Parents shocked by kindy's CCTV move

By Morgan Tait -
Stacey Johnson and her four-year-old daughter, who was removed from Redwoods Kindergarten after CCTV cameras were installed. Photo / Hawkes Bay Today
Stacey Johnson and her four-year-old daughter, who was removed from Redwoods Kindergarten after CCTV cameras were installed. Photo / Hawkes Bay Today

Staff have resigned and children have been removed from a Hawke's Bay kindergarten after a controversial "Big Brother" installation of CCTV cameras at the centre.

The Redwood Kindergarten and Daycare Centre on Napier Rd, Havelock North, installed a number of surveillance cameras inside and outside its two-building premises at the end of March.

Kindergarten management said the decision was made on the advice of a security firm to curb vandalism after a hedge was believed to have been poisoned.

However, parents were not satisfied with the explanation, and said underlying issues between staff and management had driven the decision.

It is believed at least five children were withdrawn, and at least three staff - including those in senior positions - resigned because of the cameras.

These numbers are disputed by the kindergarten's staff.

Hastings mother Stacey Johnson withdrew her 4-year-old daughter after receiving a letter from management giving two-days notice of the CCTV installation.

"Parents are just outraged about it," she said. "I felt I didn't even have a choice. I just felt they have decided this is what's going to be done, this is how it is happening."

She said it was the first anyone had heard of vandalism, and management took another day to disclose that a hedge had been poisoned.

"I asked one of the teachers what's going on, where is the vandalism but none of them had any idea either.

"Why wouldn't they tell the teachers? We trust them with our kids, but they can't even trust them to tell them that."

The centre's business manager, Sonia Manisty, said a buxus hedge on the perimeter of the children's play area had been poisoned, and a private security firm recommended the cameras be installed.

"The private investigation revealed a deliberate act had occurred with the poisoning of the hedge which is part of the children's outside environment," she said.

"Safety is absolutely paramount and led to the prompt response from our building owners to seek advice and guidance from a security firm given the concerns of such deliberate actions, and our rural location that could be inviting to future vandalism."

Another parent, who did not wish to be named, said parents believed there was more to the decision than vandalism.

"I don't think we have been told a full story. It seems very suspect that a few bushes have apparently been poisoned, that no-one else knew about.

"It seems an extreme measure to have security cameras installed both inside and outside."

She said there were issues between staff and management.

"To me it just screams Big Brother due to a lot of tension in the workplace there. It seems one way of watching your employees is the impression I got."

Mrs Johnson and the unnamed parent said they knew three staff had left as a direct result of the CCTV cameras.

"But whether they have been made redundant or resigned I don't know," Mrs Johnson said.

"There was definitely a couple of senior ones with a lot of experience, and that added to parents' concerns."

The unnamed parent said: "I don't know of one parent who thought it was okay".

Mrs Manisty confirmed some staff had resigned, but said there were no redundancies and details surrounding their employment were subject to confidentiality agreements.

She also disputed the number of children who had left the centre.

"We would like to make the comment that only a total of two children have left due to the CCTV. There could be a misunderstood perception that we have had more than two families leave due to CCTV. We have had a significant number of children leaving because they have turned 5 and are starting school."

Mrs Johnson also had concerns the CCTV footage could be hacked, and that teachers felt uncomfortable being watched.

"They couldn't tell us about vandalism and didn't trust their staff to tell them about that as well, so it is a bit ridiculous.

"Teachers couldn't even sit in their own staff room and eat their lunch without the cameras in there."

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