Staying after school

By Liz Wylie

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Long serving school board member Murray Woodhouse.
Long serving school board member Murray Woodhouse.

Getting an enthusiastic greeting from school children and their families is one of the reasons Marton Junction School board member Tony Hancock continues to serve the school although his youngest child is now 19.

He has served four three-year terms on the board and says all the current members have been there for at least six years which is great for continuity but some are ready to move on and he thinks there are four or five new people willing to stand.

He thought about resigning a few years ago but stayed on to support new principal Vanessa Te Ua when she started in 2012.

An Air Force engineer with a 5ha property that he likes to "potter about" on, Tony says he does not begrudge the time he spends supporting the school.

"I still really enjoy being part of the school and get a kick out of seeing kids achieving," he says.

Tony reckons any parent has something to offer a school board as long as they are there for the right reasons.

"As long as they have the best interests of the school and all the children at heart, they will be an asset.

"Sometimes you hear people saying things like 'I don't like that teacher so I'll join the board and get rid of them' sort of thing.

"That is not a reason to join and a person like that would not be any use on a board."

Stretching the school budget to meet the needs of all students can be frustrating at times and Tony says some things would not be possible without support from the community.

"Duddings [Lake Trust] have provided a new van for school outings and the Rangitikei Freemasons bought car seats and musical instruments for the school."

Tony says he will be standing for re-election and says it will be good to welcome some new faces on the board.

Keith St School board chairwoman Romaine Rahui joined the board in 2012 after being shoulder tapped by the principal and says she will be standing for re-election. "I was a bit unsure when I first joined because I didn't think I knew enough about education, but I wanted to give back to the school and because I work during the day I wasn't available to go on school camps and outings," she said.

"My son Rongotai is a Year 3 student at Keith St and my daughter Te Ata Hapera attended until she started intermediate this year."

Romaine says she encourages anyone who would like to help on a school board to give it go because the support and training provided by New Zealand School Trustees Association (NZSTA) and the regional School Trustees Association (STA) is "fantastic".

"The STA run evening workshops in Whanganui two or three times a month and they are so well put together.

"The first one I attended was called Welcome Aboard and it took away my anxiety about the role I was taking on."

GIVING BACK: Keith St board member Romaine Rahui, relaxing at home with Bertie, says there is good support and training available.
GIVING BACK: Keith St board member Romaine Rahui, relaxing at home with Bertie, says there is good support and training available.


As a business and communications worker with Te Oranganui Iwi Health Authority, Romaine is used to jargon used by health workers but institutional language used by educators was baffling at first.

"School administration were kind enough to supply us with a list of acronyms and what they stand for which was so helpful when I first joined the board.

"I worried that I would have to help manage the school, but the staff do that.

"The basic guide for board members is nose in, but fingers out."

Romaine says the time commitment she has made to the board fits in with working and family life and she recommends it as a worthwhile experience for parents.

Whanganui High School board member Murray Woodhouse is a Board of Trustees veteran having been a board member at four schools during the past 16 years.

He says the role can seem daunting to new members, but gives his assurance that there is plenty of guidance and support available for those who are new to the job.

As a self-employed business owner with a background in banking and experience as a city councillor in Porirua, Murray has special interest in budget and finance although he enjoys a variety of tasks on the board.

He has four school-aged children and three of them are attending WHS so he says he has a personal, as well as a professional, interest in the well-being of the school.

Murray had seven years experience as board member and chairman of the Aotea College board in Porirua when he and wife Lisa moved to Whanganui with their children in 2003.

When their children started attending Churton School, Murray was co-opted on to the board there in 2008, was appointed chairman in 2010 and stayed until 2013 when he was elected to the WHS board.

"I stood for school boards because I wanted to be involved with my children's education, but also because I have governance and management skills to share."

Murray is standing for re-election this year as he is still enjoying the role and wishes to see the completion of projects he is working on.

"While my children are at Whanganui High School, I will be making myself available in 2016 and for a further three years," he says.

Westmere School board member, Neville Palmer of Palmer's Plumbing has stayed on after his children left the school and he has been the driving force behind the $130,000 restoration of the school swimming pool, which re-opened in January.

His last child left the school four years ago but Neville wanted to see the pool project through as he had taken responsibility for Westmere's property portfolio.

"The pool is an asset to the community as well as the school and it will last for a long time now," he says.

"Being a board member is not arduous as long as you think and work logically, and follow the Ministry of Education guidelines."

He will not be standing for re-election this time round as he believes the board will have a good mix of skill and experience without him.

"I took on responsibility for the property portfolio because I have been involved with building for a long time so that has been my contribution."

Being a trustee does have its challenges and dealing with complaints from parents who have been unable to work things out with the principal and staff is the one area of responsibility Neville says he was not keen on. "Fortunately I haven't had to deal with much of that - most things could be sorted out with a bit of a chat in the school car park."

- Wanganui Chronicle

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