School denies bul­ly­ing cul­ture, par­ents up­set

Kapi-Mana News - - FRONT PAGE - By AN­DREA O’NEIL

Windley School denies it has a cul­ture of bul­ly­ing and dys­func­tion – the board of trustees cer­tain that it­self and staff are mak­ing de­ci­sions in the best in­ter­est of stu­dents.

Kapi-Mana News last week re­ported on a tense board of trustees meet­ing at­tended by about 25 par­ents and staff, at which two let­ters al­leg­ing bul­ly­ing were tabled. One staff mem­ber claimed par­ents who did not vol­un­teer time to the school have no right to raise such con­cerns.

Board chair­man Vanessa John­son and prin­ci­pal Ju­dith Woot­ton would not speak to our re­porter, but a writ­ten re­sponse from Ms John­son, on be­half of the BOT, was re­ceived on Fri­day.

She said the board takes all is­sues raised by its com­mu­nity se­ri­ously, and the con­cerns raised at the meet­ing have been re­viewed. The board has de­cided on ac­tions to be taken, but she did not elab­o­rate fur­ther on what these ac­tions were.

Ms John­son said the board was un­able to com­ment on in­di­vid­ual com­plaints or em­ploy­ment mat­ters ‘‘out of re­spect for those con­cerned and the rules that boards work un­der’’.

At the Au­gust 31 meet­ing, the six-strong board unan­i­mously agreed the school man­age­ment team ‘‘con­sis­tently makes de­ci­sions based on the best in­ter­ests of the stu­dents in the school’’ and Ms John­son ‘‘is do­ing an out­stand­ing job for Windley School’’.

Since Jan­uary the board has re­ceived Min­istry of Ed­u­ca­tion train­ing to ‘‘build a shared un­der­stand­ing of our gov­er­nance role’’, Ms John­son says. ‘‘ We have ini­tia­tives in place to pro­mote a safe school en­vi­ron­ment. We work hard to build pos­i­tive re­la­tion­ships with fam­i­lies and whanau. We will con­tinue to work with our school com­mu­nity.’’

Fur­ther­more, Ms John­son said Windley staff and trustees have the back­ing of the com­mu­nity, and cited pos­i­tive roll growth ( 375 stu­dents, up from 347 since Jan­uary).

Kapi-Mana News was con­tacted by sev­eral par­ents last week, who backed up claims of bul­ly­ing at the school. One mother said our ar­ti­cle was a wa­tered-down ac­count of the board meet­ing, claim­ing the par­ents in at­ten­dance were treated much harsher. She also al­leged the school knew there was a bul­ly­ing prob­lem as the topic was men­tioned in a school news­let­ter.

We en­deav­oured to re­view Wind- ley’s re­cent newslet­ters on­line but the web­site has been ‘‘un­der con­struc­tion’’. On­line, the is­sue at­tracted dozens of com­ments, most in sup­port of par­ents’ al­le­ga­tions.

‘‘My son and his wife were about to start my grand­daugh­ter at this school in two weeks’ time but have now changed their minds be­cause of what’s hap­pen­ing,’’ wrote Liam.

Sue S wrote: ‘‘Yes it hap­pens ev­ery­where but in this case it went way too far, in fact seven years, and to have staff telling par­ents not to speak their minds . . . wow ... that’s so wrong.’’

Sev­eral com­ments ex­pressed out­rage that a staff mem­ber would dis­miss the con­cerns of par­ents who did not vol­un­teer at school events.

‘‘Is it in Windley School’s child’s en­rol­ment form that you have to fundraise to be heard?’’ wrote Robyn.

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