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Education, Kelvin Smythe, LSM & Commissioners, National Standards, New Zealand, Protest - Have a Voice, Teacher Intimidation

Ministry Bullying at Pembroke School.

stop the bullyMore revelations from Kelvin Smythe, this time on the disgraceful treatment of Pembroke School, the local community, Principal Brent Godfrey, and 216 decile 3 children:

 Brent was an outspoken critic of national standards, astute, sensitive, but irrepressible.

Brent and his board of trustees after careful consultation with parents, stood out from national standards. There was strong agreement that national standards were not in the education interests of the Pembroke children.

July 1, 2011, the charter was submitted.

August 1, there was a letter from the ministry regarding a non-compliant charter and giving ten days to be compliant.

August 4-9, there were telephone conversations between the board chair and the ministry; statutory intervention was threatened.

Now for a happening that should be a moment of transcendent shame to the ministry and Tolley.

The school was well advanced in planning a fono for the district, partially ministry funded, to benefit the education of Pasifika children.

August 18, there is a call from the ministry threatening to remove the fono from school.

August 19, a charter meeting is scheduled by the ministry for August 22.

The school requests that the ministry stick to the board meeting timeframes and that ministry concerns be detailed prior to the meeting.

Next day the fono is withdrawn from school.

The school protests through the media, pointing out, amongst other things, food and other preparations were well advanced.

Ministry response added up to ha-ha; bad luck your school is not a safe environment.

A charter meeting is set for September 20.

September 20 – at the meeting, the ministry threatens to put in a limited statutory manager.

The board agrees to accept ministry ‘suggestions’ to meet charter requirements and for the principal to attend courses.

 (In other words, the moral stand against national standards is over and, the school, having fought the good fight, is now willing to be compliant. But the ministry ‘suggestions’ are just part of the punishment, no-one knew the regulations better than the principal; he had to know them to stand out from them. The ‘suggestions’ are a figment to set up the cold and bitter vengeance to be inflicted. Making a stand against national standards being treated as if a criminal offence.)

 No response from ministry regarding their offer to help with the ‘suggestions’.

September 29, a letter arrives from the secretary of education (Karen Sewell – so don’t swan around being the moral educationist Karen, now what would EDG have said Karen? – you know who I mean) putting in a statutory adviser.

27 October, at the signing of the contact, the adviser told the board it would be a long and expensive process.

The principal sends information to support the scoping report.

The statutory adviser was to appear only once at the school, and that was to sign the contract, she had no further contact with the school except for two phone calls.

November 9, the adviser withdraws saying there were a couple of board members she couldn’t work with. This ‘couldn’t work with claim’ came as a considerable surprise to the board. This extraordinary claim needs to be investigated, if not upheld, I think we can say a set up occurred.

November 11, a letter arrives from Kathryn Palmer, surely under instruction, saying she has written to the secretary of education requesting a limited statutory manager be appointed. Wow! What speed! Well done Kathryn admirable efficiency in the interests of the children of Pembroke School. (I want to say that Kathryn’s actions were surely done under instruction. How she responded within the ministry only she knows and her conscience.)

Board writes to Karen Sewell complaining of the process. Hard bickies.

December 13, a new adviser appointed, not a limited statutory manager as threatened.

During 2011 the charter was submitted six times but never found compliant. The charter, however, was quite straightforwardly compliant – the ministry was only playing games.

Cleave Hay was appointed as adviser: a person of admirable qualities, who only charged at the ministry stipulated rate and not for travel time. (A medal for Cleave.)

(Now you might think that the story is about to finally end with something of a cheery note amidst the squalid goings-on – but wait there’s more, a lot more.)

Cleave Hay had really nothing much to do but he turned up from time-to-time, as he was bound to do, almost as a welcome, though remunerated, visitor.

September 29, 2012 is the review date for the intervention, but somehow it is decided to wait until December – no doubt from ministry direction.

At the December meeting with ministry and Cleave, Cleave expresses yet again how happy he is with how things are going.

But the ministry insists the intervention remain until after the board of trustee’s election.

(The motive for this was no doubt to embarrass and undermine the principal and board of trustees in the election period.)

Cleave only attends two meetings in 2013 as he is very happy with board of trustee’s governance.

June 2013, Kathryn Palmer, obviously under instruction, my guess directly from Parata’s office, shifts the goalposts for the adviser’s reporting.

At the June meeting with board, the adviser reports once again how happy he is with the board.

But in the same month the ministry says intervention is to continue because national standards results for writing were not good enough (despite being where most decile 3 schools were).

In July, the board writes to new secretary of education regarding due process not being followed.

End of July, Peter Hughes orders the intervention to be lifted.

At no stage was the request for specific information detailing the risks to the school responded to.

 Two and a half years of strife for what?


Where was everybody?

A media that understood?

The school trustees association?

The teacher organisations?

Where was the concern for the children and teachers who so bravely and staunchly continued to care for them?

This is a disgraceful story, amongst many other disgraceful stories to do with ministry interventions.

But there are many more disgraceful stories – stories emanating, for instance, from the behaviours and values of the education review office.

I call on schools and boards, also teachers in universities and those in education agencies, to come forward and tell them. Perhaps there needs to be a Truth and Conciliation process.

This morning we heard once again the mellifluous puerility of the minister, a contribution archetypical of the puerility that has been issued from the review office and ministry for over two decades to a largely accepting public.

Our education system is corrupted and rotten. A commission of enquiry is needed to clear the unworthy from the temple and restore truth, honesty, and openness to our system.

Society needs individuals and groups to take moral stands; it is uplifted and morally enriched by the accumulation. But they paid a cost.

We honour the courage and declare our thanks to the witness.

Read the whole article here.

And if you know of any more schools being treated this way, tell us or contact Kelvin via his page.  Because this really does have to stop.

About Save Our Schools NZ

"One needs to be slow to form convictions, but once formed they must be defended against the heaviest odds." Gandhi


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