safety measures, and communication with parents.

"During our second visit, officers noted that some improvements had already been made, while the centre had begun to work on improvements in other areas. We will continue to monitor the situation and provide further support," she said.

Sister Mary said a change in leadership often causes transitional issues.

"Sister Agnes was meant to hold the fort for two months until we find a principal.

But looking for someone who shares our vision and mission takes time and effort, so Sister Agnes remained as Acting Principal until Mrs Koh took over," she said.

She added that there were those who applauded Sister Agnes' changes.

"There was a change in the school atmosphere - happier, more delightful greetings, safer, more hygienic, more transparent.

As a parent, I really could not ask for more," Ms Evan Tay said.

Madam Huang is glad the issue is over.

She said: "I hope with a change in leadership with Mrs Koh on board, the school can begin on a clean slate."

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