Parents' grievances to go to school board

ADAM ROBERTS
Last updated 13:00 13/12/2012

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Concerned parents and members of the Murchison Area School community will present a list of grievances to the school's board of trustees in the hope of resolving long-running issues.

About 50 people attended a two-hour public meeting at the Murchison Recreation Centre last night, chaired by Nelson Community Law Board chairman Bill Unwin.

During the meeting, many people expressed their concerns with the way the school was being run, with some calling for the board and principal to be sacked.

No representatives from the school, the school's board, or the Ministry of Education attended the meeting.

Some pointed to a recent employment issue involving a teacher as evidence that some teachers were being bullied.

At the meeting, a letter from board chairman Ed Penman was circulated, saying employment issues between the employer and employee were confidential.

Parents also warned that the school was at risk of losing a significant portion of its students.

The parents of 11 students had threatened to pull them out of the school next year if their children were not moved to a class with a different teacher.

"Parents are voting with their feet and children are leaving. In six years the roll has dropped dramatically," one parent, who asked not to be named, said.

Another parent said she was insulted that no-one from the school had turned up.

The meeting should have been a way of starting a dialogue with the school, she said.

Others said they had heard that staff had been told not to attend.

Parent Andrew Campey said people did not have confidence in the board, as some issues had been raised and put in the "too-hard basket".

Meeting organiser Maureen Smith said a ministry representative had told her he would be organising a meeting with the school's board next month, and it would be good if concerned members of the school community could have something to present at that meeting.

"We have a wonderful school that's dying.

"This has been festering for years."

She was also concerned that members of the board of trustees had breached confidentiality in the recent employment case.

The school needed to be more transparent, and involve the community more, she said.

She had gone to the principal with her concerns, and had asked to attend a board meeting, but had instead received a "condescending" email saying they would not call a special board meeting just for her concerns.

She said she would personally want a vote of no confidence in the principal.

Others agreed, but it was eventually decided that it was too early for such a drastic step, and it would be better to try to work with the school and board first.

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Instead, the meeting voted to have parent Marcy Rowe collate a list of grievances and positive suggestions from those in the community to give to the board.

A small group of representatives would then offer to meet with the board to discuss those grievances.

Speaking after the meeting, Mrs Smith said she was pleased with the turnout, and with the positive steps towards a resolution.

"I think it gave everybody a chance to say what they wanted to say.

"If we hadn't had this meeting these things would still be festering."

Principal Liz Wooster said this morning she thought a private meeting with the board and principal was a great idea.

She downplayed the number of people with concerns, saying she understood many who attended the meeting had done so out of curiosity, rather than with concerns of their own.

The decision not to send any school representatives was appropriate, as discussions were better to happen in private.

She would respond to the grievances when they were put to her in such a meeting.

She had advised teachers that it would not be in their best interests to attend the meeting.

It would have been unfair to expect the one or two teachers who might have attended to speak for the school, so she had told them not to go, she said.

Those who have significant grievances they wish to put to the board can contact Marcy Rowe at mail@mshop.c.nz.

- Nelson

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