On the 28th of July, Ted Baillieu accompanied me to a meeting with the Adass School board. With the board's permission I recorded the meeting. I have attached some excerpts below. Overall, I felt the meeting was a positive step forward. I look forward to seeing their sincere apology followed up with sincere actions - public statements of support.
Transcription of Recording:
Abe Weiszberger: Now going to Rabbi Kluwgant, since your letter came along he is not working, only as a consultant in the school.
Dassi Erlich: Have you told the board, the parents that this is what his position is?
Abe Weiszberger: The parents have never been told that he is going to be that he is principal. The letter came out to the staff and I have been to the staff and explained to the staff exactly what is his position is.
Ted Baillieu: Say that again please. I missed it.
Abe Weiszberger: Rabbi Kluwgant, since we got the letter Rabbi Kluwgant at the moment is working as a consultant.
Ted Baillieu: Yep.
Abe Weiszberger: He is not working as CEO or Principal. We are working together with Tzedek and other organisations that if he is to become the CEO and Principal it will be done the right way.
Dassi Erlich: What is the right way?
Abe: I don’t know, that’s why we are talking to other people. I don’t know if there is a right way and I don’t know if there is going to be a right way, but if it is that’s why we are talking to people who specialise in it like Tzedek and like Child Wise. We are talking to quite a few people to ensure that if it happens, that it happens the right way and if it happens it does not compromise child safety and anything like that.
Dassi Erlich: Given what you know about his past history, and I am going to assume you know his past history, how did it come the point that he was supposed to be the CEO of the school?
Abe Weiszberger: Can I ask you to switch of your recording just for a moment, just for this one if you don’t mind. It is quite a simple answer but I don't think it is a public answer.
Ted Baillieu: I am prepared to switch mine off.
Dassi Erlich: OK
Begin new recording:
Abe Weiszberger: We acknowledge we should have thought about this better, we should have thought ten times about this.
Dassi Erlich: So now that he is a consultant at the school and given that the parents know about his position, that he was going to be Principal, even though the letter was only given to the staff, obviously the community know. When will the parents know he is only a consultant and not the current principal?
Abe Weiszberger: As far as we know the parents know quite a lot and we will make sure to notify them as well.
Chana Bromberg: So will you be sending them a letter?
Abe Weiszberger: We are going to speak to Tzedek. I think I have a meeting with them next week Wednesday or Thursday and we will make sure to go to the next step and work out what the next step is. We are not going to, we are not going to rush things like we did the first time. We are going to make sure to do the right steps.
Dassi Erlich: So from what I am hearing from you, you are not going to go ahead with making him principal unless Tzedek give the go ahead and the other child safety procedures that you are going through?
Abe Weiszberger: Correct.
Present at the meeting.
Child Safety Officer: Ch Bromberg
Board members: B koppel, N Klein, M Friedman, A Strasser, Y Klein
Absent board members: Y Benedikt, M Benedikt.
It is important to note that Tzedek has already stated publicly its position on the matter:
The Board of Tzedek has directed Dr Michelle Meyer, Tzedek CEO, to discontinue support to the Adass Board until they state that, Rabbi Klugwant has not and will not take up any position within the school, or be introduced to or participate in any school meetings or activities. Tzedek believes that to move forward survivors must be offered the opportunity to participate in a restorative conference. This can only occur if Rabbi Klugwant is not engaged with the school.
Our focus is on ensuring that victims and survivors of child sexual abuse will be supported in an environment where their needs are put before anything else.
Chair – Tzedek Board
It is of course a welcome development that the Adass board has backtracked on Kluwgant's appointment and has not proceeded with appointing him Principal as they had originally planned. But if he is unfit to be Principal because of the way he has dealt with victims and survivors of child sexual abuse (and their families) and because of serious questions about his character and propensity for dishonesty, then surely he is also unfit to consult to a school which already has a horrific history of failing to keep its students safe. The fact that he was even considered for this role in the first place - and then described as the most suitable candidate to emerge from a global recruitment process - highlights just how much more work we have to change the community culture. The Adass board needs to understand that you can't have it both ways; either you support victims and survivors or you support their tormentors.
In our view, Kluwgant must be stood down immediately from any role at Adass. If he is prepared to acknowledge and take responsibility for his repeated misconduct in dealing with child sexual abuse matters, the situation can be reassessed and he might be considered for some sort of a role in communal life. But until such time, and for so long as he and others make excuses for the many wrongs which he has perpetrated, the community should not risk getting involved with him and he should not be afforded a second chance. It is up to Kluwgant to make amends for his past.