Parents, teachers, and community of Rangiora High school get a load of this: I want to put first the latest in the series of vicious ministry-commissioner actions against Peggy Burrows
The commissioner has put the ERA decision on the school website, but so far, only the first bit.
And the ministry has refused to release the Specialist Adviser’s report the present commissioner wrote even though there is huge public interest in the contents. This document is pernicious and would be fatal to the ministry’s case, as it was to the ERA case, and will be when the commissioner is taken to a civil or criminal court. My view is that the ministry has now engaged a PR Company because they have lost everywhere and so badly. The decision’s first part is the summary of the commissioner’s case and is unfair to Peggy because of its placement. They are hoping people won’t read any further and will not bother to read the second half which is the summary of the case and expresses the decision so definitively in Peggy’s favour. They are just into damage control but yet again there is the bullying approach to try to intimidate Peggy and the school.
With the commissioner still in place, if a PR Company has been employed, that will be another cost adding to the near million dollars the school might well have to pay for the privilege of hosting aforementioned commissioner.
Overall, this is bureaucratic sadism.
Have you read this press victory in the Christchurch Press?
And now to the posting I was in the middle of writing
The commissioner and the hunt for the Snark
The preceding events are both straightforward and complex.
Straightforward when it is considered that three members of the Rangiora High School Board wanted their way in selling the schools farm assets and in using the financial assets from sales of some of those assets. In opposition, the principal – Peggy Burrows – (and the majority of the board) refused to allow that way, referring to a legal ruling saying there were restrictions to how those assets, granted to the school over a 100 years ago, could be used.
Meanwhile, the ministry was importuned by the disaffected members and, in a strangely focused development, in July 2014, the ministry advised the board that it was not required to apply the proceeds of the sale of the new farm land to new farm land, rather the funds should be applied in suitable manner to generate income for the benefit of the School’s schooling operations.
The reference to ‘schooling operations’, you should note, is dangerously wide and would allow the assets to be swallowed up in what should properly be government expenditure.
In late 2014, the outgoing board sought a low level intervention from the ministry and two specialist advisers were appointed.
Complex when it is considered that on, 26 February, 2015, the ministry then dismissed the board based on a report prepared by the same person later appointed as commissioner – a Ms Beverley Moore.
That report was not made available to the board or principal at that time and when it did become available later, was farcically redacted. In effect it was a secret report, one that was used to dismiss the board and principal, and form the basis for the appointing the person who wrote it.
The chair of the new board-that-wasn’t and was-never-to-be, Dave Turnbull was taken aback, declaring that the ‘board struck me as competent as any board I have been working with since 1989’.
The commissioner proceeded to make insinuations about the principal, apparently based on the report, insinuations that found their way to the media; insinuations she knew to be false but failed correct.
I am going to stop this narrative line here because it is another I want to link into.
It began with the ministry exhibiting an unhealthy preoccupation with the assets; then the commissioner beginning her illegal reign with heavy references to them in newsletter after newsletter – also a preoccupation with a hunt for a caveat, which in its absurdity, reminded me of the hunt for the Snark, especially the part which sometimes has the boat going forward with its stern.
No-one seems to have realised we have gone through much of this before, yes, in the Tomorrow’s Schools period (1990-1995), yes, with a National government, yes, with the education minister who actually competes with Hekia Parata as the worst ever (I refuse to even recognise Merv Wellington), and yes, the government and minister lost (but lost with more dignity than the present incumbent, which is why Hekia retains her tag as worst, awarded in a moving ceremony some weeks ago).
The commissioner in a newsletter said she had scoured the documents at Rangiora High School for proof that the school held titles under ‘High School Reserves’ and the Education Lands Act, 1949. She couldn’t, she declared, even find reference to these things. There was no caveat – it wasn’t for the finding. It was a figment. This only showed how errant the principal was she had suspended, gagged, and dismissed; and how right she had been to upend her, to let her twist in the wind to insinuations started by her.
But why all the interest from the commissioner and ministry – why the rush to lawyers and asking about selling the land?
Not really a mystery is it?
In select committee, when the secretary of education and another senior ministry official were asked whether they were going to sell the Rangiora land the senior official said ‘no’ and the secretary said ‘we don’t know yet’.
Oh you have to laugh.
Meanwhile, do I have some news for you!
In fact, we have 20 pages of it from the Ombudsman all headed OIA and with a lovely reference number atop.
Namely OIA 997318.
What poetry in numerals.
For all those who have a commitment to justice be joyous.
It adds up to this:
Between 1884 and 1959 the Rangiora Board of Governors acquired five parcels of land including the Rangiora High School and land. The Board, in an upright way that would have the governors saying good on you, early on, gained its own statute, the Rangiora High Schools Act.
In 1964, all the titles were transferred through to the Christchurch Secondary Schools Council (CSSC), not for control by that Council but their guardianship.
Are you following me commissioner? Are you getting the drift?
The CSSC dissolved in 1989 with the titles moving to the Crown under the 1989 Education Act (Tomorrow’s Schools). Yes – it was the time of Lockwood Smith.
No – don’t get your hopes up commissioner; there’s more to come. And like any good story the best bit.
From 1990 through to 1995, the Rangiora Board of Trustees battled with the ministry seeking what they considered the rightful return of ownership of all titles. Yes – the battle was fierce but fair.
(Given what has happened at Rangiora, and the courage displayed by Peggy, I am truly moved by the essence of this story.)
Following considerable legal research, the Education Department advised the minister of education to acquiesce to the agitation of the Board and pass ownership of the titles back to the Board.
Are you still there commissioner? Are you following? Would a chart help?
The minister was advised that the titles be transferred as and for ‘High School Reserves’ under the provisions of the Education Lands Act, 1949 (there they go again commissioner, the terms you couldn’t for the life of you find).
In explanation: the minister was informed that the titles comprising the nursery school and the bulk of the school farm were not included in the School Property Occupancy Document and had been self-supporting operations without any financial assistance from the Crown.
Peggy’s stand was justified – a weaker principal might have crumpled – Peggy stood strong.
Mind you, after all, if she had participated in an illegal use of the titles, she would have been the main one to take the blame.
The fact is Peggy has a very good legal brain and is strong on financial management.
What a history going back 135 years and Peggy stood strong.
There is, of course, the matter of what the Act says about using the land – it is not land for land, but land that can only be used or sold to continue to generate income for the school in a highly prescribed way.
Now commissioner, get out of the school and the community (and my life up here can it be said) and let Peggy get back to where she belongs: the proud principal of the estimable Rangiora High School.
Hekia’s land grab has been thwarted
The immorality of the actions of the commissioner laid bare.
Minister, what you have done, and continue to do, is unforgivable.
Remember – you started it and, as revealed, without cause.