The New Zealand Schools Trustees Association (NZSTA) has clarified its position on principals serving on boards of trustees, after recent backlash against the Association’s proposal for principals to report to the board rather than sit on it.

A discussion document published by NZSTA last month to inform the review of Tomorrow’s Schools cites recent research about the increasing unmanageability of the principal’s workload, and identifies some options for addressing this issue, including refocussing the principal’s role on managing the organisation and being the lead practitioner or “pedagogical leader”.

Principals are currently required to take on governance and administrative responsibilities in addition to these roles.

The NZSTA suggests the original policymakers vastly underestimated the size of the job of running a school as a stand-alone entity, and vastly overestimated the amount of practical support that would be forthcoming to assist principals to do this.

Two possibilities that might help to achieve this are limiting the principal’s governance responsibilities by requiring them to report to the board and advise them, but not take on other governance responsibilities and limiting their administrative responsibilities by creating an “Executive Officer” -type position in every school for that purpose, such as exists in larger secondary schools.

NZSTA President, Lorraine Kerr told Radio NZ that removing principals’ voting rights would make it clearer that the principal was the manager of the school, while board members were in charge of governance.

“If we look at every other effective governance model, the CEO reports to the board and is not a board member,” she said.

However, principal associations disagreed that the principal’s dual role as school manager and member of the governing board was causing confusion and were not in support of principals reporting to the board.

Kerr hopes a range of ideas will emerge during the consultation period.

“This is not about us getting into an argument about I’m right and you’re wrong. This is about us not being afraid to look at ideas that are uncomfortable, but might still improve things for our children and young people.”

Submissions close 8 August.

The NZSTA discussion document, called Twenty-first century schools: Using the review of Tomorrow’s Schools to build an education system for the future is available for download from the NZSTA website

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