Boards of trustees have been the most cost-effective part of the education system for the past 30 years, says the New Zealand School Trustees Association.

Since the Tomorrows Schools reforms were introduced in 1989, an estimated 100,000 parents and community members have contributed their time, energy and expertise to serving on school boards of trustees.

“One of the systemic issues that we would have liked to see addressed in the Taskforce report is the undervaluing of community time and expertise across the board,” says NZSTA President Lorraine Kerr.

“There is a token recognition in the report that boards of trustees have served many schools very well, but the report dwells on the criticisms that apply on the whole to a small proportion of boards and does not really present those successes in a balanced way. Deficit thinking about school boards of trustees has been a systemic issue and it’s one we need to address if we truly want to achieve the ‘cultural transformation’ the Taskforce is talking about. We need to present a strengths-based analysis if we want to build a strengths-based system.

“When you make statements like ‘Many boards have trouble…’ without any context about what percentage this might be, what the actual numbers are, or any reasons why, it creates a false impression that the problems are universal.

“We absolutely agree that there are systemic issues around the role of school boards, and the expectations on them that need to be addressed. Absolutely agree! But that is not the same as suggesting that boards themselves are the problem. So that’s a mixed message, and we need to clarify that.”

NZSTA says that around 84 of over 2,400 boards of trustees currently have interventions in place.

“That’s around 3%. That means that, in spite of being tasked with many of the difficult and unpopular issues nobody else in the system has wanted to deal with, 97% of school boards are doing okay – or well, or very well, or even outstandingly well!” says Kerr.

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