School remains shut after trouble finding teachers

By Peter Jackson, Mikaela Collins -
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The future of Te Kura Kaupapa Maori o Rangiawhia is up in the air after a history of poor relationships has had negative impacts on the quality of student learning. Photo / Peter Jackson
The future of Te Kura Kaupapa Maori o Rangiawhia is up in the air after a history of poor relationships has had negative impacts on the quality of student learning. Photo / Peter Jackson

Aggressive behaviour towards staff and subsequent difficulty in getting teachers, along with a breakdown in relationships, is putting the future of a Northland school at risk.

But parents of the Far North school are keen to keep it open, saying the community needs it.

The Te Kura Kaupapa Maori o Rangiawhia board of trustees was dissolved on July 25 and the Ministry of Education (MOE) appointed Tunney McFadyen as a commissioner following serious concerns in a range of areas including governance, breakdown in relationships and trouble recruiting staff.

"There is a history of poor interrelationships within the community and with the kura.

This got to a level where ERO commented that whanau, board and kaiako (teacher) relationships were impacting negatively on the quality of student learning.

This situation is troubling and serious," Mr McFadyen said.

He said there had also been "issues with aggressive behaviour towards staff" but could not say if any incidents had been referred to police.

The kura - a full Maori immersion school, located on Matai Bay Rd in Whatuwhiwhi - 41km northeast of Kaitaia, has been closed since July 25 after the principal's contract finished at the end of term 2 and she decided not to renew it. The other two teaching staff also chose not to return for term 3.

John McMahon, chairman of the now dissolved board, admitted the kura had faced some significant issues over a number of years but those issues were being resolved.

"The [MOE] has been putting resources into the school since 2010, but it has never addressed the core issues."

The school's last ERO report noted there had been "significant changes in leadership, kaiako and a breakdown with whanau, board and staff relations".

The kura has had five principals, including two acting principals, since 2005. The report said despite staff efforts to create a nurturing learning environment, the breakdown between whanau and staff was concerning and students' achievement was compromised.

Mr McMahon said the new board had been a good one but the MOE had never recognised the school's community of interest, or the willingness of parents to have active input under the new board.

"Everything was done by the book, and we were making progress. Everyone was willing to compromise," Mr McMahon said.

"It was very disheartening when the staff took what was tantamount to strike action, and now the ministry seems to be following a process for permanent closure. That will be quite destructive for this community in the longer term."

The public were given until this Friday to make submissions on the future of the kura. A decision about what will happen next is due in early October.

A group of parents spent last weekend sprucing up classrooms.

On Sunday the locks were changed; that night security guards arrived, and on Monday morning all access to the buildings were barred.

Parents who spoke to NZME on Monday were angry but perhaps not surprised.

The last ERO report said the kura had a roll of 52 students. Mr McFadyen said he and the MOE were working on enrolling the students at other schools.

Some students had enrolled at Taipa Area School, Kaingaroa School, Te Rangi Aniwaniwa and Te Kura Kaupapa Maori o Pukemiro.

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