The genesis of the fallout was in the timing of the co-ed conversion: some, including Sampson, were behind 40 girls entering Year 11 on a scholarship and for them to start as soon as 2023. The idea was backed by Atlassian tech billionaire and donor Scott Farquhar, who has children at the school.
Other supporters of the move included billionaire fund manager and former student Will Vicars, chair of property trust Dexus Warwick Negus; McKinsey managing partner Angus Dawson; and Macquarie Bank director Nicola Wakefield Evans. They all either attended Cranbrook or sent their children there.
The group wrote to parents last week lashing out at the school’s powerful council for failing to support Sampson, an “exceptional” headmaster.
Wakefield Evans – whose sons attended Cranbrook – on Monday welcomed the council’s departure, saying it would allow the school to move forward.
Sampson – who has been headmaster at the school for a decade and has an annual pay package of roughly $1 million – is a long-time supporter of co-education. He previously served as head of two mixed-gender high-fee private schools, Geelong Grammar in Victoria and Marlborough College in Wiltshire, England. Some believe he wants his legacy at Cranbrook to include seeing through the transition to co-ed.
After months of debate, Cranbrook announced earlier this year it would admit girls in years 7 and 11 from 2026. The school had planned to be fully co-ed by the end of the decade, and hired author and former St Catherine’s teacher Daisy Turnbull to lead the transition.
Cranbrook’s new councilors will be selected by a nominations committee, with new members expected to be appointed by the end of the year. It is speculated that the committee will include Rathie, Sampson and other prominent members of the school community.
Any changes to the timing on co-education would need to be made by the new school council.
One member of the school community said former wealthy mining executive Roger Massy-Greene – also a past council head and married to Sydney University Chancellor Belinda Hutchinson – had been suggested as a nominations committee member.
The school’s constitution has rules about the make-up of the council, including that two councilors must be clergy, while the presidents of the alumni association and the parents’ association are also members.
The school charges up to $40,000 a year for tuition and last month revealed a $125 million revamp that included an Olympic-sized pool and aquatic center, theater and basement car park.
One parent, who is a former student and who spoke anonymously, said the resignation of councilors came as “a shock”.
“But now this has happened the overwhelming view is to unify and work in the best interest of students,” they said.
The outgoing councillors, including North; former ASX chief financial officer Gillian Larkins; chair of the school’s governance committee Suzanne Williams; chair of the building committee Craig Carroll; retired Anglican Bishop of South Sydney Rob Forsyth; architect Susan Fuller; rector of St Mark’s Anglican church Michael Jensen; partner at Mason Wilhelm Joe Karsay; financial adviser Hugh Dowling; and construction company director Ben Ritchie.
The council met on Tuesday evening – likely for the last time before the outgoing members step down from their roles on December 31.
Two previous school council members, Seumas Dawes and Skander Malcolm, had already resigned during the dispute.
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