Chance to make a difference by serving school board

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Jan Hewitt - deputy board chairwoman at Whangarei Boys' High School and Northern Advocate features manager. Photo / John Stone
Jan Hewitt - deputy board chairwoman at Whangarei Boys' High School and Northern Advocate features manager. Photo / John Stone

Parents at more than 150 Northland schools will go to the polls soon to vote in their next boards of trustees, with nominations for the roles opening on Friday.

There are 154 schools in Northland, and with each needing an average of four parent-elected positions, around 770 trustees will be needed. It's a role that can be challenging and rewarding, deputy board chairwoman at Whangarei Boys' High School and Northern Advocate features manager Jan Hewitt said.

Hewitt has always been involved with the schools in her community.

Originally from Christchurch, she was on the PTA with the view of going on to the school board when she found herself moving north.

So when she got to Whangarei with her family and found out there was a commissioner at Ngunguru Primary School, where her sons would be attending, she put herself forward for the board.

Her sons transitioned to high school and so did Hewitt, who has now served for six years at Whangarei Boys' High School.

"When you are in a governance-based role, you will face some challenges along the way," she said.

"Some trustees that are new to a board may not have a strong understanding of governance. It's very important that they gain the skills to perform their role effectively."

She has taken the opportunity during her time as a trustee to upskill through the professional development on offer, and now has a good understanding of governance focusing on leadership, accountability, representation and how to be a good employer.

Hewitt said she has gained a lot from the experience so far, with plenty of problem-solving, which she enjoys.

"All the skills I have learned have been transferred back to my own business and work life. I've personally experienced huge benefits and rewards through trusteeship."

She also provides governance training to school boards as one of NZSTA's approved professional development providers, which has allowed her to share the skills she has developed with other boards.

Hewitt has been involved in the appointment of two principals at each of the schools she has been on the board for. One of them she rates as her most rewarding experience: going through the selection process and appointing the first ever female principal at Whangarei Boys' High School.

"Appointing a principal is one of the most important and rewarding things you will do on a board of trustees," she said.

Ms Hewitt is standing again in the school trustee elections this year, and she encourages others to do the same.

"Don't stand back. You can make a difference."

Nominations for school trustees will be happening for most schools on May 6 and close on May 20.

- Northern Advocate

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