Otepopo School at Herbert closed yesterday after a
direction by Minister of Education Anne Tolley. Its four
pupils, parents and staff spent the day in activities to
mark the end of 146 years educating the community. Photo by
The Herbert community is grieving the closure of Otepopo
School, its remaining four pupils now having to go to other
schools as far away as Hampden and Maheno.
Parents and staff yesterday requested privacy to mourn the
loss of the school - which was the Goodman Fielder School of
the Year in 2003 - particularly for some of its pupils who
were very upset.
Yesterday about a dozen pupils, siblings, parents and staff
had a "last day of togetherness" away from the school before
returning about 3pm to close it for the last time.
Some, who did not want to be named, are still angry about how
the closure transpired - dating from an Education Review
Office (ERO) report in September 2008, leading to the sacking
of the board in March last year, replacement by commissioner
Mike Allison, a review of its future in April and the final
decision by Minister of Education Anne Tolley in June to
close the school from the end of term 3.
They are also upset at the way some aspects had been
At its peak this year, it had built its roll to 22 pupils -
it finished yesterday with four.
When Mrs Tolley announced the school was to close, many
parents started their children at a new school in term 3,
most electing to go to Hampden.
The eventual closure was started by a proposal to investigate
amalgamation that had not been discussed or approved by
Otepopo's board of trustees.
That led to an ERO report which concluded deteriorating
relationships within the board and with a group in the
community had distracted the board from its core role of
improving outcomes for pupils.
Instances were reported where the boundaries between
management and governance had not been well understood or
Issues related to ethical behaviour, conflicts of interest
and collective responsibility had also had a negative impact.
"It is vital these issues are addressed quickly and
effectively so that educational outcomes for students are not
compromised," the ERO report said.
After the appointment of the commissioner, the Ministry of
Education was asked by Mrs Tolley to consult the Hampden,
Maheno and Weston Schools on the possibility of retaining
Otepopo as a "second campus" of one of the schools.
However, no agreement was reached and Mrs Tolley said it was
clear closure was the best option