Changes in management practices expected – ministry

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Senior management practices at Waitaki Boys’ High School have contributed to its problems and a commissioner will expect changes to be made, says Katrina Casey, Ministry of Education deputy secretary, sector enablement and support.

The ministry decided, during a meeting on Monday night, to appoint a commissioner to take over the role of the board of trustees so that serious issues could be resolved as soon as possible.

Ms Casey said the commissioner will be taking over all governance powers of the board and will be working closely with the rector, Paul Jackson, and the rest of senior school management until all issues have been fixed.

The latest report to the board has made it clear that senior management practices at the school have contributed to the school’s problems, she said.

“The commissioner will be expecting changes to those practices and behaviours to create a more positive culture at the school, and will be following through to ensure that happens.”

When a commissioner is appointed, the principal or rector always remains in their role and the commissioner will be working with the rector, she said.

The report completed by independent consultant Cleave Hay in June pointed out serious concerns with senior management and the rector stating that many staff members felt they were in an atmosphere of “directive and autocratic instruction”.

Many of those interviewed felt unsupported and undervalued through an inadequate amount of staff consultation by the management staff of the school, Mr Hay said in his report.

Ms Casey said the commissioner, once appointed, would undertake an initial scoping exercise and a review of the management structures with all of the recommendations listed in the independent reports being addressed.

The commissioner’s responsibilities will include acting as a good employer and ensuring there is a safe working environment for all staff and students.

“Where we do step in, we aim to bring expertise and a fresh perspective.

“The involvement of an outside expert, such as a commissioner, also acts as a circuit breaker for entrenched problems or conflicts, so that the focus of the school can be on teaching and learning.

“The aim is always to return the school to sustainable self-governance.”

Commissioners are appointed depending on skills required by the situation at each school and in the case of WBHS, the commissioner will require governance expertise in employment and HR matters, as well as excellent communication skills, Ms Casey said.

The appointment of a commissioner to WBHS will now mean that two of the eight schools being run by commissioners in the South Island are located in North Otago.

Totara School has had a commissioner in place since September 2013.

Schools with commissioners

The following seven schools in the South Island currently have commissioners:

Christchurch East School, Wanaka Primary School, Totara School, Aparima College (Riverton), Salford School (Invercargill), Runanga School (West Coast), Wairau Valley School (Blenheim).

There are 15 commissioners in the North Island:

Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Otara, Sir Douglas Bader Intermediate School (Auckland), Silverdale Normal School (Auckland), Dalefield School (Wairarapa),Te Kura o Nga Ruahine Rangi (Taranaki), Manaia School (Taranaki), Aramoho School (Whangaunui), Northland College, Te Hapua School (Northland), Ngataki School (Northland), Mangamuka School (Northland), Kaikohe Intermediate, Kerikeri Primary School, Tangowahine School  (Northland), Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Whangaroa (Northland).

By RUBY HARFIELD