School management

As decision to replace HA school management gathers pace, bidding for DES terms is illegal

The fate of more than 3,000 students at Pimpri’s HA school may be in limbo as relations between the school’s owners – Hindustan Antibiotics Limited (HAL) – and the school’s management, Deccan Education Society (DES), suddenly deteriorated.

Established in 1958, with two school buildings inaugurated by Lal Bahadur Shastri and Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, the government-subsidized school was established primarily to accommodate children of HAL employees, in addition to those from low-income groups in the locality . It is one of a handful of government-subsidized schools, spanning 2.5 acres, offering both English and Marathi.

On January 21 this year, the administration of the HAL company issued a call for tenders expressing its desire to outsource the management of the school to reputable people with at least 10 years of experience in the management and administration of educational institutions. The company has assured that even if the management is replaced, the school will remain an assisted school.

Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru had inaugurated a building at HA school, an image from the school archives. (Express photo)

“We will provide better education without changing the status of the school,” HAL chief executive Nirja Saraf told The Indian Express.

However, DES declared the offer legally invalid. The lease document seen by The Indian Express mentions that the DES will manage the school from June 7, 1965, for a period of 98 years. DES already operates a number of educational institutions, including Fergusson College, in the city.

During the last meeting, held virtually on January 16 and chaired by the school’s advisory committee – made up of members of the company and the school’s management – the HAL administration asked DES for the annual accounts school and details of other financial matters.

“The DES has never shared the school’s annual accounts or other expenses incurred at the school over the past 40 years. During the January 16 meeting, DES assured that the accounts would be shared within 15 days. Subsequently, we sent three reminder emails, but we still haven’t received a response in this regard,” said Saraf, who took over the management of the company in 2016.

According to the rental agreement, DES has to pay the company an annual rent of Rs 26,500, which is subject to increase from time to time. This amount is unrevised to date. As it owns the school, HAL is expected to bear the expenses necessary for the upkeep and upkeep of the school building and other civil infrastructure on the school campus, as well as providing stationery and the furniture needed for the school.

But after 1997, the DES administration says the company’s financial support for the school dwindled and it faced several challenges in managing the school’s operations in subsequent years. The school management said they faced problems such as poorly maintained toilets, classrooms with leaky roofs and compromised security of the school premises.

All of these elements prompted DES to send a letter to HAL in May 2012, part of which said – “DES does not want to continue the management of HAL’s pre-primary, primary and secondary school with effect from 1 May 2013.”

To this letter, HAL returned in October 2013, accepting and granting permission for a change in school leadership by the HA board. But it was mutually agreed that DES should continue until the company finds a suitable direction to run the school in the future.

Between 2013 and 2016, there were no further formal deliberations in this regard initiated by either party, following which DES continued to manage the school.

“HAL did not respect the clauses of the agreement which mention that the maintenance of the building and the whole of the infrastructure remains the responsibility of the company. But putting students first, DES took it upon itself and carried out the necessary repairs, using in part its own funds and the rest generated by supporters and donations,” said DES Secretary Dhananjay Kulkarni, who was part of the virtual meeting held on January 16.

Kulkarni shared that over the past few years, DES has received about Rs. 1.5 crore from alumni, supporters and parent-teacher associations of the school, in the form of donations. But the HAL administration called the fundraising a wrongdoing.

“Company approval is required before accepting any type of donation made to the school. We have received complaints from parents about this. The same goes for the repair work planned on site,” Saraf said.

Despite daunting challenges, DES board members said they reconsidered their 2012 decision to end all associations with HAL because it could affect the future of students. The Society has also faced the difficulty of reintegrating the HA School’s 100 staff, including non-teachers, into other schools run by it in Pune and elsewhere in Maharashtra, sources said. .

“We fully understand and are aware of the company’s financial situation. But our effort remains to run the school and provide the best quality education. Going out to tender was not the right decision made by the company when there is a valid lease of 98 years,” said Sharad Kunte, Chairman of the Board of DES.

But for many parents, like D Bhosale, this showdown between the company and the school management has raised a host of concerns.

“This is a one-of-a-kind English language school in the locality, offering quality education without charging exorbitant fees. But if another school principal takes over, we fear we will be forced to pay higher fees, which will be unaffordable,” said Bhosale, who has also been a history teacher at the school for 32 years.

The tender acceptance process is now complete and HAL will announce its decision within a month, the company’s management informed.