Tuatapere residents step up to help troubled school

Principal 'here for the long haul'

LAUREN HAYES
Last updated 05:00 10/06/2014
waiau area school
ROBYN EDIE/ Fairfax NZ

HAPPY DAY: Waiau Area School pupils, from left, Amyee Gutsell, 8, Malakai Mangion, 9, Max Harvey, 5, Ella Erskine, 8, Lucas Gutsell, 10, Luke Timoko, 8, and Quinn Palmer, 6, celebrate with principal Elizabeth Hannah as the school prepares to elect its first board of trustees in almost two years.

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A Southland community is stepping up to help strengthen its troubled school.

Tuatapere residents have put their hands up to represent Waiau Area School in its upcoming board of trustees elections, the first at the school in almost two years.

School commissioner Chris Shaw said an election would be needed after the roles attracted a lot of interest from the community.

Nominations for the board closed at the end of last week.

Eight people put their names forward for five parent trustees positions, while staff and student representatives had also been nominated, Shaw said.

Principal Elizabeth Hannah said she was pleased so many parents had put their names forward for the board.

The school was now heading in the right direction, with a lot of community input, she said.

"There's some more stability. I'm here for the long haul. Having a board that's from the community will mean they can take some ownership of the school again."

The next step was to help the board of trustees, who would be supported by the Ministry of Education and the New Zealand School Trustees Association, get settled into their roles, she said.

It has been a rocky few years for the school, previously known as Tuatapere Community College.

Previous trustees resigned, along with the principal, in September 2012, on the back of an Education Review Office (ERO) report highlighting issues with the school's curriculum design, teaching and assessment.

Since then, the school has been under the governance of Shaw, and the roll has dropped from nearly 200 pupils to about 110.

However, the outlook in this year's ERO report was much more positive.

It notes the school has made significant progress addressing the curriculum issues, and has a new "air of optimism" as it deals with the remaining challenges it faces.

Shaw said there had been a lot of progress, and a community atmosphere had been restored at the school. "A lot of that's about relationships. It's about people there working and people enjoying work."

The trustees elections close on June 19, with results expected to on June 25.

Shaw indicated he would then step down as commissioner.

Waiau Area School is the only school in Tuatapere, catering for year 1 to 13 pupils.

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