Petition may force school to face music

TRACY NEAL
Last updated 12:58 29/07/2014

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A petition to the Nelson School of Music Board has triggered a special meeting next month, which could force the resignation of the board.

Board deputy chairman Paul Rosanowski, who chaired an informal meeting last night intended to discuss rule changes with members, said a petition signed by more than 25 members was presented, calling for a special meeting to adopt new rules.

Rosanowski said if the rules, proposed by member Bob Bickerton, were adopted, they would force new board elections earlier than planned.

NSOM chairman Neil Deans was out of town because of a family bereavement. He said this morning he understood there was a good turnout of about 50 people, with robust discussion about constitutional changes and concerns expressed about current governance of the school.

He said it would be considered by the board before the proposed special general meeting on August 14, at which any changes would be discussed and voted upon.

"This will provide all members of the school with an opportunity to reflect and consider what options will be most appropriate and effective to ensure the ongoing viability of the school, and the degree of community support for its proposed building refurbishment to secure its future," Deans said.

Rosanowski said any veering off the path at this point could delay the significant process under way to upgrade the school of music building.

The school's main auditorium was closed last December after it was found to be unsafe as an earthquake-prone building in need of strengthening. This put it out of action sooner than expected for a planned upgrade. The Nelson City Council has just advertised for a project manager for the work, which could take up to two years before completion.

The board recently agreed to fine tune its "clunky" constitution, to allow it to co-opt new members to help with changes ahead. It has since been in limbo as it worked through changes to its constitution to enable board members to be appointed from the council.

Rosanowski said if the board resigned, the process would be set back by several months.

"What I had proposed was to keep the same board, reduce members from six to four and add three that the Nelson City Council wants to put on it, then go through to the 2015 AGM, then have a fresh election," he said.

Bickerton, a former NSOM director, and concerned members Kirsten Revell, Susannah Roddick and Kendall Wills, have written a letter that has circulated among other members, describing the NSOM as "facing its greatest crisis in 120 years".

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The letter outlined their desire for a board capable of managing the physical re-build, that listened to its members, and that actively encourages and supports its teachers and students.

Bickerton said they wanted the teachers' representative retained on the board, which would be removed under the current board proposal.

He said today the large turnout

at last night's meeting was an accurate reflection of the level of discontent.

He said while the current board's members had a combination of great skills, in many areas they were not focused on current members, and it had a responsibility to serve its members.

"It goes back many years. If you were to ask anyone there last night, they would have felt very uncomfortable because they know the board works very hard, but perhaps they've lost focus, and have not taken members with them.

"That's why we're looking to this change," Bickerton said.

He said it was "very sad" it had come to this point, but it was in everyone's interests to try to resolve the situation.

"The school has throughout history struggled financially at various times, then it's come up again, then struggled again, but this is different. Never before has the school community been in a crisis to this degree.

"There's no point in having a wonderful new school if there's not a vibrant community within its walls," Bickerton said.

Deans said he planned to meet with the board when he was back in Nelson later this week. "What we need to ensure is that all this will deliver what people want for the school. That's what we need to have a discussion about."

- The Nelson Mail

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