Warning Dunedin kindys could close

Parents have been warned 24 Dunedin kindergartens could be shut down as a battle over who controls them heats up.

The warning, labelled by one parent as "scaremongering", comes ahead of an extraordinary meeting on Thursday at which members will vote on whether Dunedin Kindergartens (DK) should split from New Zealand Kindergartens (NZK).

The meeting was requested by more than half the city's kindergarten committees after parents were outraged at an announcement DK board elections were suspended and NZK was stepping in immediately to assist in day-to-day governance of kindergartens as part of a one-year pilot.

In correspondence to parents from NZK and DK yesterday, the organisations warned that voting to break away from the national body could result in the winding up of all of DK's 24 kindergartens.

The unsigned letter from the DK board said if parents voted to split with NZK, the entire DK board would immediately step down.

This would trigger elections for a new board to be voted on at a second emergency meeting.

If a new board could not be found due to a lack of nominations, the current board would ask committee members to re-affiliate with NZK.

If no solution could be found at the second meeting "the organisation would need to start the process to wind up Dunedin Kindergartens".

A parent and president of one of Dunedin’s kindergarten committees, who declined to be named, said "this is all just scaremongering".

"So many are going to read this letter and be absolutely petrified that their kindy [is going to close], but their threats are just empty words."

She said DK and NZK’s biggest claim was that nobody had put their names forward for the board.

"I believe we have enough members who are ready to stand."

In its letter, NZK raised another scenario that could see the end of kindergartens in Dunedin.

The three-page letter, from NZK board chairwoman Sarah Tocker and chief executive Jill Bond, said if an association had no general manager, there was no-one to hold its operating licence.

This would potentially "mean that the association could not open kindergartens".

It listed what would happen if DK could not open kindergartens, including that children could not go there, staff could be made redundant and funding from the ministry would stop.

"DK would cease to exist after 135 years of operating," the letter stated.

It is unclear why NZK raised the possibility of there being no general manager.

However, critics of the organisation have raised concerns about DK’s general manager.

After receiving the letters, the Dunedin parent went to the Ministry of Education which, she said, informed worried parents the kindergartens did not have to close if the general manager decided to resign.

"She told us the licence can be held by anyone qualified, such as a head teacher."

The woman said parents had other kindergarten associations offering to step in if NZK and DK decided to stay true to their "threats".

"Why will they not let up? Why does NZK want this so bad? What is in it for them?

"Why resort to these kind of tactics? I think this says a lot about their governance style and why we are fighting to get them out."

NZK said in its letter it received advice that DK had failed to focus on, or appropriately invest in, all key areas required to manage a multimillion-dollar entity.

The view of DK’s board, it said in its letter, was that its continued membership of NZK, and the support and services it gave DK, was critical and without it DK would be in a "precarious and isolated" position.

"The level of risk we would carry is wholly unacceptable to us."

When asked whether telling parents kindergartens could close was an extreme move to make, Ms Bond said it was "providing information to enable DK members to make an informed decision on Thursday night".