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Cranbrook School; Nicholas Sampson. Picture: NCA Newswire

Cranbrook: Sampson resigns, girl’s school chair to lead review

Sydney's Cranbrook school has enlisted the chair of a lower North Shore girls’ school to investigate claims of a toxic culture, and allegations its ex-headmaster didn't disclose a teacher’s sexual misconduct to the school’s council.

Cranbrook's council president Geoff Lovell wrote to Cranbrook's school community last Thursday announcing Dr Amanda Bell, Queenwood school chair and educational consultant, had been appointed to review “serious concerns reported to the school”, alongside an unnamed law firm.

The former principal, Nicholas Sampson, resigned on Friday morning after he allegedly failed to notify the school board about a male teacher currently employed at Cranbrook who had sent explicit emails to a former female student at a previous school.

Mr Lovell said Dr Bell was a “highly experienced education leader”, who has previously held a temporary principal position at Rose Bay girls’ school Kambala, and was head of Brisbane Girls Grammar School for four years in the early 2000s, and was “well placed to assist the school in this work”.

“Dr Bell and the law firm will ensure that the review is conducted rigorously and independently of the school,” he said.

“They will provide advice to the school council on the school’s response to the relevant matters.

“They will also provide advice on the school’s policies and procedures relating to child protection, workplace health and safety, whistleblowing, and discrimination and bullying.”

Head of Cranbook's junior school Michele Marquet was appointed Acting Head of School after Mr Sampson's resignation, and told parents and families she was “working to restore the harmony of the school”.

A recent ABC Four Corners report interviewed former staff and students from multiple schools Mr Sampson has lead in Sydney, Melbourne and the UK, and aired allegations that he did not adequately address issues of bullying and sexist behaviours.

The ABC presented evidence to the school’s council that a current teacher had sent sexually explicit emails to a female ex-student at their previous school.

The external review is expected to be wrapped up by mid-year, but the council president made no mention of whether its conclusions would be made public.

Cranbrook plans to begin transitioning to co-education in 2026.

Speculation about Sampson's payout

News Corp’s Annette Sharp was told by legal sources Mr Sampson may be entitled to a multimillion-dollar payout by the school.

“If he was pushed to resign, as it appears he may have been, he could still be looking to negotiate a settlement that he could very well be entitled to,” one legal eagle said.

This could mean a payout worth as much as $3m may still be coming to Sampson, who signed a new three-year contract at Cranbrook last year, potentially knocking back offers from other schools to do so.

The new contract extended his term until 2026, and includes almost three years’ pay.

His resignation package may also potentially include damages for reputational loss due to adverse publicity.

Mr Sampson was believed to have a $1.5m a year salary at the top school, which costs up to $46,497 for domestic year 12 students. 

“To resign he had to give 12 months notice. They were the terms of his contract,” one person with knowledge of Sampson’s contract said.

“His absence now might be a case of him being stood down and advised to give notice to resign.

“That would be considered constructive dismissal and he may say the school council has no cause to request this.

“Potentially he might win that argument, plus damages.”

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