Sunday, January 25, 2009

Whos job is it?

While on holiday I went for a walk and had a look through the windows of NZ's worst school. It is difficult to judge why things are the best or worst and you could only say "in my opinion" but the sad truth is that this little school is failing miserably. I spoke at length to a teacher, BOT member, employee, parents, grandparents and other professionals so I got quite an insight. Where has it failed, who failed it and how many years until it gets turned around. How in fact do you save a school like this. I know there are a few out there that are fairly bad, so what are the answers to fixing these schools.
First you have to understand why its failing.
1 BOT are not interested really, they expect their Principal to be doing the work.
2 BOT are well down on skills, good people but down on skills.
3 BOT are in a small community, they have known all the teachers all their lives.
4 Family loyalties run deeper than school.
5 No one has the skill base to challenge the school.
6 MOE don't have the guts to make the hard calls.
7 Principal doesn't have the goods.
8 Teachers don't have the opportunities to be the best they can be, have no role models and are well down on skill sets.
9 The school has employment opportunities in a poor area therefore peoples jobs become more important than education of kids.
10 Everyone talks around the problems without addressing them.
11 A Maori card can be played so MOE are more sensitive and no press is interested in the shambles yet it is 10 times worse than any Selwyn College or Cambridge High.
12 ERO didn't have the integrity or honesty to write a true report in the "best interests" of the community.
13 Everyone walks around saying 'it's not my job"
Ok - there are a few reasons why, and there are countless more.
I don't actually want to blame the Principal, School or Community, it is in fact the system that has stuffed this school. The longer the system lets this shambles continue the longer the circle of failure will self generate in this community.
So why has the system failed.
Unions - they wont allow for dismissal of a poor principal. They just wont let it happen. They have a job for life mentality.
BOT Governance - The BOT appoint their Principal but the problem in these small communities is that schools can be the best employers in the areas. Schools pay great wages for these poor communities and people on BOT's are either employed by the school or have family working there. Tell me how a small unskilled BOT can have the knowledge of what a great school does, needs and how it operates. How can a BOT run competency proceedings when they don't have the skills and are dealing with family. Something that serious will never be forgotten in a small community. Governance model isn't working, not every school suits this model.

Solutions, some of them are so it doesn't happen again and others may resolve these ugly situations.
Appoint a commissioner NOW.
Appraise the Principal and assess competence.
Audit the school and the payments to all ancillary staff and community members.
ERO the school with the key ingredient being the kids learning
Fixed term appointments for Principals of five years, where jobs must be re-advertised and interviews before re-appointment. 
Set up a task force of experienced people to trouble shoot these type of schools where they have authority to walk in and clean up a school. It's not a communist state in NZ but someone has to make the hard calls.

It sounds really harsh, who makes the call that this is NZ's worst school, there are more q's than answers, the thing is that not many people want to talk about these difficult situations. I know that I haven't really got the answers and simplify issues as "easy to do". But at least my solutions are somewhat better than MOE ones.
Want to hear what the MOE are doing to help this school in 2009, they are introducing interactive whiteboards, truth.


Evan said...

With respect to Selwyn College you are right. The thing that distinguishes this school is the hate of Allan Peachey for it.

Peachey expected a Commissioner to be appointed to Selwyn and has said so for some years now. With National now in government, how could we expect MOE and ERO to press for anything less.

As you rightly say, the issues are subjective enough for a Witch Hunt to be played out - emphasise the postive in a good report, exploit the negative if making the power play.

Great site , keep it going

Podgorani said...

Its a shame that the people that are forgotten in these terrible circumstances are the Kids. Nearly all of them have no choice or say in whats happening, and many parents respect the authority and accept what is happening. My sons school does a great job and I want to challenge them on so many things even though they are doing good stuff.
The thing is that I sit back and let them do their stuff, I dont have a say because its either respect for schools and schooling or "its not my job". Yes I will speak up when he has personal needs.
In the case of Cambridge and Selwyn people have spoken up (right or wrong- getting mega press) but the sad thing is in these rural situations its not news and therefore its the MOE's job, sadly they have failed here, sorry.

Anonymous said...

Yes Podogorani

It is easy to challenge aspects of the school if it can be done in a constructive way, with due respect to the professionals. You need strong trust.

In situations like this school, you already have people who have a deeply engrained disdain for it, throwing their weight about and upsetting people. What can happen is that the Board, management, staff and parents go more into partnership.

The students can end up the losers here, I agree. A loss of morale among the staff could easily spin off to the students, although it is remarkable how up beat the College was at the end of last year.

It will be interesting to hear how the Selwyn community reacts when returning to school next week. They will be anxious to hear of the agenda to please Allan Peachey within 6 months.