Leadership - Growing Tomorrow's
Schools Today: *
the tiny remote Te Whaiti school in Te Urewera they
have a saying "A Kumara never calls itself sweet,
that's for the eaters to say," So even if you
could visit today to see the sparkle in their children's
eyes, and witness the enthusiasm for learning of all
the students, the team and community there, it would
be hard to comprehend the extent of their achievements.
These people are an oral people - their processes
are defined by stories. A group of AUT Communications
Studies students and others are helping them share their learning
with others. This is their story.
This once vibrant community was in turmoil, unemployed
and in depression as a result of native logging being
stopped to save the Whirinaki Forest. There were no
compensatory regional development payouts. The people
were just left to fend for themselves.
On Unemployment and Dependency
we were was just workers and when they took that
from under us, the people - we were just so dependent
on it that we did not know how to look after each
We had relearn to use the foods of the
forest for survival. Some said that we were the
cause of some of the native life disappearing, but
the real reason was that the State Forestry, the
Government, had cut down their home for timber and
profits. Andy Kohiti - Kaumatua
In 1996 the Education Review Office visited, found
21 major non-compliances and left a scathing report.
The local school was threatened with closure. Under
"Tomorrow's Schools" the Board of Trustees
and this decile one Maori community had to look to
themselves for solutions to the problem; their answer
We had no delivery of curriculum, we had no assessment
procedures in place, our governance was in dire
straights. We had a real bad ERO report
you are a small community the community looks at
us and we were voted on to do the job, so a bad
ERO report reflects on us as well
and high unemployment are not an excuse any more.
We decided just to get on with it - we thought:
"Let's do what we can." Chris Eketone
- Current Chairman
It was really scary stuff and people would say,
just normal people, bushmen and that, "No I
can't do that, I don't know anything about that."
James Doherty - Board Member
would have been very easy for us to just turn around
and say leave it to someone else - "I'm hopping
off the Board" - but we took another approach,
we decided to take it on. We formed a circle, a
very tight circle. We said we will work hard and
play hard and the circle will be so tight that if
anyone wants to get in they will have to fight to
do it. Because we will make sure we succeed and
will enjoy ourselves doing it, and what it will
create is that other people looking in will say
What's happening?, What's Te Whaiti doing? and they
will want to come in. That's how we did it - we
had ourselves, our spouses and our children and
worked it. We played - and it created an environment,
and other people started to look, and say; Can I
come in for a look? - and that started the ball
rolling. Earl Rewi - Previous Chairman
I think if you looked back at schools then, those
new schools, Tomorrow's Schools - the Ministry said
if you don't know how to do it go and look at another
school and take that model. That was taking a structured
model that maybe worked in one school and trying
to adapt to that
We said that does not fit
what we want to do here, so that meant that we had
to develop what we wanted - and quite often it was
not what the Ministry wanted. They had a lot of
difficulty with it, it was outside the square, very
much outside the square, but because we made it
work, because it worked they had to come on board.also
- and when they came on board they had to make the
paperwork fit it. It took lots of years, we had
a lot of hard stuff leading up to it, so now all
of us have now opened up our way of seeing things.
Earl Rewi - Previous Chairman
On Board Courage and Self Examination
In those early days we got used to being tagged
over the head and people saying: "You're not
doing that right," all the time. It was that
insidious negativity that you don't even realise
but it's different now. Now we
don't go away and say: "To hell with your legislation,"
but we go away and think: "Well, how can we
do this together?"
There wasn't much information regarding Board of
Trustees (BOT's) in those days, so there weren't
many doors we could knock on - so it was hit and
miss and we missed a lot of times.
We saw it a different way, we saw the environment
as an issue - unemployment 99.9% You are getting
children that don't have that preschool experience.
They don't have an educational environment at home.
You've got young parents 15,16,17 having children,
so they are learning to grow as well. To us, all
these contribute to build up and become a big issue
We had to look at ourselves as BOT members and
staff members and honestly look at our own performances.
Are we doing what we should be doing and if we aren't
how can we improve that?
We met together, we spent the weekend at the school
sleeping here. We asked ourselves Why are we here?
and said "We are here for the children and
to contribute the best we can for their education.
And are we doing that?" Most of the time the
answer was "no." So what can we do about
it, and should we be here? Some said it's not for
me, and some like myself thought it was going to
be like a monthly netball meeting, just turn up
once a month and that's it. These were the things
we had to face - so we did that and dealt to it.
Those that decided to stay, and most of us did,
went out to develop the skills we needed - and that's
how we grew. Chris Eketone - Current Chairman
On Board Member Development.
A lot of the stuff we developed ourselves because
there wasn't much out there and most of what was
there we did not understand - the language again.
We had to be everything and we were not lawyers.
Many of us did not get past the fourth form at school,
so we got onto some training providers that were
delivering in language we could understand and hooked
up with them. To be honest, that was one of the
best moves we ever did. We had to go away and research
the information ourselves - It was "do it yourself"
type of training, where they just sat in the back
and gave us guidance when we needed it. At the end
of the day we had to do all the work. We had five
or six schools in our cluster and we met once a
month,. We had six different things being addressed
each month, and you had to present your homework.
You had to go back and research and find out what
the policy meant, then you brought it back to the
big forum and each one contributed. That way, then
someone might be doing Health and Safety, so you
grab that and take it home then cut and paste it
where you can. So without knowing it, we were actually
helping each other - and six people, six heads,
are much better than one! Chris Eketone - Current
When ERO visited again in 2000 they
only needed to stay for two days. They found a changed
"The principal's relationship with the board
has enhanced the governance and management relationship.
Her approach has empowered trustees, as she has
supported and encouraged them to further their skills.
Board members have extended understanding of their
roles, and gradually taken greater responsibility
for school governance. As a result there is a shared
Sound and regular communications ensure that all
trustees are well informed about all aspects of
school operation. All decisions are made in full
consultation with staff and board. There are positive
and supportive relationships with the community,
whose input is valued. These factors all contribute
to the atmosphere of trust, respect and goodwill
We knew that people would be looking closely at
how we managed our finances, so we had to get that
right. I told the Board that I will support them
totally in all actions obtaining and using funds
if they are for the well being of our kids. If any
funding goes into our own pockets then that's the
end of the road! Earl Rewi - Previous Chairman
The legislation told us that we had to have a system
in place to regularly review each and every one
of our school policies. That became a nightmare,
so we wrote them down in simple language in five
coloured books. These are living documents that
we update as we go, so to satisfy the regulations
we only need to check that they are up to date.
Chris Eketone - Current Chairman
On Assessing School Performance
biggest thing for us from a board perspective was
getting to know whether our children were getting
to grip with things. In the past we just said what
the principal said - and I think that most schools
still do that - but now we take an interest in what
is happening. We have benchmarks, we have a national
benchmark and we also have our own as well. We don't
need to know all the detail, but we do have a broad
sense, so if John gets 10 in maths we know how its
marked - so if Peter gets five, then we want to
know why and what's being done to bring him up to
speed. So that was the big difference on our path.
Chris Eketone - Current Chairman
On Managing New Projects;
We had trouble with our community water supply
which was unsafe. Experts came in and spent tens
of thousands of dollars digging deeper and deeper
bores only to find rusty water. We had milk tankers
delivering water from outside. In the end we said
"Let us handle this," and Earl, being
a farmer, did some research and soon, with the support
of the local community, we had a new dam structure
and pipeline that solved the problem for everyone.
We could have done lots for our children with all
the money that was poured down that water hole!
When you live in remote places you have to learn
to apply yourself to anything. It costs too much
to call people in every time. On our new administration
building we ended up doing all the project management
work with the builder as we were on the spot, so
we said why are we paying a Project Manager in Rotorua?
We decided it was really our money we were wasting
and could use it instead for our children. Chris
Eketone - Current Chairman/ Earl Rewi - Previous
On Strategic Planning and Mergers:
I'm no longer involved on the Board, but I would
like to see the merger take place with the two schools.
There have always been two schools with not enough
resources to run them, so I think that is a good
step. Build that, then extend that to that to make
a wharekura and extend to secondary school. Extend
and keep building on it. It's a growing thing -
like we've come a long way and the people that are
involved have grown. Just keep extending out and
it will grow, that's what I'd like to see. Earl
Rewi - Previous Chairman
On Fast Track Implementation Planning
In 2001 the parents of both schools in the valley
decided that they should combine; to deploy the
resources and facilities on both sites more effectively
for the benefit of their children. Coincidentally,
I happened to be present as a "fly on the wall"
at the end of a meeting on September 6th 2001 when
the two BOT's met to plan an extraordinary fast
track merger that would allow them to get the benefits
of this in the 2002 year They planned a "live
in" at the school the very next weekend where
all BOT members would meet to do a SWOT analysis
to identify the best assets, practices, policies
and procedures of both schools and combine them
to create a new and even better school - Te Whaiti
Nui-a-Toi. Within a few short weeks they submitted
a detailed strategic plan for education in the valley
to the Ministry of Education. A plan that would
give much better outcomes for their children much
more effectively than operating the two existing
schools independently. Peter Goldsbury (1950's student
of Te Whaiti School)
On Thinking outside the square.
Our new school will have five classrooms - they
will be interconnected by a nine kilometer school
driveway! James Doherty - Board member, after the
efficiency of operating on two sites was questioned.
On Barriers to Learning and Opportunities;
When the government allocated special funds to
help remove 'barriers to learning' we came up with
a list as long as your arm. Transport was a key
one, as small children left home very early in the
morning and returned late; our teachers had to supervise
them all day. We applied for funds to help us buy
our own bus. Our bus is a resource that opened up
many opportunities for all. Now we can take the
children to explore outside. Chris Eketone - Current
Chairman / Earl Rewi - Previous Chairman
The 2000 ERO team reported:
"The principal provides strong professional
leadership. Sound curriculum knowledge and an in-depth
understanding of the principles and practices of assessment
have supported staff through recent curriculum developments.
All teachers have been involved in the development
of curriculum plans, and are actively encouraged to
seek professional development over a range of areas.
Collegial and supportive relationships with staff
encourage co-operation and team work, which is reflected
in high staff morale."
The full name of this valley is Te Whaiti Nui-a-Toi.
Toi was a powerful leader in times of peace. He
was a courageous explorer and adventurer. He knew
real strength was in the mind. He shared his knowledge
and technology. Wherever he went he left strong
inclusive communities that traded resources with
each other. We said to ourselves - these are the
values that we want our children to take from the
school. These will be our leadership values too.
Chris Eketone - Current Chairman
I think it probably helped that I went to this
school as a child, so I had a connection and identified
with the dilemma that the school was in. Genevieve
Doherty - Tumuaki (Principal)
Yes, we each had our own roles to play and areas
to be responsible for, but because we worked closely
as a team it was quite OK to step into someone else's
patch and help. At first some of us found that hard
to accept, but soon found that by loosening the
boundaries and sharing information we all became
more effective. Earl Rewi - Previous Chairman
Leadership is not the same as "the leader"
- it can float around. We share it. Sometimes visitors
have trouble working out who the principal is! Genevieve
Doherty - Tumuaki (Principal)
After decades of education that has not delivered
outcomes for a large proportion of Maori, it seems
that Te Whaiti School has learnt what really works
- for their students at least. In this bilingual primary
school all students sit and pass School Certificate
Maori with top marks before they leave (the youngest
last year sat at age 10). This school doesn't seem
to understand the "normal distribution".
All 17 of their senior class who recently sat the
NSW mathematics exams (2 others were away) received
distinction awards ( top 10 %ile). They embrace Information
Communication Technology (ICT) and have won awards
in ICT competitions. Their children explore their
world via the internet. They are self-confident and
take responsibility for their own learning.
The community, many of whom were once strapped
for speaking their language at school were also insistent
that their children should recapture the strength
of their rich heritage and language.
On Te Reo.
we went down the total immersion path, but then
we asked ourselves- What if just one of our students
wanted to move outside Te Whaiti? - That's when
we decided on a strong English, maths and technology
path too. Earl Rewi - Previous Chairman
The junior school is total immersion, but in my
senior classes we are bilingual. On Monday, Tuesday
and Friday we teach in Maori, and on Wednesday and
Thursday, English, though at the moment we spend
Thursday on Kapahaka training. Genevieve Doherty
- Tumuaki (Principal)
has been a history behind members of the community
not achieving qualifications at high school. Prior
to this being an immersion school it was mainstream
and students then had difficulty. The key has been
to find something that the students could be successful
at that looked impossible, because if you can overcome
a hurdle that is really difficult, that opens the
door. We decided to use School Certificate, to find
a subject that they could achieve in and take it
at a young age. That success generates confidence
and that has really been the key to it. You are
always going to have trouble if you are lacking
in confidence. Once your attitude changes and you
become more positive, and you become more confident,
that learning becomes a little easier and you more
successful in it - Success breeds success! Genevieve
Doherty - Tumuaki (Principal)
When we got our student's results back for the
NSW mathematics exams we were quite blown away.
We had a quiet smile to ourselves and said "now
lets get on with the next challenge" Chris
Eketone - Chairman
On getting parents Involved:
The parents were so amazed that their primary school
students could pass School Certificate and pass
well, that they became much more supportive of their
children - they started encouraging them in their
schoolwork, and taking an active interest in their
work Genevieve Doherty - Tumuaki (Principal)
Our parents helped us convert the old school bus
shed into another classroom saving at least $10,000.
But even that is hard. In prosperous communities
parents come along to working bees with tractors,
equipment and materials. Here we have to provide
everything, including the shovels. Earl Rewi - Previous
bus has been important to the community as we have
no shops or public transport. Each Saturday all
our sports teams and supporters travel to Rotorua
to play, and after the games call into the supermarket
for the week's groceries. Our teachers are not involved
in any extracurricular activities nowadays - the
parents do all the sports team coaching and fundraising.
That's the kind of win-win opportunity we look for.
Chris Eketone - Current Chairman / Genevieve Doherty
- Tumuaki (Principal)
PLAYERS IN THE KNOWLEDGE ECONOMY:
Despite their school's remote bush location, the
people here are already active participants in the
global knowledge economy. They have been awarded Ministry
of Education contracts to develop curriculum material
and to do ICT training for other schools in their
cluster group. They build and maintain their own computer
network. They have automated most of their school
planning and assessment processes. They are impatient
for the day when they will have higher and more reliable
outward bandwidth so they can team with other schools
and share more of their resources and lessons to save
slow trips over their narrow winding roads.
We were having so much difficulty being in an isolated
school, and of course finding money to go out. Parents
here are struggling to find work, so do not have
the money. It seemed to make sense that technology
could be used to get the children out and bring
the outside in. Now if we want to take the children
to a museum we just go. Genevieve Doherty - Tumuaki
SHARING THEIR SCHOOL LESSONS:
They are regularly visited by other schools and
by educators from around the world - freely sharing
their knowledge and learning new things from the experience.
Their principal recently visited United Kingdom schools
on a travel scholarship to share and learn. What the
team here has achieved by their own innovation and
efforts, and the new confidence that their students
have in their futures inspires all who visit them.
They choose to develop capacity and grow within their
community in preference to hiring in external resources
at high cost that sap their precious funding. They
are a Tomorrow's School excelling in a place where
conventional wisdom said it would never work.
We had one school visit us coming from the same
failure position we were once in. The first thing
we asked them was; How many other schools are there
in your town? They said five, so we asked "Have
you ever met with them to share some of your experiences
and knowledge?" They said no - so we said "Try
inviting them around for a wine and cheese or something
and see what happens." We do a lot of work
together with the other schools in the Tuhoe Education
Authority, sharing teachers, ideas and resources.
Chris Eketone - Current Chairman
A ROLE MODEL FOR WORLD CLASS LEADERSHIP:
The school and community's lessons extend beyond
just the education sector. Their strong teamwork,
innovation and leadership processes are an inspiration
to many looking for more effective ways of leading
organisations and unleashing "Kiwi Magic".
Ex-pupil Peter Goldsbury returned after almost a lifetime
away and in one year says his old school and community
taught him more about how organisations really work
and how they can "make new things happen"
than he learnt in a long career in engineering, project,
management, and organizational development roles.
Two School Board members attended a public Project
Management workshop Peter ran at The Auckland
University of Technology. They assessed themselves
as operating at level 4-5 on a well known five level
Organisational Capability Maturity Model whereas most
organisations lie close to level one.
Peter found that Te Whaiti people seemed to operate
on a quite different organizational plane. Not a linear
one focusing on processes, but rather a cyclic one
that concentrated more on behaviours. They seemed
to actively seek opportunities for growth. Their metaphor
was that of giant trees growing from a tiny seed in
a forest where all of life is interconnected. Their
organic model seemed to help them be very proactive
even in a harsh, complex and fast-changing world.
It seemed that this thinking was natural to both old
and young - as if there was something special in the
He then worked with the school and community to
describe their organic processes in a radically new
"Leadership Model for Innovative Organisations
- The Tipu Ake Lifecycle." (See www.tipuake.org.nz).
The name they gave it - Tipu Ake ki te Ora - means
"Growing ever upwards towards well-being."
Tipu Ake adds three levels of self-analysis, leadership
and teamwork below the process level that most conventional
organisations concentrate on. More importantly, it
has three levels above, that sense what is happening
and build up the wisdom that ensures that processes
(and Key Performance Indicator measurements) move
towards well-being. Pest control is about identifying
and managing those things (risks) that could cause
falls to lower levels. The "Birds" represent
entrepreneur actions - constantly sensing what is
going on around them, swooping down to plant new seeds
and to return even higher.
Unfazed by the external attention, the Te Whaiti
people say "We don't know what all the fuss is
about, we just went about the job in the best way
we knew how." For them Tipu Ake levels are described
in memes - sayings that they pass around and replicate.
N When you focus on outcomes, nothing becomes a
5 We have no room for Matapiko [stingy] gatekeepers
- we share our knowledge
4 Taringa Whakaaro - keep your ears [and minds]
3 Keep the processes simple
2 We leave our [organisational] hats at the door
1 A kumara never calls itself sweet - that's for
the eaters to say
0 The greatest enemy is the one within us - conquer
that and the rest are easy.
Some of New Zealand's most innovative organisations,
particularly fast growing and internationally successful
ones are already making Tipu Ake thinking part of
their vocabulary. Feedback from some users (see more
on website) includes:
thought leadership of in the area of viewing how
an organisation really operates was excellent. The
Tipu Ake model helps give a framework that encompasses
all of life, not just work"
"I enjoyed the chance to explore new ideas
and to get a framework to manage my ideas without
being constrained by it - e.g. Tipu Ake."
"I'm not one for following fads or flavours
of the month and as I have over the years been exposed
to all sorts of leadership and project management
theory and models. I am pretty sceptical. However,
so far I am impressed by this model which is a synthesis
of internationally accepted good practice and the
approach that the Maori community at Te Whaiti took
to turning around their failing school."
Tipu Ake thinking is taonga (treasure) that has
belonged at the place Te Whaiti Nui-a-Toi for close
to 1000 years. Its levels are inscribed as patterns
on the kowhaiwhai panels on the rear wall of Wharepakau
- their wharenui (Meeting house). The Tipu Ake Lifecycle
is but another view of it and it will also belong
for all time at this place. It is shared on the web
at www.tipuake.org.nz for the benefit of the world's
Volunteers and many student project teams at The
Auckland University of Technology and elsewhere are
helping them share Tipu Ake with the world. Management
retreats are being held on the marae at Te Whaiti
using the school as a "live in" case study.
IN CONCLUSION - a challenge to you:
The Tipu Ake Lifecycle is a very different and
very pragmatic organic model that is attracting the
interest of some of the world's leading management
/ leadership thinkers.
Visit the website www.tipuake.org.nz
and you will find a self-assessment tool that you
can use to benchmark your organisational behaviours
against the Tipu Ake Lifecycle model.
The people of Te Whaiti talk of "Growing
the Knowledge Wave - not Catching it". They hope
that you, the reader find that Tipu Ake will help
you grow too. We would like to hear of your experience
via our website.
Please help us celebrate, share and replicate
what this tiny school has gifted us.
In January 2004, the community welcomed the then
Minister of Education - Trevor Mallard, the Minister
of Maori Affairs- Parekura Horomai and many officials
to open their new school, Te Kura Toitu o Te Whaiti
Nui-a-Toi, formed by the amalgamation of the Te Whaiti
and Minginui schools. This operates on two sites and
extends teaching to the first two years of secondary
education. This growth has been a big challenge for
the school with the need to extend operations facilities
and staff capability in the midst of major building
rennovations and delays.
At the end of 2005 Principal Genevieve Doherty
resigned to take a break and move on to other things,
but not before seeing that a new short term principal and staff
were appointed to carry things forward in 2006.
For 2007 we welcome our new principal Hariata Tapiata to help us continue our journey.
VOLUNTEER OPPORTUNITIES WITH OUR SCHOOL AND COMMUNITY:
If you are a teacher, scientist or have other skills (particularly secondary school level Science, Maths, Environment, Technology, Multimedia, Film and Television etc) and would like to work as a volunteer on sabatical for a month or two alongside our teachers and community to help them raise the bar for our children and open the learning opportunities our natural environment offers them, then please contact The Chairman, Te Kura Toitu o Te Whaiti Nui-a-Toi, PO Box 3013, Te Whaiti via Rotorua. Ph 07 366 3221. We can provide accommodation for the right people and offer a unique opportunity for you to help us pioneer the development of some innovative experiential learning programmes which we want to be able to share with the world via the web. See our community's planned "Whirinaki Interactive" Project
Te Whaiti School: www.tewhaiti.school.nz
(includes their 1999 ERO report)
Tipu Ake Lifecycle www.tipuake.org.nz
(model downloadable here)
Whirinaki Websites www.whirinaki.org.nz
For the content of this story our
thanks go to the people of Te Whaiti, who told their
story to many enthusiastic AUT student volunteers
with shorthand pads, video cameras, and good memories.
This story collated by Peter Goldsbury with assistance
from Jan Robertson, Waikato University and from the
Tipu Ake 2002Public Relations team comprising AUT
Students Robyn Johnston and Cherie Bray-Taylor.*
A slightly abridged version of this oral history was
published in the New Zealand Journal of Educational
Leadership" Dec 2002.
All stories associated with Tipu
Ake will remain for all time at Te Whaiti Nui-a-Toi.
The people there are its guardians and share it with
the world for the well-being of all its future childrens.
Editors wishing to publish this
story please contact Peter Goldsbury firstname.lastname@example.org.
It must be footnoted with the following copyright
The Tipu Ake Lifecycle - A Leadership
Model for Innovative Organisations
© 2002 Te Whaiti Nui-a-Toi see www.tipuake.org.nz