Within the next two weeks Hekia Parata will be charged with announcing the fate of several dozen Canterbury schools. Consultation on merger and closure proposals ended just before Christmas and Parata supposedly spent her extended summer break reading them.
While all of those schools wait on tenterhooks to hear their fate, Parata decided today to announce the government’s plans to open six brand new schools in Christchurch. Talk about a slap in the face to all of the schools still waiting to hear what the future holds for them.
Nobody doubts that significant change is required. The population has moved around in Christchurch, and as a result some schools have shrunk to the point where they are no longer viable while others are bursting at the seams.
But there is a way to do this. It starts with respect for the school communities affected. Shepherding all the principals and BOTs into a hall and giving them colour-coded name badges to indicate whether they were closing, merging, or remaining wasn’t a great start. Announcing the opening of new schools before telling the existing schools of their fate rubs further salt into the wounds.
Hekia Parata has a difficult job to do, but she seems determined to make it even harder for herself. Her handling of the Christchurch schooling situation has demonstrated arrogance and a total lack of respect. The people of Christchurch deserve better.