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Billboard Expresses Community's Frustration

Billboard Expresses Community's Frustration

Botany Community BoardChairman, Michael Williams, has reacted angrily to news that Education Minister, Steve Maharey, has rejected a call from the community to amend the Flat Bush Schools Strategy.

Mr Williams has erected a billboard in Botany depicting Prime Minister Helen Clark as a communist military dictator alongside the caption "YOU WILL HAVE JUNIOR HIGH SCHOOLS".

Mr Williams says that the Billboard is intended to criticise the process of deciding what schools should be built in the Ormiston / Flat Bush area, which he describes as dictatorial and undemocratic.

"The problem began when the previous Minister of Education, Trevor Mallard, decided to put only one option, the Junior High School option, to the community for consultation." says Mr Williams, "The consultation report clearly showed that the community had concerns with the Junior High concept and although the ministry subsequently put two additional options to the Minister, Steve Maharey, those options were declined. Following two public meetings the community put a compromise proposal to the minister, of Junior and Senior High Schools on a single site governed by a single board. The minister has now rejected the community's proposal."

"This goes completely against the 'Tomorrow's Schools' framework introduced by the Lange / Douglas Labour Government which recognised that the best people to decide on the appropriate type of schooling for young people were parents and set in place a system whereby the community has the freedom to select its own Board of Trustees to make those decisions."

"Our community has a 40% immigrant population. Many of these people have fled oppressive regimes and this is a golden opportunity to show them what democracy is all about."

"New Zealanders are growing wary of the 'government knows best' approach that ultimately leads towards totalitarianism. Given that this is the largest programme of school building in New Zealandhistory, it will leave a sour taste in the mouth of the community for many years to come. I am surprised that the government did not learn from the Invercargill School Closure Debacle"

"It is clear from talking to educational leaders that Junior High Schools are just trendy nonsense. Adolescents with raging hormones need the stabilising influence and leadership of older teens."

"Junior High Schools continue the pattern of two transitions in education that intermediate schools create. The community does not want intermediate schools but prefers a single transition from primary to secondary school with 11 and 12 year olds in either the former or the latter. Junior High Schools effectively hold students at intermediate for an extra two years and shift what is an unnecessary transition to the worst possible time, right before the important first NCEA year."

"Despite the preference for Full Primary (age 5-12), the community was prepared to accept the compromise of Junior and Senior High Schools on a single site under a single board, but the Minister, Steve Maharey, has rejected that proposal." says Mr Williams

Mr Williams is pleased that local MP, Judith Collinsand Associate Education Spokesman Allan Peachey are prepared to advocate on the community's behalf in Parliament. The Mayor of Manukau City, Sir Barry Curtis, is understood to be arranging a meeting with the Minister to discuss the community's concerns.

Mr Williams remains hopeful that democracy will prevail.


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