- Last Updated: 21 June 2016
Secondary Principals Council opposes call to deny principals voting rights
Sleight of hand moves by the New Zealand School Trustees Association (NZSTA) to eliminate principals’ voting rights from boards of trustees are fuelling concerns of a disconnect between the association and its members.
In its submission on the Education Legislation Bill 2015, NZSTA claimed there were issues with a principal’s dual role as CEO and voting member of the board and suggested voting rights be withdrawn.
Shortly afterwards a Ministry of Education discussion document was circulated with the question “should principals and staff representatives be voting members of boards?”
This has come as a surprise to principals and board members who have told PPTA News the idea was never mentioned during consultation on the bill.
Board of trustees chair and New Zealand First education spokesperson Tracey Martin described the move as a “direct attack on the concept of partnership between parents, education professionals and the leader of the school.”
Martin was particularly concerned about the Ministry of Education document talking of removing the staff vote as well and described the supposed conflict as “absolute rubbish”.
“Principals can be outvoted. A board of trustees should be an elected body of highly educated individuals trying to be fully informed. Parents can outvote the principal and staff representatives because there are more of them.”
Provocative proposal raised without consultation
The New Zealand Secondary Principals Council (NZSPC) was also very surprised by the sudden appearance of the “deliberately provocative” proposal and the “covert and discourteous processes by which it has been raised.”
“The proposed change would jettison the democratic and community-based model for something considerably more autocratic. The next step would surely be the removal of elected parent representatives as has just been proposed by the Cameron Conservative government in England,” it said in its response to the ministry’s request for feedback.
As far as Martin was aware the proposal turned up in the Ministry of Education consultation papers without being discussed in any of the 40 consultation meetings leading up to the education bill submissions.
“So where did it come from? Show us the evidence consultation was held,” she said.
NZSTA policy positions not established through consultation with boards
This is one of a string of NZSTA positions that have been at odds with members of their boards, including their support for charter schools and submission against increasing paid parental leave entitlements (which has since been withdrawn).
Martin believes there is a definite disconnect between NZSTA and the boards it represents, citing a lack of mechanisms for boards to tell the association what they think.
She had not seen any evidence of consultation over the past three years, she said.
“No consultation over national standards, no consultation over supporting charter schools, no consultation over the maternity grant submission, no consultation on removing the principal vote,” she said.
Martin believed a number of NZSTA’s decisions, including the move to remove principal voting rights, reflected the political environment.
She gave examples of when principals spoke out against issues such as charter schools and national standards.
“Some principals, as education leaders, fully informed their boards against government policy. They started to advise their boards this was not the way.
“Why is STA doing the things they are? Why should they be commenting on charter schools? There are no boards of trustees in charter schools? Why paid parental leave when they didn’t make a submission on the lack of funding for special education? Why those specific things?”
Time for a voice that is representative of boards of trustees
Martin believed there needed to be a school trustees association — a body that took on board concerns and was a voice for boards of trustees.
“It needs to be without political bias,” she said.
PPTA president Angela Roberts wondered if these issues were the result of NZSTA receiving substantial funding directly from the government rather than from members of their organisation.