Manager gives high school pass mark

Wakatipu High School shut the book on a turbulent chapter yesterday when an 18-month intervention came to an end.

The Ministry of Education appointed limited statutory manager Peter Macdonald to the school in May last year following a damning Education Review Office report which found there were communication breakdowns between senior management, and a lack of trust between management and staff.

Yesterday, a ministry spokesperson confirmed Mr Macdonald's appointment at the school had been revoked. "The Ministry of Education was satisfied that the required tasks had been completed and that the appointment of the LSM was no longer required."

Mr Macdonald, who is understood to have cost the school about $65,000, said he was positive about the intervention finishing.

"I'm sorry to go because I have made some good relationships . . . but my role has come to an appropriate end," he said.

The school had addressed all of the issues outlined in the ERO report and he was delighted with the outcome, he said. "In this case, 18 months to achieve what the school has achieved is a relatively short period, if not a record . . . the school I first encountered was very, very fragile indeed."

While he had been told today was to be his last, he was still waiting on official documentation from the ministry.

Principal Steve Hall said he was delighted with the news which would mean staff and students could look forward to a fresh start next year. "It's very good news for the school. It really puts a full stop on the tumultuous era for the school. It is not ideal for schools to have interventions."

The news indicated the ministry had faith in the school, and those now in charge, to run itself without outside assistance.

"It comes off the back of having a good draft ERO report . . .

"They're very positive about the things that they came to look at," he said.

School board chairman Alastair Nicholson said he was happy the school would no longer have to fork out $135 an hour to pay Mr Macdonald. "Public schools are always financially challenged; $65,000 goes a long way in public education. We are very happy to be moving back to spending that money on education."

The decision to end the intervention followed school visits by a ministry representative and ERO officials.

Mr Nicholson said the ministry met with himself and Mr Hall last month and ERO officials conducted 17 meetings with staff and management during a visit earlier this month.

"All signals they gave to the board indicated there had been a significant change. They felt there was a real clarity of purpose around the school and that all of the things raised in the previous ERO report two years ago had been addressed."

He was appreciative of the work done by Mr Macdonald during his tenure at the school. "He has effected change in what is a very difficult industry to effect change in.

"The board is appreciative of the work he has done and the state the school has been left in."

The school expected to receive a draft report from the Education Review Office early in the new year which the board would have an opportunity to comment on before a final report was released in February.

The Southland Times