Here we go again: another intervention injustice

I have substantial amounts of information about goings-on at Wairoa College, some of it scandalous, but that can be looked into by the ministerial inquiry I’m calling for, I just want concentrate here on the bureaucratic behaviour around the appointment and subsequent actions of the Limited Statutory Manager Marie Anne King. If a ministry inquiry isn’t instituted then it will almost inevitably go to the Employment Relations Authority (ERA) and, possibly, from there to a general court for more serious redress.

A deeply serious injustice has been wrought on the newly-appointed principal Chris Allen but while he was the target, significant contingent damage has also been inflicted on the students of Wairoa College, the teachers, the board, the school community, and, indeed, the people of Wairoa. They all deserve better. No principal is perfect but, in my considered view, Chris Allen warrants high praise for his initial work at Wairoa College; certainly not the utterly unwarranted bullying and decontextualised and slanted criticism he is experiencing. As regular readers of this website know I have been involved in helping other principals in situations like this and this one bears all the characteristics of those cases.

I am going to make some introductory comments in which I intend to carefully avoid being drawn into the slanted maelstrom of nonsense the LSM seems to have been caught up in, or been willing to be caught up in, to concentrate on central issues; yes the means I employ for doing that might be strangely straightforward compared with my usual all fronts attack, but if strangely straightforward does the job, then that is the way for me.

In education cases like this I have always found a weakness in the wall of obstruction the bureaucracies and intervention managers throw up to conceal their actions; a weakness that offers a way thorough to justice.

In the case of Wairoa College it is an appraisal report which the LSM ordered but which in outcome turned out antithetical to almost everything the LSM tried to pin on the principal.

The reader will have the opportunity to read most of that report her- or himself.

As a former senior inspector of schools I can say that the appraisal report, undertaken by an education professional, has the sense of someone who genuinely understands education, and is sincerely and fairly searching for the truth – and succeeding.

Throughout, as I have commented above, I will be holding back considerable information because I want to highlight the essentials relating to an education appointment of both the principal and Marie Anne King, employment specialist.

In 2015, Chris Allen applied for the principal position which had been advertised a second time.

He took up the appointment in June, 2015.

From the start he found himself the target of a few of teachers and support staff, and a few parents; the motivation it seems their demands for an in-school appointment not being acted on.

The suspicion I have is that some of the group are related to Hekia Parata. I am willing to be corrected on that, or ready to be told that that had nothing to do with it.

This group, I believe, made many calls to the ministry and wrote and phoned the education review office before their visit.

I want the ministerial inquiry to get to the truth of the behaviour of some staff at this juncture and the apparent lack professionalism involved. Also the behaviour of bureaucrats in the ministry (local and head office) and the education review office on whether they allowed themselves to be influenced by this group to the extent of ordering the appointment of a LSM; and what was the nature of the communications between the bureaucracies – and lurking below that the question: to what extent was Hekia Parata involved?

We can expect the bureaucracies to go into overtime in their unbalanced way to save their skin, but standing in a court room has an almost magical way of sorting out lies from the truth. I especially want the local ministry to be there reporting on what the LSM reported back to them. The local ministry might be surprised by what I know.

The education review office arrived in February 2016. They were due in March 2015 but they had been dissuaded from coming because the principal said he was retiring; they cancelled in June through a personal circumstance of the review office leader, finally arriving in December 2016.

Now for some strange goings-on. I read the review office report on the internet and it was quite an encouraging one; there was no LSM in what I read; the recommendations at the end were straightforward and routine; and in the verbal report there was no hint of an LSM. But in the full written report to the board there was a major shock.

The board was astonished to find the report contained a recommendation for an LSM. To me, always a clear indication of bureaucratic trickery in process.

The board considered opposing the recommendation but thought, oh well, we are in a stage of transformation we might get some extra help, why not?

But, as suggested above, this lack of proper process is invariably a sign that bureaucratic injustice is about to wrought.

If surprising a board with an LSM after a recent review office report is review office practice then it is the height of unprofessionalism.

In the days of the education department we had a firm policy of no surprises by mail.

No board should ever be surprised by an imposition of intervention by mail: for this to be an allowable practice becomes an invitation for bureaucratic injustice; it is an impersonalising of process to make injustice easier to inflict with all its deeply grievous personal and education hurt.

I believe the LSM intervention at Wairoa College was a case of bureaucratic conspiracy.

Did Marie Anne King, employment specialist, arrive at Wairoa with the understanding that the ministry wanted her to support the principal in the straightforward education matters I read in the review office recommendations as further developments; or was it something else?

If the former, what did she do? What was her attitude? Was she constructive? Or was there bullying by continual pulling of rank?

In the end, of course, this will be decided in the Employment Relations Authority as happened with Salford and Rangiora cases (the bureaucracies lost). In the case of Rangiora the matter is in the process of heading to the general court for further redress. I warned Hekia about this: I said Hekia, Hekia you are going to lose – why don’t you save everybody a lot of grief and pull back now; but that is not her way, and won’t be at Wairoa no matter the destructiveness to the school.

Marie Anne King arrives and one of the first statements to the principal is: the board appoints the best person from the applicants but when the person arrives they may not be the best fit for the job. She went on to ask the principal if he was applying for a job elsewhere and that the board would help him move and support him if he was.

Now, no doubt that would be stoutly denied by Marie Anne King, employment specialist – fair enough, but let it be heard in front of an inquiry or in a court.

My advice to the local ministry is to take a bureaucratic deep breath and before it becomes too implicated in a scandal, establish the truth of it.

Now I want to say to you Marie Anne King, employment specialist, your scoping report has the feel of a hatchet job.

Frankly, my initial reaction to your scoping report was disgust. It is not that everything in it is wrong; it is just unbalanced, mischievously decontextualised, and grossly unfair. I am deeply sensitive to an individual being at the end of such reports, a decent and caring person, a professionally responsible person.

I get involved in matters like this dammit because it hurts me deeply to see such injustice in school education, a social institution I am deeply committed to – it would hurt me more to not do something than do something – so here I am again. You can be assured I often wish it didn’t.

If you can prove you are right and I am wrong, then sincere apologies from me. I am truly trying to establish the truth of the matter to help the students, teachers, parents, and board of the school and in the case of the principal to prevent an injustice, but it is a journey.

The scoping report, it seems to me, is not consistent with wide community support for the school and the transformation it is undergoing; not consistent with the support of the board; and not consistent with the improved behaviour and achievement of the students. It is also farcically obverse to the appraisal report you ordered.

Without going into details your scoping report closely follows the complaints of the dissident group.

Now for the straightforward, but powerfully persuasive evidence referred to: the appraisal report undertaken by an education professional at the request of the LSM.


Sit back – it is a long ride. The question I would like you to have in your mind as you read is: Can you see anything in this report that justifies an LSM intervention?

Particular areas of interest to the Board of Trustees were identified for the Principal’s performance that aligned to the school’s Charter, as well as the Secondary Principals’ Professional Standards. This enabled a questionnaire to be established that provided a focus for interviews with stakeholders.

The Appraiser requested additional documentation and evidence from the Principal that would typically be found within a school to support its operation.

The following appraisal report serves as a summary of the outcomes of the interviews and information gathering.

The areas of interest identified by the Board of Trustees with respect to the Principal’s performance include:

  1. 100% achievement in Level 1 NCEA Literacy and Numeracy. 2. 
  2. 90% attendance of students from all Year levels. 3. 
  3. Rigorous appraisal and attestation of teaching staff.

Each of these performance objectives were evaluated with Appraiser’s Reflections included as part of the evaluation of performance.

Interviews with stakeholders

Interviews with stakeholders included members of the school’s senior leadership team, Head of Faculty, beginning teacher, board member, a parent of the school, and members of the school’s student leadership.

Leadership qualities of Chris

~Involved. ~ Approachable. ~ Deadline focused. ~ Actively promotes Wairoa College in the community. ~ Encouraged me to apply for the position of Literacy Coordinator. ~ There has been a big shift in mind-set around the school.

~Chris is pushing for it to be more deadline focused. ~ Emphasis on deadline. ~ Distribution. ~ Consequences from school to behaviours. ~ Alternative working plan for students at risk. ~ Change in uniform, school infrastructure, and leadership. ~ Chris has created a smaller team of curriculum leaders and over half of the staff were considered to be HOF. He introduced these to staff in meetings and gave time for people to consider these changes. ~ We see him as the leader of the school and we need to be on the waka paddling in the same direction.

~Two Assistant Principals have been appointed to lead Academic and Pastoral. There are House leaders also. Leadership has been distributed to us to lead these aspects at the school. We had a chance to co-construct our job descriptions. ~ Allows staff to develop ideas. ~ Promotes staff to think creatively. ~ Looks outside square. ~ Has a vision. ~ Has a network of other educators. ~ Has standards. ~ Promotes autonomy within groups e.g. HOFs, House Leaders, Academic Leaders etc. ~ Chris has allowed us to think outside the square. For example, the development of Day Zero.

~We send students to trades around Hawkes Bay. Students are now more engaged. ~ Chris is very student focused. He has gained scholarships for a student to go studying as a nurse. He did this all by himself.

~ Chris promotes and is positive about Wairoa. ~ It is encouraging to have the school as an integral part of the community. He has standards and won’t lower them.

~ Chris stands his ground. ~ Chris comes to all of the students’ rugby games and travels to support them.

~You go around town and no students are walking around now, and if you do see one they are in uniform. Chris got my boy to take off his hunting clothing that he wore to school. He now wears the right uniform. ~ Around the community people think Chris is doing good things and it is in the best interests of the kids. ~ Chris supported us to deal with an incident where our son was being marked absent when we were dropping him off on farm visits.

~ Chris is adept at building relationships with people. ~ Balances tough love with earned praise.~ Is fair and consistent. ~ Organised and prepared. ~ Excellent listener. ~ Visionary. ~ Chris has brought many characteristics to Wairoa and huge experience working with ethnic minorities and indigenous communities. ~ We have had to get things updated and reviewed very quickly in order to support Chris. He needed to show strong leadership and take into account the needs of others. ~ He needed to build relationships quickly with people. It has been tough on Chris to get everyone on board.

~He had to find a balance between tough love and cuddles. He sets high expectations. ~ There will always be people in the community that don’t like change. All we can do is be consistent and follow through with what we say. ~ We celebrate the success of students in the paper and newsletters. There is a parent portal on KAMAR and parents can see attendance, pastoral and academic progress.

~Some in the community are complaining but we deal with these people transparently. We tell our whanau there is a process and they need to follow it. We get quality information out to our community.

~Chris handles pressure very well and dealt with challenges very well. Chris is the leader to take on these challenges. ~ Teachers have gotten stricter on uniform. The school looks tidier.

Next Steps or Suggestions for improvement 

Careful listening to staff concerns. ~ Being less defensive when questioned in meetings. Staff ask questions around a change and Chris pounces as he thinks they are questioning the change. He can seem a little sensitive in this way. ~ Chris needs to understand that staff are coming around to his changes and being positive is the best way to go. ~ Chris has a dry sense of humour that is part of his Australian culture. This is sometimes misunderstood. ~ Collaboration. Sometimes he needs to be more consultative in his approach. He makes decisions (which he is entitled to do) but there is a better way to go about doing it, rather than saying you just have to live with it. ~ Providing opportunities for people to have their say can be helpful in moving forward. ~ Chris has been very involved in pastoral systems and management. Avoid micro managing. ~ Getting whanau to engage with the school is our greatest challenge. ~ Chris needs to get balance back into his work/life time.

Appraiser’s Reflections 

Wairoa College has been, and continues to be, in a process of significant change since Chris began his time as Principal of the school. Chris has led an evolution of the pedagogical shifts that underpin the learning that takes place in classes. To support the pedagogical shifts, a rebranding of middle management positions has been undertaken to raise the capacity and capability of these leaders. This has seen the number of Heads of Faculty reduced from 14 down to 10. The appointment of Chris as Principal coincided with a new Deputy Principal joining the leadership team shortly after. Two Assistant Principals were appointed to respective positions as Academic Leader and Pastoral Leader. This has enabled all leadership of the school to embark on a journey of change together. Chris has been an integral part of keeping the purpose of the change, and the people involved with the change, together.

Chris understands that raising the capability and capacity of his staff with respect to pedagogical practices is central to achieving the school’s vision. Consequently, he invests time and resources into the development of his teachers. He also understands the need to grow the pedagogical shifts needed to achieve the school’s vision from within, rather than attempting to impose outside models on top of Wairoa College. Chris has empowered his middle leaders having re-branded their positions by requiring them to develop and co-construct their own job descriptions. Chris has a clear belief that staff must have ownership of the changes taking place in the school.

The establishment of Day Zero is an example of innovation that is having a significant impact on outcomes for students. It is an example of a number of changes that have been introduced to the school all which have a focus on outcomes for students.

Stakeholders interviewed were able to describe and list the leadership characteristics that Chris brings to his role to support the journey that the school has been on during its transformation. At the core of these characteristics is Chris’ belief that students (and outcomes for students) should be at the heart of all decisions made at the school. Chris talks about students and their learning with passion and enthusiasm. He can quickly map the shifts in the operation of the school to being underpinned by a need to improve the quality of outcomes for students and the experiences they receive as part of their education.

Chris is data driven. He sees evidence as being a crucial element to supporting positive outcomes for students. The ongoing commitment to using Team Solutions to offer professional development to middle leaders is an example of the commitment to being data driven. Team Solutions focus on student achievement data and focus on those students at risk of not achieving.

Chris is described as being deadline focused. He also ‘walks the talk’ and follows through with what he says he is going to do. This has raised the expectation throughout the school, as well as established a level of accountability that many stakeholders interviewed believed was missing prior to Chris’ arrival.

Change is difficult for many people to contemplate. Chris has managed to hold all of this together. Even resistors to change appear to have begrudgingly acknowledged the merits of the change and the manner in which Chris has led it. Chris will need to be mindful that staff morale often ‘takes a hit’ with negative elements from within the staff having an influence on the wellbeing of the majority. A continued drive to explore strategies for uplifting staff morale should be undertaken by Chris to ensure ongoing job satisfaction for all.

One strategy that Chris has adopted is the establishment of the Wairoa College Consultation Group. The consultation group comprises of a committee including the Principal, appointees nominated by the Principal, staff members elected by the staff, appointees nominated by the union, the school’s Executive Officer and the school’s day-to-day organiser. The purpose of the consultation group is to ensure that school based decisions are made within a framework that enables staff to have input into decisions that affect their workplace. The consultation group strategy is an initiative that Chris has previously used in Australia, and serves as a tangible example of his commitment to include staff voice into decisions that are being made.

Suggestions for the improvement to Chris’ leadership includes reference to him becoming defensive when questioned regarding changes being made to the school. Chris should be mindful that the angst created by change typically sees people reacting in a variety of ways. This can include questioning the relative merits of change, seeking further clarification, or even attacking the person who is promoting the change. Chris needs to provide opportunities for his staff to express their views regarding change – both the good and the bad. Acknowledgement of alternative points of view (whether they are valid or not) shows a willingness to consider the views of others, irrespective of whether this makes any difference to the changes being proposed.

Some stakeholders interviewed were also quick to point out the shift in community opinion regarding the practices of the school. The claim is that the community are behind the shifts being made in the school and are positive about the future direction. While there might not be complete universal appreciation of the changes being made, the transparency of process and consistency of message to the community will continue to see a majority of support.

The students interviewed as part of this appraisal were less positive about the changes that had been implemented at Wairoa College. This is not surprising. The shift in expectations at Wairoa College regarding attendance, uniform, behaviour, achievement, and the school’s culture will be negatively viewed by senior students who feel they have been adversely impacted by the raising of standards. Chris should not be dismayed by these views. However, it did appear that there was a disconnect between Chris (as Principal of Wairoa College) and the senior student leaders of the school. Many Principals talk about having two classrooms that they ‘teach’ in – the school assembly, and the meetings with senior student leaders. Chris needs to consider strengthening his relationship with senior student leaders so that he can include their voice in the decisions being made. He can then offer the same transparency being shown to the community and staff to the senior student leaders. They will consequently grow their understanding of the changes being made by Chris and become his supporters in explaining the rationale behind the changes to a wider student audience.


Areas of interest ONE

100% achievement in Level 1 NCEA Literacy and Numeracy

Chris has re-structured the leadership teams and middle management.

Each House now has two leaders (pastoral and academic).

In my House I get chased by the Academic House Leader for the progress of students who are at risk.

Fridays are called Day Zero. They are a day for options (extra-curriculum) but have credits for Years 11-13.

There is Literacy and Numeracy tutoring for those at risk of not achieving.

The staffs from each House meet each Wednesday morning to discuss student progress.

We are working towards 100% but there might be a few that fall through.

Chris has ensured that students need to gain their Literacy and Numeracy Level 1 credits prior to being able to participate in other Day Zero options.

Year 10 teachers have identified students to undertake internal numeracy standards only (from Numeracy Package). In Numeracy Package students show evidence of numeracy work during classroom learning.

The English department have asked all departments for examples of writing in support of students achieving literacy standards.

Whanau teachers play an important role in meeting students each Wednesday and checking students are on track to achieving Literacy and Numeracy standards. They also liaise with whanau.

Students are clearly identified by the reports available in KAMAR.

Chris has promoted Literacy and Numeracy across the curriculum. This is repeated regularly at staff and HOF meetings.

Achievement reports are checked monthly.

There are a reduced number of faculties which has involved a greater participation in learning conversations at HOF meetings.

Team Solutions professional development with HOF looks at data in depth, and again more focused learning conversations.

Day Zero has enabled students to work on Literacy and Numeracy standards in an intensive manner. ~

Chris has promoted a Literacy Coordinator in the school.

The Senior Leadership Team visit Faculty meetings to see what is happening, and don’t just rely on meeting minutes.

We have developed learning conversations on specific students.

A copy of student achievement data is available to the Board.

We used to have 14-16 HOFs. Chris has changed this to a more focused group of 8-10. There are more engaging conversations now. Chris got the HOFs to write their own job descriptions and co-construct them. There is greater ownership. The HOFs are a lot happier with this process as they now have greater understanding.

We had to look at how to make the curriculum more relevant to the kids and the community. This meant a different way of timetabling and teachers had to engage differently.

Appraiser’s Reflections 

Chris’ drive to improve standards and raise expectations is highly visible in the shifts within school systems and structures with respect to outcomes for students. First and foremost, Chris has recognised that for students to achieve they must be at school. Consequently, there has been a drive to improve rates of attendance from students by adopting strategies such as a minimum attendance of 85% in order to be able to participate in extra-curricular activities. The school has already seen an improvement in achievement by students which has been credited to the higher attendance.

The professional development work with Team Solutions has seen HOFs engage with student achievement data in a more effective manner. This includes regular analysis of student achievement data, and the identification of students at risk of not achieving.

The leadership of Wairoa College has also evolved to give greater effect to the priority placed on student achievement. The leadership changes include the appointment of an Assistant Principal (Academic) to lead the school’s curriculum team, along with the appointment of four House Leaders (one per House) with responsibilities for academic leadership. Whanau teachers are beginning to play a part in the leadership of the academic progress of the students within their class.

The reorganisation of the middle leaders of the school was a further strategy to give student achievement a greater focus. The reduction of the number of HOFs from about 16 down to 8 – 10 has created a group whose professional conversations now focus on student achievement. Chris has also appointed a Literacy Coordinator to give greater leadership to this aspect of student learning and the development of teacher capability.

The establishment of Day Zero is another initiative that has proven to be engaging students and assisting with their achievement. Those students who have not achieved their Level 1 Literacy and Numeracy standards are required to attend classes during Day Zero that focus on the achievement of these standards for students who are at risk.

The 100% achievement target for Level 1 Literacy and Numeracy is probably unrealistic. Students identified with special needs might be an example of a group of students whose achievement is simply unrealistic. However, student achievement targets should not be compared to setting targets such as the selling of vacuum cleaners. The real strength of student achievement targets is the rich discussion that comes from the review process to determine what worked and what didn’t, and the identified ‘next steps’ with respect to making ongoing improvement in student achievement.


Area of interest TWO

90% attendance of students from all Year levels

Enforcing the 85% target has worked. The attendance last year was down as low as 40% for some Year groups.

There are consequences for students now. Whanau get called in.

Chris is consistent and yet open to suggestions/support for students.

Chris promotes staff to take responsibility.

There is a consistent message to students.

There is praise and reward for students e.g. Assemblies, whanau class, House levels etc.

There are pastoral meetings to discuss students.

Chris has his own ‘whanau class’ of at risk students, and he holds regular meetings with these students.

There is a clear relationship between attendance and achievement.

The 85% attendance for any extra-curricular activities is working.

Whanau teachers support students to attend and make contact with home.

Attendance has improved. We now want to see credits attached to this as well so that we don’t just have students here, but they are achieving as well.

There are consequences for students who are truant.

We have restricted students below a set attendance from playing sport (85%). There were ruffled feathers at the start of the year but after the shock has worn off the attendance has gotten better.

The truancy here was rampant before Chris arrived.

There is an expectation that whanau teachers follow up with families. House staff meetings include an expectation to follow up absences. There is a competition for attendance at school within whanau classes, and awards at assembly.

There have been changes around consequences for students e.g. Uniforms, drugs, truancy. These have all been tightened. He has given us better control of pastoral issues and we can manage behaviour better.

The Board takes a stronger stance on behaviour issues which supports us.

Attendance penalties should apply to all co-curricular activities and not just sport (e.g. Rock Quest).

 Appraiser’s Reflections

Chris has made the attendance of students a priority as he believes that past rates of attendance have had a direct impact on student achievement outcomes. An example of the shifts in expectation with regards attendance is the strategy of 85% attendance in order to be able to participate in extra-curricular activities. Interviews with stakeholders suggested that the initiative has had a significant effect on attendance. Anecdotally, the number of students wandering through town during school hours has reduced significantly, and is now rare as opposed to the ‘norm’.

The school is also keeping attendance data for students engaged with the Hawkes Bay and Tairawhiti Polytechnic programmes. This data shows high degrees of attendance.

Chris has also made leadership changes to the school intended to give effect to the attendance of students. The leadership changes include the appointment of an Assistant Principal (Pastoral) to lead the school’s student team, along with the appointment of four House Leaders (one per House) with responsibilities for pastoral leadership. Whanau teachers are playing a greater part in the leadership of pastoral matters concerning the students within their class. This includes establishing connections with whanau.

Chris has also established systems for the rewards of students regarding attendance. He has recognised the wisdom of having a balance between the ‘stick and the carrot’ in order to bring about a cultural shift in students’ attitudes towards attendance.

Area of interest THREE

Rigorous appraisal and attestation of teaching staff

We are collecting evidence as part of the Practicing Teacher Criteria (PTC). This used to be done in hardcopy but is now being done in OneNote.

A digital version has been created that used to be a booklet. We keep all of the evidence here.

There is an expectation that we do at least one Teaching as Inquiry.

The OneNote package has the ability to list evidence according to the PTCs.

HOFs are responsible for the appraisal of teachers.

There is a document in the shared teacher folder with a guide on the appraisal process.

I undertake classroom observations, look at achievement results, marking and moderation, and planning and objectives. I also check on the inquiry that they are doing.

I try to observe every teacher twice per term, and this gets written up. I also support teachers who might be struggling with achievement. The observations can be short ‘snapshots’.

There has been the introduction of an electronic appraisal. In 2015/2016 Chris supported a staff member to develop and introduce an electronic way using OneNote to assist teachers in documenting appraisal.

Appraiser’s Reflections 

The school’s past appraisal system included a tome of over 200 pages long. A brief examination of the document showed it to be unrealistic and unworkable in terms of an appraisal system that would provide a vehicle for the improvement of teacher practice.

Chris has now developed a digital portfolio of evidence using OneNote that directly relates to the Professional Standards for Secondary Teachers, as well as the Practicing Teacher Criteria.

While the system is in its embryonic form, and the ‘take up’ of the electronic system by staff is minimal, the system appears to be a system to take the school into the future, aligns with the expectations detailed from the Education Council, and stands a greater chance to be an effective vehicle for documenting shifts in teaching practice.

The ‘next steps’ for Chris is to identify incentive strategies for the system to have wider acceptance by staff reluctant to engage in the digital environment.

Overall Findings of the Appraiser

It is the view of the Appraiser that Chris can evidence performance against each of the areas of interest, and can relate evidence back to the Secondary Principals’ Professional Standards and Practicing Teacher Criteria. The Secondary Principals’ Professional Standards provide a baseline for assessing satisfactory performance. Chris has demonstrated that he is meeting the professional standards by:

• Providing professional leadership that focuses on the school culture and enhancing learning and teaching.

• Creating a learning environment in which there is an expectation that all students will experience success in learning.

• Developing and using management systems to support and enhance student learning.

• Strengthening communication and relationships to enhance student learning.

Chris needs to continue documenting evidence against meeting the Practicing Teacher Criteria.

Next steps for Chris to consider

  1. Ensure that staff are provided with a forum to express their views around matters concerning the school’s operation, and endeavour to remain neutral around the views of others that may be in contradiction.
  2. Explore opportunities to strengthen relationships with student leaders.
  3. Continue to be transparent and open with the community in terms of changes to the school, explore opportunities to grow the presence of the community into the life of the school, and find opportunities to capture voice where appropriate.
  4. Continue to challenge staff and students to grow a culture of change, understanding that it needs to be well-paced, and that some stakeholders will require a greater degree of support to make change than others.

This has been an unusual way to argue the case but it places you pretty much in the box seat. 

The LSM has been at pains to keep this appraisal under wraps. I have taken out all criticism of groups and individuals except that referring to the principal. There should be no embarrassment for anyone in this document only enlightenment in the interests of justice. 

 Either the ministry and LSM got it horribly wrong or the appraiser. 

You be the judge. 

And take into account the transcendentally dubious lead up to the intervention.

In the final paragraph of a posting called ‘Kiwi Kafka’, referring to the case of Peggy Burrows, I wrote this paragraph:

‘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.’

The use of the appraisal in this way is essential to justice, without its revelation, the principal was without a chance of holding his position (believe me I have further information of ministry intentions). The decision to use it was mine and mine alone.

Because there is healing to occur I have just communicated what I have considered sufficient to inform those interested and give pause to the bureaucracies. Whether it will deter the bureaucracies is highly unlikely, though if you chip in, who knows?  A very likely outcome is the appointment of the LSM as commissioner, the sacking of the board, and the principal being suspended and sacked. Charming, but don’t you see, it is for the good of the students.

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11 Responses to Here we go again: another intervention injustice

  1. Kelvin says:

    George from Auckland writes:

    All in all it reads like a good appointment to a very difficult community.

  2. Kelly-Ned says:

    As a principal of considerable years experience I would be very happy to receive such an appraisal of my performance in a school after such a short time. Certainly there is nothing within those comments to indicate concern at Chris’ performance. He’s done well.
    Nothing in here justifies an LSM – certainly not a commissioner.
    Perhaps the BoT was a bit naive in thinking that having an LSM would be positive for their school. The next likely step will be for their performance to be found wanting and them being relieved of their duties. If so I hope they go public with open support for their principal – who they chose and appointed.
    Kia kaha Chris

  3. Kelvin says:

    Such goodwill from another principal will be very heartening to Chris. Thank-you Kelly-Ned

  4. Ruth Pepper says:

    There are so many positives for students at Wairoa College now that Chris has introduced. It is sad that a few cannot embrace and support the change that was so desperately needed so students will experience success in their world. Ruth Pepper.

  5. Lara says:

    In my capacity as an education consultant, I have worked really closely with Wairoa College and Chris over the past three years. The students, parents, whanau and staff are all great people all working so hard. Chris introduced innovations and he is a very passionate and committed leader. I find him transparent, intelligent and totally focused on offering a high quality education to the young people under his care.
    As an outsider, I can see the positive outcomes of all the hard work of everyone, including Chris. This is a very sad situation and people are being hurt by the discord. I really hope the grown ups in this sorry state of affairs can resolve and repair and move forward quickly. The students of Wairoa College deserve the absolute best!

  6. Kelvin says:

    Lara: I just cannot express my relief and gratitude at your contribution. He is just the gentlest and most sincere of people. In my last two situations like this (Salford and Rangiora), it was only won by the people at the sharp end being brave, supported by my series of postings backing them up; in this case, my plan is to try a king hit then back off, giving everybody space to move, come to their senses, and save their skins. I have evidence, of the most excrutiating taunting of a principal, but I am holding back.

  7. Sara says:

    Being a parent of a child at College and on a Trust with Dr Allan I find the report cements my support for Dr Allan and I will continue to do so.
    A real genuine guy who our Community needs and like I said on a FB post, change is good and when rules are set and followed we need to back that up as a Community.
    It takes a Community to raise a child!
    Kia kaha Chris, you are the Man!

  8. Kelvin says:

    Thank-you Sara: agreed and very helpful.

  9. Duncan Cameron says:

    I also know that much of what Chris is credited with was actually in place before he arrived or was conceived of, and promoted, by others within the school. I think that the LSM had it wrong in their report and Dr Allen was/is by no means the Principal you seem to think he was/is.

  10. Kelvin says:

    Dear Cameron: all the ideas, except one, and have been so praised, followed Chris Allen’s appointment. The Day Zero idea, also highly praised, was suggested by the deputy- principal.

  11. Digby Prosser says:

    Dear Kelvin

    You have identified a real cause for concern in regard to processes of intervention by the Ministry suggesting an agenda driven by malcontents who through their representations created a climate of apparent discontent. But there is little in the appraisal you have presented that suggests need for an LSM. This and other instances such as Rangiora suggests that the Ministry gets it wrong. Any Principal who seeks to implement change clearly is at risk if for some reason they have a poor experience of ERO reviewers which begs a question about competence of the appraisers . This Principal saw needs for change and the appraisal suggests much of it was on target.

    As much as some of the changes must have been instigated by his predecessor it is not easy to change a school in two years – a generation of students or five years is more likely to be needed for culture change – the Principal has been deemed by most to be sustaining positive responses. What we at a distance cannot tell is the depth of relationships that are in place – the reallocation of leadership within the school was obviously challenging to some staff – but the primary matter in your article is the manner in which the MOE have used the process.

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