Ministry steps in at Wanaka school

Cleave Hay.
Cleave Hay.
Governance issues at Wanaka Primary School have led to Ministry of Education intervention to address ''risks'' to the school's operation.

A letter sent to parents last Thursday signed by the ''chair committee, for and on behalf of the board of trustees'', announced the appointment of Cleave Hay as limited statutory manager for the school.

The committee has governed the board since former chairman Richard Cubie resigned in December, citing his concern over the way the school had dealt with complaints from parents.

Last week's letter said during term four last year, the board faced ''a number of challenges, which required a considered and proper response''.

Following a meeting on December 17 between the board and ministry representatives, the board voted unanimously for the ministry to appoint a limited statutory manager to ''help us with the difficulties we face''.

The letter gave no insight into what the difficulties were.

Mr Hay, a former commissioner of Rotary Park School, in Dunedin, was the board's preferred choice as he had already been working closely with the board since November and had its full confidence, the letter said.

''The board of trustees sees this appointment as a very positive move for the children, staff, parents and all members of our school community and we anticipate that it will make a significant and valuable contribution over the long term.''

One parent, who declined to be named, said the letter was ''so vague'' and lacking in information it had created much confusion and rumour among parents.

''It kind of makes people wonder more,'' the parent said.

Ministry of Education head of sector enablement and support Katrina Casey confirmed yesterday the ministry had appointed Mr Hay on January 10, ''because of risks to the operation of the school''.

Mr Hay's role would be to pick up the powers of the board in relation to its responsibilities as employer of all school staff. He would also act as adviser to the board, providing advice and support on board processes, roles and responsibilities.

Mr Hay had experience and understanding of governance and mediation, as well as being an experienced training provider for boards of trustees, Ms Casey said.

The board would carry on as normal in all other respects and Mr Hay's appointment would not affect the role of principal Wendy Bamford, who would continue managing the school, which ended last year with a roll of more than 550 pupils.

Dr Bamford said she was ''delighted'' the ministry had acted so quickly in appointing Mr Hay to support the board.

''It's a new board that needs to work on board systems and processes ... there's no problem with the organisation of the school. Our Ero [Education Review Office] reports said we're a high-performing school with high-performing staff and a high-performing principal,'' Dr Bamford said.

''I'm here, I'm running the school like I always do ... the board has just a few teething issues that we need to get sorted.''

Mr Hay, a Dunedin business director, told the Otago Daily Times that although he had been working with the school board in a governance training role and was aware of some of the issues, he was not prepared to comment on them until he had viewed the memorandum of understanding between himself and the ministry today.

''[The MoU] outlines what the situation is in the school, officially, and what the desired outcomes are, officially,'' Mr Hay said.

His first visit to the school as limited statutory manager would be early next week.

Ms Casey said Mr Hay would report regularly to the ministry on progress and his appointment would be reviewed within 12 months.

''The aim of any intervention is to return the school to full self-governance as soon as possible, and the vast majority of schools achieve this within two years.''

lucy.ibbotson@odt.co.nz

A few teething issues?

A few teething issues? They don't bring statutory managers in for that!