School community rallies around Tairua ‘boat rage’ teacher after resignation

The Tairua School community has called on the Board of Trustees to “do everything in its power” to persuade the deputy principal embroiled in so-called “boat rage” to reconsider her resignation.

Catherine Browning, 52, stepped down after swinging an oar at fellow Tairua resident John Dixon on January 23.

It was filmed and put on social media.

Dixon allegedly rammed Browning’s boat with his dinghy before Browning swung the oar towards him after wading into the water.

Dixon is defending three charges laid by police.

Browning was charged with assault but was

.

Under the diversion scheme if an offender completes agreed conditions the charge is withdrawn and a conviction will not be recorded.

Past and present students and parents of Tairua School asked at Wednesday night’s board meeting that the trustees allow Browning to return to the school.

The meeting was advertised in a school newsletter along with the announcement of Browning’s resignation, after 18 years. Her replacement was also announced.

Supporters described Browning as bold, gentle, fair and compassionate and said she had helped many teenagers over the years.

They presented letters of support for the former deputy principal and served a formal letter to the board before the meeting.

“We ask the Board of Trustees to represent the parents, school children and wider community’s interest by doing everything in its power to re-establish Catherine Browning in her position as teacher,” the letter said.

“In the many years that Catherine has served our school we have always known her to be a strong leader and effective educator.”

Describing Browning’s voluntary and extracurricular work, the group said she had been missed since being stood down.

Tairua has about 2000 permanent residents and the primary school has a roll of less than 200.

“Her absence has been deeply felt to date.

“It is in this spirit that we ask the Board of Trustees to take action which reflects our school community’s sentiments in an effort to retain or reinstate Catherine as an employee at Tairua School.”

Browning told the NZ Herald in January that she had been called to account by her employer after the board asked for an explanation for behaviour that was seen around the world.

Board chairman Brent Arnel, however, said the board had accepted her resignation, and she would be missed by colleagues and school students.

“We would love the opportunity to thank her for her 18 years’ service, she helped shape the school to the way it is and she’s a very valued teacher in the community. We know a lot of her students and colleagues are going to miss her.

“We’re taking the loss and we wish her all the best.”

Students had taken the lead on a special school assembly to be held on Friday to celebrate Browning’s teaching years.

“We’d love anyone and everyone to come along,” Arnel said.

The video and story of the “boat rage” was carried by international news outlets, including the Daily Mail which dubbed her a “boat Karen” – a pejorative term for an angry or entitled woman.

In a response to the article posted on social media, Sharni Champion, whose children attend Tairua School, wrote: “Before you all add your 10 cents in and comment maybe think how this lady mother teacher and friend is feeling. Tairua is a small community and Mrs Browning has taught at our school for pretty sure over 20 years.

“Not only is she an incredible teacher she is an incredible person. She is kind and would do anything for anyone. The amount of teenagers that she has helped over the years…She never wanted this to go viral nor did the other person involved I bet.

“Put yourself in this family’s shoes right now. Our town has your back Catherine.”

Dixon was in court last month when name suppression lapsed.

He pleaded not guilty to using a vessel as a weapon to collide with another vessel, operating a vessel in a dangerous manner and assaulting Browning.

– Court coverage by NZ Herald reporter Belinda Feek

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