Magnetic Island North Queensland
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May 18th 2007
Reynolds to fight for school janitor retention

Janitor and groundsperson Mr Derek Phillippo Member for Townsville and Speaker in the State Parliament, Mike Reynolds, said today that he, "will go in strongly to bat" on behalf of Magnetic Island State School P&C to retain the services of their Janitor/groundsperson Mr Derek Phillippo.

Mike Reynolds told Magnetic Times, "I share the concerns that have been expressed to me in a letter from the P and C President, Teri Koenen and I will be going in strongly to bat for the Magnetic Island School on this issue."

Teri Koenen had written to Mike Reynolds after the school had been informed that due to lower numbers of students the school no longer qualified for the position to be maintained.

"Just because we've lost children doesn't mean our grounds have grown smaller." said Teri Koenen.

"Because we have less than 4.6 hectares (4 H) there will be no Derek! Instead we will get $5,000 per annum to pay a contractor. That equals one day's work per week. Derek does five and that is still not enough. We can organise more working bees but there will still be fallen limbs we will never get to."

"Magnetic Island is not just another suburb. People have to travel 8kms over water so we can't simply draw from groundstaff at other schools when required," said Teri Koenen.

Mike Reynolds said, "I believe that there are special circumstances that exist at the School for the retention of a Janitor and I will be taking this matter up personally with the Minister for Education, Rod Welford during the Parliamentary sitting in Brisbane next week.

"The loss of a janitor is not unique to Magnetic Island School as a number of schools in the Townsville electorate have small school populations and janitors have in some cases been hired to work at more than one school. The fact that Magnetic Island School operates a community pool which is maintained by the janitor at the School is a major difference to other schools generally.

In her letter to Mike Reynolds, Teri Koenen noted, "...concern exists for the prevalence of death adders on Magnetic Island. If the grounds are not regularly cleared and maintained more snakes may be attracted to live there. Mr. Phillippo has on many occasions removed snakes, including death adders, from buildings and pathways around the school."

Other factors the P & C have raised in support of Mr Phillippo's retention include: mowing of the new full size oval, which needs monthly maintenance to the underground watering system; Mr Phillippo's wide range of skills which save the school many extra costs and include general plumbing, electrical, carpentry and mechanical maintenance (Mr. Phillippo services and repairs all school machinery including the swimming pool equipment).

The school grounds also border onto the difficult terrain of Gustav Creek which is, Teri Koenen says, "abundant with wildlife and this needs more care than just slashing and mowing.

"He is also involved with paving, constructing rotundas, erecting and dismantling playgrounds, erecting shade marques on sports days and line marking for these sports days, just to name a few."

The school's grounds have also been noted as a koala habitat. A long standing attraction to Island visitors has been the view of koalas in the trees within the school's grounds beside Sooning Street. Teri Koenen believes the upkeep of the grounds plays an important role in maintaining the Island's appeal as a wildlife haven.

Mike Reynolds said, "I know the Education Department has a cut-off point in regard to enrolments and they are usually very determined to keep this policy in place.

"I will be fighting hard for the Magnetic Island School given the unique differences that are applicable to both the community and the School."

As an employee of the Department of Education Mr Phillippo was not prepared to comment on his situation.

Story & photos: George Hirst

To make a comment see below


Reynolds to fight for school janitor retention
May 19th 2007
Why not address the issue of the pupil numbers falling away. Surely the number of school age children on the island is not decreasing!
Hoyt Drake
May 20th 2007
Please keep Derek Phillippo on as a "Janitor/Groundsperson" at Magnetic Island State School ! Hoyt Drake, Nelly Bay
May 20th 2007
Good article George, just one clarification: The $5000 per year for the contractor (at the standard casual rate of pay) is approximately four hours a week to cover all aspects of the school's grounds and maintenance, not a full day per week.
Also, in reply to Harvey: The Island population has changed dramatically over the 17 years we have been here, and will change even more in the future. When we were first here it was common for one or both parents to be working on the Island. The last ferry left town at 7pm most days and it was too difficult for some people to even consider living on the Island. Over time, more professional people have called the Island home, with the result that social dynamics have changed dramatically. It is now common that both parents work over town. It is easier for these parents to send their kids to one of the inner city schools offering after school care or, alternatively, because of their incomes, to a private primary school. Years ago you would see one or two 'private school' primary-aged children on the ferry; now there are enough to fill a classroom. With all the new developments on the Island and the inflated rental and purchase costs you are not going to attract the old-style family with kids that will be going to the local primary school. Welcome (or goodbye?) to Paradise.

Teri Koenen
May 21st 2007
Just to clarify a few points raised in the last emails:-
1. Due to the six-month intake for Prep in 2007, our school has dropped in numbers. We had 34 year 7's in 2006 and only had 7 Preps for 2007.These numbers will take another seven years to increase again.
2. As far as I'm aware there would only be approx. 6 primary age children travelling to town, to attend school, the majority still attend the Island school.
May 21st 2007
Further in reply to Harvey. The facts tell the story. Enrolments peaked around 2001 at about 240. They are now below 200 despite a rise in Magnetic Island's population - although that population is quite difficult to get an accurate handle on. Not only are some primary school children going to school in Townsville. The 'demographics' of the Island seem to be changing so that there are more single person households, more couples without children and possibly more 'seniors' (compared to Townsville or Queensland) - also without children.
What many people probably also don't know is that the Nelly Bay school grounds contain some of the best specimens of 'old growth' trees on the Island. Derek's light touch over the years has created many attractive niches around the grounds while only enhancing the aesthetics of these trees in their Dry Tropics lowland setting.
A conscientious (or even lazy) contractor may well cost less but nothing can replace the tlc of someone with a long term, one-eyed connection with such an important role.

What do you think? Send us your comments.

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