Andrew McGeever, who taught at Portobello High for 36 years, told more than 300 residents who packed into Portobello Town Hall for the first of two public meetings that he did not know of a single teacher he worked with who was against the new school being built on Portobello Park.
Mr McGeever, 62, who retired last August and was also an Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) representative, addressed the panel at last night’s meeting, which included council officers and representatives from, Portobello For A New School (PFANS) and Portobello Park Action Group (PPAG).
Hundreds of residents and pupils at the school were at the heated meeting to express their views on the council’s proposal to take a Private Bill to the Scottish Parliament to allow it to build the new high school.
Mr McGeever, a father-of-five whose children attended the school said: “Are the panel aware the staff of Portobello High School are in favour of a new Portobello High School on the park?” Speaking on behalf of PPAG, former councillor Stephen Hawkins pointed out that there were “other views in the community”, while Portobello High School Parent Council member, Emma Wood, said: “I’m so glad that the teachers’ voice is finally able to be heard because it really has been missing that.” Around 35 questions were fired at the top table by members of the audience with support shown for both PFANS and PPAG.
The city council launched a consultation on the Private Bill proposal last month, which will run until January 31.
Some residents at the meeting raised concerns about whether young children should be taking part in the consultation and questionnaire.
However Billy MacIntyre, head of resources for the council’s children and families department, responded by saying: “Why shouldn’t children be responding to it? Children are as much a part of the community as adults and that should be reflected.”
Several residents who live near Portobello Park said they had still not received the council’s information leaflet.
Mr MacIntyre admitted there had been a problem but hoped it would be rectified by the end of next week.
After the meeting, Mr McGeever, who referred to the current building as an “eight-storey monstrosity”, said: “I spoke on behalf of those who cannot speak about this [teachers]. Since I retired last summer, I feel I’ve got a certain amount of freedom to do that.
“The park option is the only option which teachers see as taking them forward as professionals and taking education forward into the 21st century.”
Last night’s meeting was the first of two this month, with the next at Meadowbank Sports Centre (Hall 2) next Thursday, from 7pm to 9pm.