Brief comment on Wairoa College

I respond to the Wairoa Star front-page article Thursday, July 27, in which the current limited statutory manager has gone and a new one, Lex Hamill, appointed.

The Wairoa Star

There have been a number of heroes in the Wairoa College affair: one of them the Wairoa Star itself, fulfilling admirably the function of a regional newspaper; the mayor of Wairoa fought strenuously for the welfare of the teachers and students; the board of trustees has been terrific and the new chairperson looks set to ensure it continues to be so; the person called in to do the appraisal which showed the principal to be doing his best, and with some success, displayed wonderful professionalism; the administrative and curriculum advisers who supported the principal, and the teachers and students who also supported him, displayed great strength of character.

As a senior inspector of schools who was involved in difficult school situations in my departmental work, also in the numerous calls on me by principals and board for support and protection in the Tomorrow’s Schools era, there was nothing new in the basic nature of what occurred. Some may criticise me for breaking open the matter but I have found that, despite the criticism, in the current education system, that is often the only path to some final justice and resolution.

In the circumstances that have evolved, I am delighted with the appointment of Lex Hamill, both for the experience and knowledge he brings, and because it breaks the status quo.

An applicant from Australia put in for job and won it. He deserved fair, open, and decent treatment. Yes – he was up against it in that it was a school with largely Maori students and staff, so a close knowledge of Maori culture would have seemed important; and education change, no matter how good, does not always lead to immediate education substance.

But the appointed principal was a good man who wanted to do good things for the students of Wairoa and managed to do so.

The principal was not treated in a fair, open, and decent way. I am only going to talk about the system here.

The education review office visit was unfair. To say the student achievement was a concern was fatuous – the principal had clearly moved to do something about that longstanding matter. To impose a limited statutory manager without having discussed the matter with the principal and board is inexplicable if fairness is valued. Underhand things were happening here. The education review office will splutter but I have heard and seen it all before. Why did the review office suddenly let it all fall on the new principal, why were prior review office visits cancelled?

I am not going to go over the behaviours, apparent lack of education knowledge, and attitude of the limited statutory manager, who was appointed. The new board chairperson subtly alludes to the situation in the newspaper article.

I would ask this: did the head of the Napier ministry visit the school at any time the principal was there? That surely would have been the fair, open, and decent way to proceed.

The resignation of the principal was not sudden, it was the wearing down by the education system of a good and righteous person. My heart goes out to him.

I wish the Wairoa community and school well.

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