31 Mar 2015

New trustees for controversial kura

7:54 pm on 31 March 2015

The Ministry of Education says a new board of trustees has been elected at Te Kura Kaupapa Māori O Whangaroa and the commissioner in charge since June last year has now left.

Te Kura Kaupapa o Whangaroa.

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

Governance of the Māori immersion school had been placed in the hands of a commissioner by the ministry after it became mired in controversy.

The ministry dissolved the previous board because of what it described as serious concerns about the way it was elected in 2013, as well as complaints from whānau.

In January last year, 42 of the kura's 85 tamariki were pulled out by their parents, in protest at what they said was the way the board of trustees' election process was handled, and concerns over safety.

By half-way through 2014, the roll had dropped to 55 students, which has now fallen to 46.

Between January and May, the number of teaching staff (not including the principal), fell from 11 to eight but rose to nine in August. There are currently 10 full-time teachers, including the principal.

Court action

Commissioner Larry Forbes was installed to run the school and wrote a review recommending changes but the former board, unhappy at being removed, took the ministry to court.

The issue was settled out of court but Mr Forbes was replaced in mid-December by Hōhepa Campbell.

Gary Bramley of Ngāti Rua - the spokesperson for the whānau who withdrew their children - said Mr Forbes appeared shell-shocked when told he was to be removed.

The ministry's head of sector enablement and support Katrina Casey said in a statement that the ministry was not aware of any recommendations made by Mr Forbes that it had not accepted.

Ms Casey said the commissioner's review report of Te Kura Kaupapa Maori O Whangaroa supported its decision that the board's election was not valid.

However the kura's former board chair Terry Smith - the spokesperson for the school's whānau and former trustees - maintained the election was legal.

Mr Smith has just been re-elected to the board in the new elections.

Ms Casey said in a statement that the new parent representatives were:

  • Hera Epiha
  • Moana Kiff
  • Moana Tuwhare
  • Rawiri Hemi
  • Terry Smith
  • Staff representative
  • Tania Ngatai
  • Student representative
  • Te Whai Matauranga Smith

Ms Casey said a chairperson would be elected at the first meeting of the new board of trustees.

When Te Manu Korihi asked the Ministry of Education why Mr Forbes was removed as commissioner, Ms Casey responded in a statement that Mr Forbes carried out his role at the kura in an effective manner.

"Mr Forbes is, and always has been, a high-performing and effective commissioner, with strong skills and experience, and he carried out his role at the kura in an effective manner," she said.

"The intervention process at the kura moved into a different phase as the school moved towards board of trustee elections and we decided it was important to have a commissioner to oversee this phase that had particular skills, such as a strong knowledge of Te Aho Matua and fluency in Te Reo Māori."

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