Commissioner on cards for Akitio school

By Christine McKay

A commissioner is about to be appointed to manage tiny Akitio School after just one nomination was received for the recent board of trustees elections.

With the school roll down to five, a Ministry of Education spokesman has said a commissioner will be appointed to help the school work through the process of finding a board.

However, an Akitio resident has told the Dannevirke News, they don't believe the appointment of a commissioner is a viable solution.

"I believe it's a waste of money," said the person, who didn't want to be named. "We've had commissioners here before and you end up having hundreds of thousands of dollars going down the gurgler. With just five kids at the school, it's hardly worth it."

The person said two of the pupils are the school teacher's children, two are unlikely to stay and the fifth lives on a bus route to another school.

But the Ministry of Education spokesman said it was its role to support Akitio to ensure a new election for a board is run as soon as possible.

"To do this, a commissioner will be appointed to work with the school community to re-run the board election process. The cost of the commissioner would depend on who was appointed and the hourly rate negotiated."

In May 2005, differences between trustees at the school led to a fiery confrontation at the annual meeting, resulting in the board being dissolved with a commissioner, Rod Newson, governing the school through until early November 2006.

An ERO report at the time said a thorough review of school policies and procedures, including complaints and financial management, had been carried out to provide an effective governance framework for the school.

Current principal Stuart Steenson said as a teaching principal he will simply carry on until a commissioner is appointed which he expects will occur in the next couple of days.

"I've been here six months and it's a fantastic place," he said. "The beach plays a big part in school life and we incorporate a tackle box into our school charter, indicating we hook our children into learning."

And while there are only five pupils, Mr Steenson said the school has lots of visitors during terms one and four and visiting students are welcomed into the classroom. "We are so lucky to be living in such a great place. At the moment I'm looking out to sea and watching the waves roll in - it's idyllic. And the kids get a good deal here with a lot of one-on-one time and support."

Established in 1893, Akitio School sits on the beachfront and pupils are able to take part in extra-curricular activities, including a surf school.

And because of their remote location, they play a vital role in civil defence. Children at the school man a rural radio network, with regular weekly checks to ensure the safety of their community in the event of a civil defence disaster.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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