Friends, senior students, teachers, parents, and the community of Rangiora: it begins

Out of nothing, injustice, psychological cruelty, gross actions, and immoral behaviour have occurred. It has been a display of deplorable human behaviour, and to the victim of that behaviour, a nightmare that plumbs the depths. One can also see portrayed how little we have done in response, how we have stood by, to some extent helpless in the face of the huge propaganda machine that is this agency of state.

The agitation of a few wanting to sell school assets with an inexplicable urgency when the majority of the Board didn’t caused a kerfuffle and a new Board was elected.  But the minister, at the hearing of ‘assets’ – substantial  assets, at that – became all ears and, knowing the school was facing a rebuild, decided to sack the board and appoint a commissioner.  The commissioner, you see, would have the power to sell those assets without proper community assent. To slander the principal, financial irregularities were suggested but the finances were found to be in outstanding order; also suggested was going to a conference without leave – that had no substance.

But you see again, finding small matters, even if found, which weren’t anyway – would not justify within a million miles the horrors visited on the principal and the harm to the school.

Strangers to the community imposed themselves on a 136 year-old school two years ago; they sacked the board and the principal and intimidated staff and parents for a deliberate plan to strip the school of $12 million in assets for expenditure that is properly the responsibility of the government.

107 Kippenberger is up for auction. The stripping of assets has begun. The property forms part of the school’s asset portfolio and was always tagged, it needs to be said, as a property that could be sold if a Board found a special project. But what business is it of those strangers? It belongs to you.

One first has to ask, why after nearly two years, the school does not have a Board?

Why is a commissioner not a Board making decisions on behalf of the community over community assets?

Why has there been no public consultation over the disposal of this asset?

Why has there been no Strategic Plan for property and asset management published?

Why has there been no information around the role of the ministry in the appropriation of the school’s assets?

Are the moneys to be directed into the school’s Operations Grant to balance the annual budget? If so then High School Reserves (protected under the Education Lands Act 1949) are being misappropriated.

If the annual budget is seriously out of whack through wasteful expenditure by the commissioner, and or on the commissioner (which will eventually prove to be undeniable), why hasn’t an investigation been ordered and a report made to the community?

Are the moneys to be misappropriated in another way: buildings and a safe environment being paid for by the community when that function is properly the responsibility of the ministry?

AND THIS A DEMOCRACY WE LIVE IN? The only person who can put a caveat on the property to protect the proper status of that property is the person who owns it – that is the Board as the Board is the legal entity. But who has all the rights and powers of the Board at the moment but the commissioner – how convenient is that (ironically)?

What we have here is theft by agency of state. When in a select committee, a high ministry official, followed by  the secretary of education, were asked about this selling of assets: the first said no and the second said we don’t know. What do you think about that? Behind all this are the legal procedures occurring between the ministry and the principal. I think one factor is the minister saying, those people who wanted to sell the assets were right, and the principal was wrong, just watch me do it. Also, the minister has recently lost a number of other cases of misuse of commissioners, if she loses the Rangiora one, she could be out. She is throwing everything at this. 

Her job is at stake.

Which brings me to my final point: ERO has notified it will be reviewing the school in July – in illegal case after case, ERO has been shown to work glove-in-hand with the minister – after all she is the head of ERO. So we should be prepared for more mischief. But it will be mischief against the glowing ERO report for the principal and school of three years ago. 

Keep tuned.

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15 Responses to Friends, senior students, teachers, parents, and the community of Rangiora: it begins

  1. A Parent says:

    Perhaps you should take a look at the Board minutes of Sept and Oct 2014. The person who prompted investigation into the sale of the house you are discussing was none other than the then Principal, Mrs Burrows. This is clear in the minutes which are readily available on the school website.

  2. Kelvin says:

    Dear Parent

    Thank-you for your Comment, it allows me to point out some key points that I’m confident will convince you of the consistently errant behaviour of the commissioner and the continuing professional behaviour of one of secondary education’s most notable principals.

    I have been informed by one of my many sources on the staff that the commissioner, through the d-p’s Staff Newsletter, was quick to get something out in reply to my carefully accurate website posting. The commissioner, it seems, is clearly rattled and trying to get her script in order before she communicates her yarn to parents in the next few days – we await with interest.

    How many times do I need to explain? Here we go again:

    The October 2014 Minutes that the ‘d-p’ refers to, records that Peggy Burrows was charged to investigate, on behalf of the Board, the viability of the subdivision of the land. As referred to in my initial posting, the property was always earmarked for sale but not, of course, to fund a ministry building project that is clearly the responsibility of the government.

    In 2013, the Board had approval for a Whenua Rahui project in conjunction with Department of Conservation and Land-based Studies. But that special project seems to have gone with the wind resulting in various tricky manoeuvres to hide the fact that the commissioner overspent wildly the money available in the Farmland Funds Interest Account.

    Parent – are you following carefully – I don’t want to have to explain this again. The commissioner is trying to convince the staff (yes, every move she makes) that we need to sell the 107 Kippenburger Avenue property to meet the Board’s earlier commitment to fund $900,000 for the Commons area which the ministry refused to fund. That money (are you still with me Parent? I am confident, though, staff members are all attention) was held in the Farmland Funds Investment Account and available in 2014.

    If any staff member looked at the Board Finance Report for October, 2014, that staff member would see that the Board had ensured there were sufficient funds in the Investment Account to pay for the Commons contribution.

    Aaha! That staff member will ask (as will the thousands of readers of this site), where did all that money – from October, 2014 to May, 2016 – go. May I commend that staff member on the acuity of the question? It happens to be just the question that had formed in my mind.

    Oh what a commissioner! The very model of a commissioner out of her depth.

    You see: just 4 weeks into her hostile takeover, the commissioner leapt in, all puffed up with the totality of control, and committed to purchase some Rangiruru prefabs to house the Learning Support Department and so spent $700,000 of those already committed funds. The prefabs arrived on site in late 2015 and are now Board-owned buildings meaning the Board will have to fund the upkeep forever. But that upkeep can’t come out of the Operations Grant – and there won’t be any long-term budget for how it will be funded.

    Goodness knows what was going through the mind of the principal as this commissioner was bumbling around? The prefabs were not budgeted for so the commissioner raided the Investment Account to pay for them. She was entitled to do that, of course, because that is what commissioners can do – also why they should only be put into schools as an absolutely last resort, not the absolutely no-reason reason as has occurred at Rangiora. The principal would no doubt have cautioned her and, being the professional she is, put it in writing. But to no avail – the Commons project money disappeared into unbudgeted prefabs.

    So what does this commissioner do?

    Without explanation or consultation with the school community, she attempts to sell an asset worth $450,000 to make up for her arrogant and reckless financial behaviour.

    I sense Parent, your letter was intended to put the blame for the attempted sale on the principal.

    For goodness sake – enough is enough – a huge injustice has been wrought on a terrific person and principal. When is this nonsense going to end? And none of that smoke without fire rubbish, or there must be something – I can tell you there is nothing. As a former senior inspector of schools, I knew what was going on in flash, I knew the whole thing was a travesty and so, sadly, it has turned out to be.

    Dear Parent: this has been a somewhat longer answer to your question. At the heart of it is a shorter one: the issue, in a way, isn’t the spending, it is who is doing it. It should have been you, through your elected representatives, with all the checks and balances that entails, and the exercise of democracy to which we should all be committed.


    Kelvin Smythe

  3. A Parent says:

    To be honest Kelvin,
    I’d be happy for EVERY cent of assets to be spent, in order for MY kids and others to have a better deal in better environments than now. I am not going to get into
    a slanging match over the responsibilities of the govt., we’d both be living behind rose-tinted specs if we ever believed ANY state school ever gets exactly all the funding they need!
    Personally, I think it is somewhat ironic and I see no point in protecting ‘wealth’ when conditions and facilities are not the best that they can possibly be. I have said this many a-time, and there are many other parents who hold this same view.

  4. Kelvin says:

    But that wasn’t the point you made, and it doesn’t answer the final point I made – the final point was that the school’s assets should be managed by the community, not by the government. Amongst other things, what would happen, happened here: the principal was sacked so the government could get free rein with the assets. A building plan was in place; with government and school plans mostly fitting together, and where they didn’t, the school said, ok, we’ll spend there and was in the process of doing so in a carefully budgeted way. But now the school in the years ahead, is committed to the financial drain of maintaining those assets. The school was going well – the ERO report was brilliant and now what a mess. Within certain legal procedures, the money owned by schools should be spent by the decision of those schools. For otherwise to happen, is to accept that the government can force schools to spend their own money or sack principals so their representatives can – is not the kind of New Zealand I want to live in. Nor do I think that Rangiora can’t do the right and balanced thing. A new Board had been appointed, things were set to go – bang! sack the democratically appointed Board and viciously slur and pursue a decent New Zealander. Winston Churchill had an epigram on democracy relating to the matter.

    But above all, there are two issues: how Rangiora should use its assets; and how we should treat each other

    • says:

      A couple of things :
      The ERO report wasn’t brilliant. Brilliant ERO reports get a school onto a 5 year cycle of visits. The ERO report was standard, putting the school on the 3 year cycle. From my reading of it, there were a number of things to be worked on. I’ll look forward to reading the next one.
      Secondly, if you read the school newsletters, the money you mention being spent on the Rangi Ruru classrooms, were purchaed to replace the old hostel buildings that had been converted to classrooms ( Board owned, I believe, so well outside any Ministerial mandate for upkeep and replacement). Ask the kids and teachers who were supposed to ‘work’ in there the last few years, what condition they were in and why they were beyond repair. I think the block actually featured in the local paper a couple of years ago ( long before the recent flurry of media attention) as being a freezing, rodent infested, ramshackle disgrace!
      This had been allowed to happen, over years, by the wonderful democratically elected ‘boards’, their ever revolving door of Chairpersons and a highly effective Principal!

  5. A Parent says:

    The 2012 ERO report was hardly brilliant. Brilliant ERO reports get schools onto a 5 year rotation of visits. It was a standard report, with, if I remember rightly a number of things to work on! I for one will be looking forward to reading the next one!

    Secondly, the school newsletters have clearly stated that the Rangi Ruru classrooms were bought to replace the damaged and irreparable Learning Centre – which was housed in the old hostel accomodation – Board owned and therefore def not under the mandate of the Ministry’s property plan. Ask the teachers and kids who were housed in there what they were like! There was an article in the local paper a few years ago (well before the present media frenzy!!) I which I think they were described as rotten, rodent infested disgraces of classes! And all that was managed by a democratically elected Board, with a revolving door of Chairpersons and a ‘highly effective Principal’!

    C’mon, there’d be few staff or parents who’d be upset with that improvement!!!

  6. Paul Finch says:

    Here’s the opening piece from the ERO report 2012 (below, after my commentary).

    You know what, it’s the only time in the last 4 years that I’ve read any report written about the functioning of the school that mentions the Canterbury Earthquake sequence. And do you know how disgusting that is ? It disgusts me as I’ve worked with residential rebuild for almost 5 years now and there are people in Canterbury suffering as much now, if not considerably more, than they were in 2010/2011. Remember the sudden unexpected arrival at RHS of all those earthquake kids, with no planned space available or timetable planned ? Didn’t the SLT and staff do a fantastic job of accommodating then, as they are now. How are they managing so well ?….because they’re good honest, hardworking teamplayers and because of the leadership they worked under and alongside.

    You think some of the buildings at the school are poor ? Have a look at some of the other MOE property around the country. Start with the condition of the units the MOE shipped out to school. The Board have done an incredible job of executing building projects at the school over the last few years. Do you think they were in a position to carry on regardless after the quakes in 2010/2011 ?

    In fact, have a look at some of the property that is still standing in ChCh in which people are still living. Shall we blame the homeowners for not getting their properties in order quicker?

    Those quake kids graduated through from Yr 12 last year…… and the commissioner made not a single mention of Peggy, nor the quakes, nor the quake kids, nor got the staff into their academic gowns. All very uninspiring.

    My name is Paul Finch. Our child all but chose RHS from the other side of the planet before we moved here, that’s how good a job the Principal and SLT have been doing for Rangiora, Waimakariri and Canterbury.

    From the ERO Report 2012.
    What are the important features of this school that have an impact on student learning?
    The school has made significant progress since the 2009 ERO report. This is most evident in
    the positive school culture, better engagement in learning by students and improved levels of
    achievement, particularly in the senior school.
    The school’s house system is strengthening students’ sense of belonging and pride in their
    school. Positive student attitudes are shown in improved attendance and fewer students
    requiring extra support to manage their behaviour.
    The school has built strong links with local and wider business and education communities.
    These links extend students’ opportunities to succeed by providing extra resources and
    facilities to support their learning.
    “Land-based” courses, including agricultural and equine studies, provide a significant point of
    difference, creating the school’s special character.
    The board, senior leaders and staff are successfully managing the impact from the
    Canterbury earthquakes. The September 2010 and February 2011 quakes caused minimal
    damage to the school’s buildings and property. Staff coped well and the school carried on with
    very little disruption to teaching and learning. The school gained about 100 new students
    following its reopening. Further unexpected enrolments have occurred in 2012 due to the
    earthquakes’ ongoing effects. The board and senior leaders continue to:
    monitor and support the wellbeing of students and staff
    respond to the consequent pressure on the available classroom space and on staffing which
    the board, leaders and staff are managing as well as possible in challenging circumstances.

  7. A Parent says:

    ……and here’s the rest of the review that you chose to leave out – the areas for improvement – a BRILLIANT report (as reported by Mr Smythe) would not have the need for SO many areas for development. As I said, BRILLIANT reviews put schools on a 5 year cycle. …with few, if any areas for development…..

    Area for development and review
    Monitoring, collating and reporting progress over time in Years 9 and 10. The school does not
    yet have sufficient information about the value added to students’ learning in the first two
    years at the school. School leaders and teachers are exploring better ways to assess and
    report student achievement and progress over time from a range of sources. They have
    appropriately identified that the priority areas for this development will be in English and

    Area for development and review
    Extending aspects of current good practice. School leaders and heads of faculty are
    supporting teachers to use a wider range of more effective practices to further improve
    student engagement and achievement. Priority should now be given to more widespread
    recognition of:
    – students’ prior knowledge when planning programmes at each class level
    – students’ different abilities, needs and interests
    – ways to successfully engage boys in their learning.

    Area for development and review
    Extending self review. The board and school leaders need to extend their self-review
    processes to gain a stronger picture about the effectiveness and sustainability of some
    current practices and initiatives aimed at improving school performance. Areas worthy of
    further review include how:
    – the board evaluates its own effectiveness in governing the school
    – effectively the senior leadership team operates as a team and communicates with staff
    – planned or unexpected developments and changes have affected staff.

    Area for development and review
    Reporting international student-achievement information. Senior leaders and the board could
    be better informed about how well international students are achieving and progressing with
    respect to the aims and aspirations for their time at the school. This information should also
    include how well students are achieving in subjects other than ESOL.

    As mentioned earlier, I look forward to reading the report following the next visit

  8. AParent says:

    PS and to be honest Mr Finch, I’m not overly worried or concerned about MOE buildings around the country, I’m worried about the school my kids are at, and to be doubly honest I kinda like the way things are going at the moment.

  9. Kelvin says:

    Dear Parent: information has come from a number of sources to indicate your pseudonym may not be entirely accurate (not I hasten to assure you from the email you sent to my editor). In some circumstances that status is crucial to the conversation – as I think it is here, so I am asking my editor to stop publishing your emails. I see Paul Finch has got in ahead of me and brought up the matter of the earthquakes, which I think was cruel of you to omit; also another dig at democracy and the community voice (wow!); and did I read a threat behind the reference to ERO. You need to understand that when the government bullies, it bullies with all its available powers – ERO ganging up on the side of commissioners is par for the course. As for the ERO report, which I did the equivalent of for 15 years, suggestions for further development in such reports are not criticisms. I think in the circumstances Peggy Burrows and the situation deserve transparency. This is no time for back of the hand innuendo. You should have provided your real name so the worth of your contribution could have been weighed validly and the response to it in line with your status and part in proceedings.

  10. A Parent says:

    Mr Smythe, I have sent no email to your editor, however I see that I have managed to double posted somehow – apologies for that. Am I to take it, that as a parent with view differs that from yours, will not post my thoughts?

  11. Kelvin says:

    You started with one matter which I fully answered, then you went this way and that. The question you ask is a trick one as you know, and I will not answer it in the way you frame it. You have had your time in the anonymous shadows; no more publishing until you come into the light. The situation requires nothing less.

  12. A Parent says:

    Mr Smythe

    I guess from your last comment, this is not likely to be posted – but anyway:

    1 I am a parent. I choose to use a pen name.
    2 The comment re ERO had no veiled threat. It was a statement of fact. I, like many other parents I know, are looking forward to reading the report of the upcoming review.
    3 All documents are available on school website – BOT minutes, newsletters, parent/community consultation and feedback. As is the school newsletter. Past media articles are available online.
    4 The ‘areas for improvement’ were included by me to highlight the gross inaccuracy of your statement ‘BRILLIANT ERO review’. While the handling of the ‘earthquake enrolments’ was certainly well done, this does not equate to a ‘brilliant review’ – i.e. not on the 5 year review cycle (and that is a FACT that cannot be disputed).


  13. Kelvin says:

    Dear Parent: I asked my editor to put up the above letter because we want to give you a fair go. But your letters are a campaign and, as such, it is important you don’t continue to hide behind anonymity. Readers deserve to know who you are and your part in proceedings.

    I have been in many situations protecting principals against injustice, and the most bitter and serious have all been against women principals. The central problem, though, irrespective of gender, is there are no processes for bureaucratic accountability available to those who seek redress against bureaucratic injustice which means in the often fraught area of education the bureaucrats can quite easily stir up quite primitive emotions against persons they have decided to target – especially I have found from experience if she is a woman (possibly made worse in this case, by the principal’s commitment to Maori education as expressed in her nearly completed doctorate and planned initiatives in the school.)

    In discussing these terrible injustices an article written some time ago (before Rangiora), I adapted the following from Kafka:

    The Kafkan power of the intervention process is such that there is rarely a genuine problem beyond that manufactured by the intervention process itself, meaning that those complaining only need to keep complaining for the intervention process to produce the Kafkan situation of irrationality so deviously favourable to their ends. Once the intervention is in place, the question becomes not what the problem was, but whether the principal is perfect in every respect? And the principal, no matter how insignificant the imperfection revealed or how irrelevant to the initial ‘problem’, is always caught out, and much is made of that, and is a goner. After all, those making the judgement are those arrayed against the principal from the beginning. It seems the advice given by a character in Kafka should have been heeded: ‘The only right thing to do was to come to terms with the circumstances as they were.’ As such principals should ready themselves to have their vocations made to die ‘Like a dog!’ with the shame to outlive them.

    I am trying to do all I can to prevent the ending described.

    You started with one accusation: that the principal was active in the prospective selling of a property as though that was of great significance and ended arguing the toss about whether the ERO report was brilliant or just very good. These things don’t really matter, are just examples of things picked up by commissioners and people like you for your own purposes. Think of the slur of financial irregularities when the principal was first suspended (none); like the principal supposedly going to a conference on Maori education without permission (wrong) – and here you are following that pattern – all anonymously.

    I know those few involved in this persecution of the principal think they are really on to something. For me it is both arduous repetition and fantastically terrible.

    Get a life.

  14. John Stokes says:

    Good lord! Who is “A Parent”? This parent, if he or she is simply what they say they are, has too much time on their hands. And why hide behind a nom de plume? Clearly A Parent is more than just a parent. So why not come out from behind the bushes, A Parent, and hold a rational and open discussion?

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