20 Mar 2015

More difficulty for Northland kura

5:49 am on 20 March 2015

Controversy at a Northland kura has continued with the Ministry of Education removing the commissioner put in charge to sort out the troubled school.

Te Kura Kaupapa o Whangaroa.

Te Kura Kaupapa o Whangaroa. Photo: eCube Building Workshop Limited

Larry Forbes took over governance of Te Kura Kaupapa O Whangaroa in June last year in the board's absence, and to oversee a new election, but the ministry replaced him only five months later with a new commissioner.

On the first day of the 2014 school year, 42 of the 85 tamariki attending the kura were pulled out by their parents, partly in protest over how last year's Board of Trustees election process was handled.

The ministry dissolved the board and appointed Larry Forbes to investigate what it described as a 'questionable election process'.

But in mid-December he was replaced by Hohepa Campbell who has just overseen a new round of school board elections.

Gary Bramley, of Ngāti Rua, is the spokesperson for the whānau who withdrew their children.

He said the group was very disappointed that Larry Forbes was removed.

"The appointment of a new commissioner wiped all of that away, and we had to start building a new relationship with a new person. So all that pre-existing trust that we'd built up with Larry was gone."

Mr Bramley said while Hohepa Campbell was appointed in mid December, his group did not meet him until mid-January.

"He apologised that he'd taken so long to meet with us and for the fact that we had effectively been sold out by the ministry by having him appointed as a replacement so late in the piece."

But the kura's former board chair, Terry Smith, who is the spokesperson for the school's whānau and former trustees, said he welcomed the new appointment.

"They need to have the skills of Te Reo, me ōnā tikanga and skills and experience and understanding of kaupapa.

"If they have those skills and are able to meet them: and a working knowledge and experience with Te Aho Matua [principles] kura kaupapa Māori then that's the bottom line."

The kura and the ministry said in a joint statement that the specialist skills Mr Campbell brings to the role are his strong knowledge of Te Aho Matua and fluency in Te Reo Māori.

The ministry has not said why Larry Forbes was removed and Te Manu Korihi has been unable to reach him for comment.

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