Support for school as fight nears

With less than a week until its fight against the Ministry of Education closure plans goes to the High Court, Salisbury School is receiving support from its home town and as far away as the United Nations.

Salisbury School's board is seeking a judicial review of Minister of Education Hekia Parata's decision to close the school, and this will be heard in the High Court at Wellington on Tuesday.

Tasman District Mayor Richard Kempthorne has come out in strong support of the school.

He said breaking apart the school would be a strike against the value that everybody deserved a real chance - "not a second chance, just a chance".

His wife had worked as a teacher aide at the school for six years, which gave him a personal understanding of the difference the school has made, he said.

"This is a place where the bleakest outcomes have been averted. It is not just about an education - Salisbury is about hope and opportunity.

"Outcomes like these do not just come from a sound education. They come from dedication and support in the right environment."

By not visiting the school, Mrs Parata had made the decision "blind", which was disappointing, he said.

"I believe if she had found the time, Minister Parata would have a totally different view of the value the school delivers."

The decision should not be based on economics, he said.

"The girls at this school often do not have the choices or alternatives that we do.

"The ramifications of this decision, if it is not reversed, will be long felt by many people and communities throughout the country."

The judicial review would be expensive and he would be supporting the school by donating, acting as MC at the school's upcoming fair, and helping in any other way he could, he said.

"I have witnessed the value the school delivers and I believe Richmond and the region are the better for having Salisbury School here."

Former prime minister Helen Clark, now administrator of the United Nations Development Programme, has also been in touch with the school to give her support.

She was in Nelson in August to speak to the Nelson Chamber of Commerce.

After her visit, a Salisbury School staff member sent her a message on Facebook, asking her for her thoughts on the issue.

She replied that Salisbury School had catered for the unique needs of a small group of female students who could not be easily catered for in mainstream or other facilities.

"The support given by the school has been greatly valued by the parents of the students, who are understandably anxious for the best possible support to be given to their children," she wrote.

Board of trustees chairwoman Helen McDonnell, principal Brenda Ellis and four members of the school's board will represent the school at the hearing.

Mrs McDonnell said yesterday that although she could not comment on the legal details of the case, the school had gone into the process with hope.

"We feel there's a real issue to be fought here. We're going in with what could be a good outcome for the school. We're not feeling negative about it.

"We weren't wanting to take this step, but we still firmly believe that it's the right thing to do."

The school will hold a fair on December 2 to raise funds for the legal fight.