Waitara school trustees 'must address problems'

Waitara High School's board of trustees is being urged to deal with its problems before they get any worse.

The Education Review Office reported the board needed to work better together or risk becoming dysfunctional. "The current inability of trustees to work collaboratively is likely to impact on the board's ability to effectively carry out its function in the future. This must be addressed," the ERO report said.

In December, the school hit the headlines after a letter written by trustee Bill Simpson, which was critical of current principal Jenny Gellen, was published in the Taranaki Daily News.

Calls were made at the time for Mr Simpson to resign from the board but this did not eventuate.

Waitara High School board chairwoman Chris Richardson said the board accepted the ERO's findings and was doing all it could to make the necessary changes.

While she did not want to comment on specific issues or personalities, she said support from the New Zealand School Trustees Association and the Ministry of Education was already in place, with targeted support being given to board members around different issues including the role of the board and running effective meetings. "We are working together to ensure we are all on the same page," she said.

Like any elected group, the board, which has been in place since May, had to work together in the best interests of the school.

Ms Richardson said that despite the comments made about board relationships there were also positive aspects to the ERO report, which included gains made by the school around student achievement. The ERO team, which visited the school during term four of last year, also recommended the board attend training to "further clarify its role and develop a shared understanding of practice".

Training around Ka Hikitia, which is the Ministry of Education's strategy to improve learning outcomes for Maori, was also suggested. The ERO declined to comment further on the report or to provide any specific examples when contacted by the Taranaki Daily News yesterday.

Trustees association general manager Ray Newport said if a board was experiencing problems it should seek assistance as soon as it could.

"If a board is to be effective, it needs to work together," he said.

While there was no facility to remove troublesome trustees, due to the fact they are elected, the minister of education could disestablish a board and put a commissioner in charge.

Mr Newport said this was not ideal as the school had little control over who took over and also had to foot the bill to pay them.

"This is not a good outcome for the community," he said.

Taranaki Daily News