Education undersecretary appoints former Fidesz mayor to lead Budapest elementary school

July 27, 2017

The Ministry of Human Resources has appointed a former Fidesz mayor as the principal of a Budapest elementary school despite strong opposition from teachers and the district council, reports hvg.hu.

The education undersecretary appointed Zsolt Putnoki as the principal of the Dózsa György Street 13th District Music and Physical Education Elementary School, despite the district’s general assembly not supporting Putnoki’s program and finding him unfit and underqualified to lead the school. The vast majority of educators and other employees of the school rejected Putnoki’s application, and parents also voiced opposition to his appointment.

According to a statement issued by the Hungarian Socialist Party (MSZP), which has a large majority in the district’s general assembly, Putnoki was once Fidesz mayor of the village of Újkenéz until he lost an election to an independent candidate two years ago. The statement notes that although Putnoki is a professional trumpet player and conductor (which is welcomed as the school is also a music education institution), he acquired his teacher’s diploma less than a year ago.

The Budapest 13th District council urged the Ministry of Human Resources to launch a new application as soon as possible.

This is not the first time the ministry has appointed a Fidesz-tied person without professional experience to lead a school. László Zoltán, the principal of the prestigious Szabó Lőrinc (English) Bilingual Elementary and High School, who had been successfully leading the school for 25 years, was ousted in August to make room for a former 9th district mayor’s aide, Tünde T. Zuggó. T. Zuggó was appointed as head of the bilingual school despite speaking English only at a conversational level, and not having taught for eight years and never having led a school. Teachers and parents strongly opposed T. Zuggó’s appointment.

Principal of the József Attila High School in Makó, István Rója, who had been leading the school for 22 years was not re-elected as principal despite being the only candidate running. The principal was known to oppose the government’s education policy and openly participated in last year’s checkered-shirt protests, a series of demonstrations where teachers, principals and parents wearing such shirts criticized the government’s education policy and Minister of Human Resources Zoltán Balog.

Gábor Tóth, principal of the Szinyei Merse High School in Budapest – whose students and teachers suffered a tragic bus accident on their way home from a skiing trip this year – was fired in an email with no explanation after 25 years of leadership. Minister Balog later prolonged Tóth’s contract by one year.