School of music in crisis - letter

LAURA BASHAM
Last updated 12:58 28/07/2014

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A letter being circulated describes the Nelson School of Music as "facing its greatest crisis in 120 years".

Two informal meetings are being held today for the board to discuss rule changes with members.

The letter is sent by former NSOM director Bob Bickerton and concerned members Kirsten Revell, Susannah Roddick and Kendall Wills.

The letter said: "We believe the Nelson School of Music (NSOM) is facing its greatest crisis in 120 years, and we are deeply concerned at the current governance of the school."

NSOM chairman Neil Deans, who was out of town today because of family bereavement, was unaware of the letter.

The letter encourages members to attend the meeting to discuss rule changes being held at 6pm today at Crowe Howarth. Another was held at noon today and the board plans to hold a meeting mid-August to make the changes.

Deans described the school of music as "in straightened times". Its building closed last December after it was found to be unsafe as an earthquake-prone building in need of strengthening and it has had to use alternative venues for the Nelson Music Festival.

"Our main source of income is the auditorium and it is not available to us at the moment and we had to reduce staff," he said.

Deans said it could be two years before work was completed. The Nelson City Council has just advertised for a project manager for the work.

The NSOM had been in limbo as the board worked through changes to its constitution to enable board members to be appointed from the council.

"The council in providing financial support is anxious to ensure the board has the appropriate people to undertake the building project because a substantial proportion of the funding is coming from the council, and that is entirely appropriate," said Deans.

Bickerton said today: "There are some of us who believe the school is in crisis and we will use the meeting tonight to discuss those issues."

The letter said the concerns of many members regarding the NSOM were clearly expressed to the board at the annual general meeting on June 26. "Many attendees spoke forcefully of longstanding concerns over a culture of poor communication with members, parents and teachers, support for teachers, the 2014 cancellation of student scholarships and the lack of an NSOM database of NSOM members. Unfortunately these concerns were not truly reflected in the published minutes of the meeting.

"Sadly, this situation has existed for many years, a typical example being no response to a letter of complaint to the board from a large number of teachers written in 2012."

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The letter said it became apparent at the June meeting that the school needed to review its rules to accommodate a council request to have three appointees on the board during the funding of the earthquake strengthening. During the discussion there was unanimous frustration from both board and members about the current electoral rules, which use a complex electoral committee system to appoint some board members.

Following the meeting, a group of concerned members proposed rule changes to the board that would see a positive change to current electoral processes and see open elections take place, the letter said.

"Our desire is for a board

capable of managing the physical re-build, that listens to its members, and that actively encourages and supports its teachers and students.

"Unfortunately the board chose to ignore our proposal and has responded by tabling a set of rule changes which removes the teachers' representative from the board, reduces the current board from six to four (not including council appointees) and entrenches current board members for a further year.

"We believe the board's proposed rules are utterly unacceptable in the current environment when it should be working with, not against its core community of students and teachers.

Tonight's meeting is to be run by the board deputy chairman Paul Rosanowski.

- The Nelson Mail

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