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La Martiniere headhunt

- Girls’ school principal retires, boys’ chief to fill in

Among all my students, these are one of the most brilliant girls I have taught
- Lorraine Mirza

Well, it’s a bit of a challenge and I am looking forward to a new experience
- Sunirmal Chakravarthi

Sunirmal Chakravarthi will be the principal of both La Martinieres from next month since a suitable replacement for Lorraine Mirza, the girls’ school head who retired on Monday, could not be found.

Mirza will continue till the end of August.

“Three years at La Martiniere were wonderful. Initially, I was apprehensive about how I would adapt in a girls-only school since my previous responsibilities were in boys’ and coeducational schools. But among all my students, these are one of the most brilliant girls I have taught,” she said on Monday.

The institution’s board of governors has asked Chakravarthi to take charge till a new principal for La Martiniere for Girls is selected.

The school will celebrate its 179th Founder’s Day on September 13, a function that the stand-in principal may have to steer.

Sources said the process to select the right candidate was on from among applicants who had applied following advertisement inviting applications to the post was published in July.

The school authorities said the new principal would be appointed in a month or about a fortnight more than that.

“Chakravarthi will have the additional charge of the principal of the girls’ school till a new principal is appointed,” Supriyo Dhar, the secretary of La Martiniere Schools, said.

Chakravarthi was told about the additional responsibility around three weeks ago.

“Well, it’s a bit of a challenge and I am looking forward to a new experience. It’s challenging but should also be interesting and fun and add to my learning curve,” he said.

“I am stepping into the breach because the board requested me in spite of not having any experience of a girls’ school except for the fact that I went to a coeducational school,” he added.

He could count on the experience of Mirza’s predecessor Hilda Peacock, who was in charge of the boys’ school for two months before Chakravarthi took over.

Questions have been raised about the stopgap arrangement despite the school knowing all too well Mirza’s retirement in August.

Sources said Mirza had wanted to continue till the end of the term, by which time she could have explained the nitty-gritty to her successor for a smooth transition.

But things didn’t work out that way.

The authorities weren’t keen on following Mirza’s transition formula because “the principal-in-charge is somewhat relegated to the sidelines once the principal-elect comes into the picture”.

“We want the new principal to assume charge independently….An individual doesn’t run the school and its functioning will not be affected in any way (till Mirza’s successor is selected),” said Dhar.

The school claimed that “two months is enough to find a principal”.

A section associated with La Martiniere felt the search for Mirza’s successor should have begun at least a year ago so that he or she could have acclimatised with the place and its nuances — a thought similar to the one advocated by the retiring principal.

In fact, a suggestion was made a couple of years ago to the board to form a search committee comprising members from across the nation. The panel would have suggested names for the board to invite and interview.

“This would have given the board the advantage of handpicking the new principal,” a source said.

Chakravarthi might pray for the replacement sooner than everybody else. “I would depend on the vice-principal and senior teachers of the school. I would go across and meet the principal and vice-principal to know how they run the show and to understand the issues that they have,” he said.