Wakatipu High head admits to failings

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Wakatipu High principal Lyn Cooper – who is heavily criticised in a just-released Government review – admits she could do better. 

The Education Review Office review states Cooper and senior teachers “mismanaged” major curriculum changes and created “unnecessary division and lack of trust” amongst fellow staff. 

“I didn’t manage change well, I would say that,” Cooper told Mountain Scene yesterday. 

She accepts the ERO’s comments reflect badly on her. 

“But change is difficult, and it was huge change.” 

Asked if she should resign over the findings, Cooper replies: “No comment.”

Cooper says she acknow­ledged at a public meeting early last year there should have been better communication and consultation. 

She reveals she’s sought leadership assistance from the Ministry of Education. Cooper’s “thrilled”, however, that the ERO also pinpoints positive changes. 

“What was lovely was the statement about ‘multiple examples’ of excellent teaching and so forth, the Maori students achieving above the national norm, the pastoral care, all of those positives.” 

Asked if the board of trustees retains faith in Cooper and her senior colleagues, spokesman Greg Turner replies: 

“I think there are a whole host of contributing factors that have led to the situation that’s been identified by ERO, and I think it’s perfectly reasonable they be given the opportunity to sort those out. 

“There wasn’t anything that was said that was terminal. 

“If ERO comes along and says your teaching’s crap and your curriculum is all over the place, then you’ve got huge issues. 

“When they come along and say, ‘hey, your management structures aren’t necessarily working well, your reporting’s not as good as it could be’, those are the sort of things you can roll your sleeves up and say, ‘OK, these need to be fixed and let’s get on with it’.” 

Turner adds that the management problems hadn’t yet impacted on the school’s performance. 

ERO also admits the board’s new strategic plan addresses its concerns. 

Turner says the board’s asked ERO for ongoing help and an independent advisor will assist it. 

However, Cooper says she was “not aware of that, at this point in time”. 

Another board member, Wayne Foley, says he’d personally like to see ERO set up an office “right next to management for a period to ensure that their concerns are met”.