Radio NZ reports:
Ministry of Education staff who subverted communications with a school principal after he raised safety concerns about a proposed bus stop, acted “inappropriately” and their behaviour is “extremely disappointing,” the Ministry says.
So what will the Ministry do?
Emails obtained under the Official Information Act show the staff pretended to get in touch with Elsthorpe School principal Sandy Crawford, who had repeatedly invited the Ministry to a public meeting on 9 October, 2019 to explain their proposal to cut the bus service and install a new stop, without success.
In the days leading up to the meeting, the Ministry’s national operations manager of transport Steve Guiney wrote to regional transport advisor Janice Kennerley and another official Lucy Jackson asking Kennerley to give the appearance of trying to get in touch with Crawford about the meeting, while actually trying to avoid him.
This is not a junior official.
He then asked his staff member to prove they had attempted to make genuine attempts to talk to Crawford.
“You must try to reach the Principal/Board … show me a trail of attempts to talk via official means with this principal. I am not at all in favour of you or anyone fronting to discuss policy with people who are ineligible to receive the benefits of at policy,” he wrote.
Kennerley responded she had done just that, by calling Crawford when she knew he was not there.
“As below, I did try Elsthorpe School at 2.13pm but no reply. As per Lucys email, the principal is away at the principals conference so not unexpected.”
So they called the principal when they knew he was away at a conference, so they could claim they had tried to contact him.
Documents obtained by RNZ under the Official Information Act show a dramatic cut to bus services was floated as a way to reduce roll pressures in Taumarunui, where the “majority of students are not attending their closest school”.
In 2015, the Ministry proposed closing or merging several primary schools in the area because they were under-populated, but a community backlash resulted in the plan being quashed.
In July 2019, a Ministry staffer noted that many of the primary schools were still empty because students “are currently supported by the buses to attend their school of choice”.
He proposed reducing the 11 bus services to four or six in order to redirect students to their closest schools which were under-populated.
“Any reduction in bus services will terminate student choice, and will result in students no longer having a way to get to their school of choice.”
“This will be an opportunity to better align the school network in Taumarunui.”
This is equally disturbing. Officials proposing eliminating school bus routes as a way of eliminating student choice!