Trustees nonplussed at sacking

Trustees at a south Taranaki school are questioning the timing of a Government move to sack them.

Laura Snowden was appointed commissioner to Manaia Primary School after Education Minister Hekia Parata dissolved the board of trustees last month, but former board members say they have been left in the dark.

Former board member Mark Gallie said while he had suggested putting a commissioner in place a year ago, after that the school had begun to head in the right direction. His concerns had fallen away after the 111-pupil school's management structure changed.

"It was a new year, we had appointed an acting principal [Diane Henare], an acting deputy and the changes were received well by the school community," he said. "Then we got a letter stating the board was being dissolved with no specific explanation why."

He said he had "faith" in the commissioner's abilities but couldn't understand why the seven-member board needed to be sacked.

Education Ministry spokeswoman Katrina Casey said after Gallie's suggestion and a meeting with the board, the commissioner was appointed to help the school improve student progress and achievement, charter and curriculum documentation, and operations, including financial management and employment.

"The board became divided, leading staff and the community to take sides and it was no longer able to work together to govern the school effectively," she said.

"Statutory interventions are not made lightly and are only taken when a school is at risk of being unable to govern itself effectively and/or there is a risk to the welfare or education of students."

But Gallie's comments were echoed by another former board member, Shelley Craig.

"We had put a couple of things in place and it seemed like we were on the right track," she said.

"So it was a huge surprise to have the commissioner come in and take over."

Despite the Crown intervention, the school's latest Education Review Office report was glowing. The report, issued last May, says the board demonstrated sound understanding of its governance role and responsibilities.

"The board has successfully consulted with parents to develop the charter that informs the school's strategic direction and priorities," the report states.

Snowden, an education consultant and former primary school principal, said the ministry had the children's best interests at heart.

"We need to get some policies and procedures in place so the school can move forward," she said.

Snowden said she was not in a position to say whether the former board was up to scratch.

"I'm just basically put in there to look toward the future."

She said her priority was to appoint a permanent principal and get the school ready "to have the parents come back through and be elected on to the board".

"We need everyone on the same page and that wasn't there before."

The Taranaki Daily News understands Snowden will be at the school today.

Taranaki Daily News