Eastern Courier : June 10th 2011
www.easterncourier.co.nz Friday, June 10, 2011 Community says no By MATT BOWEN Tough crowd: Ministry of Education northern region manager Bruce Adin fronts up to the community. Photos: MATT BOWEN THE SCHOOL ' ' The advantage we have with using the site is that it's already designated as a special school site. Education Ministry northern region manager Bruce Adin Passionate parents: Around 300 people gather to learn about Thurston Place College. THE OBJECTORS ' ' I sent the results of an online petition to Anne Tolley and local MP Maurice Williamson -- in two weeks almost 700 people have voted to stop Thurston Place College. Richard Spong, left Goto www.easterncourier.co.nz to see a video of the meeting. NOT here. That s the message sent to Education Minister Anne Tolley by around 300 parents, residents, teachers and boards of trustees members at the Bucklands Beach Intermediate Hall on Wednesday night. All met to learn more about special needs school Thurston Place College that s due to open next year on the former Waimokoia School site. Moments of shouting, heck- ling and tense exchanges interrupted the profession- ally run public meeting. The new school will back on to Pigeon Mountain Primary School and cater for year 7 to 13 students under Child, Youth and Family care. Ministry of Education officials have given few details about what issues those pupils will be dealing with. CYF northern regional director Grant Bennett says the facility won t cater for youth offenders as many suspect. These are not our most dangerous people, he says. These are young people who have suffered either serious abuse or neglect issues. Obviously people who have suffered that level of trauma have a number of issues and it plays out in their demeanour and behav- iour. Details about why the site was chosen also emerged. Education Ministry north- ern region manager Bruce Adin says time constraints were a factor. Former Felix Donnelly Col- lege students need a facility that could operate as quickly as possible. The deadline? The begin- ning of the 2012 school year. To get that facility built in the timeframe, the advantage we have with using the site is that it s already designated as a special school site, Mr Adin says. Because they are replacing one special school with another there is no need to go through a change of desig- nation process, he says. That process includes time- consuming community con- sultation. Instead they progressed with no consul- tation, a move Mr Adin describes as not good enough . From our point of view that meant we were able to use that site and get the facility built in the time. The problem with purchas- ing a new site was cost -- con- structing the purpose-built facility will use $6.3 million. Thurston Place College s education model itself emer- ged from the report co- authored by John Langley that ultimately led to Tua- kau s Felix Donnelly College being shut down. In an ideal world the best option for these young people is to put them into a regular school and put in wrap- around services, he says. All of the research tells us these young folk are better in the most normal environment they can be in but it isn t the ideal world. Instead the second model was adopted. Mr Langley describes it as a specialist facility a bit like an intensive care unit . Young people would come in, be assessed by appropriate professionals, their behaviour would be stabilised and a decision would be made about where they would go. Some would stay at Thurston Place, others might be assessed and move elsewhere. Mr Langley, who is chief executive of New Zealand s largest education consulting company Cognition Edu- cation, had the audience indignant with the comment that he would be happy to have the school over the back fence of his Epsom home. The loudest applause was reserved for community spokesman Richard Spong who set up www.stop thurstonplacecollege.com. He started the opposition campaign out of concern for the safety of his five-year-old daughter and her classmates. Yesterday I sent the results of an online petition to Anne Tolley and local MP Maurice Williamson -- in two weeks almost 700 people have voted to stop Thurston Place College. Mr Spong thinks the plan is a bad idea. I don t believe bringing up to 100 teenagers with behavioural and emotional problems and putting them next to 1300 primary and intermediate age children is a good idea. It s the wrong location. I understand that from reading the ERO reports that truancy was a big problem at Felix Donnelly. I also understand that if children abscond from this site then both Bucklands Beach Intermediate and Pigeon Mountain Primary will have to go into lockdown to protect their students, he says. Bruce Adin has made a public statement that there will not be any greater risk than another school however Anne Tolley has not been able to provide the principals or boards with any kind of assurance about the safety of their students. Mr Adin promises to relay the community s message to Ms Tolley. A follow-up meet- ing is also being planned.
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