‘Impacted’ staffing likely: LSM

Totara School. PHOTO: SUPPLIED
Totara School. PHOTO: SUPPLIED
Issues around relational trust, governance and management relationships, communication breakdowns and pupils leaving are risking the operation of Totara School, a report from limited statutory manager Cleave Hay says.

In the report obtained by the Otago Daily Times, Mr Hay said staffing allocation and teaching roles for 2025 were likely to be "significantly impacted" due to a reduction in pupil numbers and poor applicant numbers.

Mr Hay was appointed by the Ministry of Education in January following what was then described as unspecified challenges at the school and three teacher resignations.

The board of trustees, principal Sandra Spekreijse and Mr Hay have repeatedly declined to give the roll.

The school was funded for 72 pupils for 2024. The roll was 58 on March 21 and the Otago Daily Times understood it could now be under 50.

Employment relationships and staff wellbeing were highlighted by Mr Hay; staff interviews provided feedback that required consideration to improve wellbeing practices for staff.

Employment files and practices were in need of a full HR audit to ensure the practices were "legal and secure", including ensuring all staff are being legally employed. The distribution and descriptions of roles also needed reviewed.

A reducing roll and expressions of concern from whanau stakeholders needed further investigation to determine root causes and to inform strategies to address these.

All four issues listed under "principal wellbeing and performance management," including the analysis of the severity and scope of those unnamed issues, were redacted in the report provided to the Otago Daily Times.

Concerns about communication management, including concerns around the complaints policy and procedures at the school, needed reviewed.

The report said the school would benefit through the development of a community engagement plan. Board members would also benefit from a professional development programme, including clarity around respective roles and responsibilities and other areas of governance practices.

A concerned parent spoke to the Otago Daily Times after attending a Parent Teacher Association (PTA) meeting at Totara School on Tuesday night.

The parent said despite those attending being given updates, it seemed the board was trying to "hide something". They were upset by a comment, understood to have been made by a board member at a previous PTA meeting, who said "all the good people have left the school".

The parent believed that was discriminatory.

"I’m not sorry if they’re calling me that, but it’s my child and everyone else’s children too."

The parent said Mrs Spekreijse was "very down to earth", good to talk to and good with their child.