Yipirinya School evades statutory Education Dept controls

p2205-Yipirinya-school-2By ERWIN CHLANDA

 

The Aboriginal owned Yipirinya School is evading statutory controls by the NT government which has responsibility for overseeing the curriculum, and the Education Department is now considering its options.

 

The school failed to participate in a scheduled “routine assessment” by the department last year.

 

This “non-participation was one of the reasons a special investigation” was undertaken in February this year, concluding “that the school council had not demonstrated an understanding of its role in relation to the requirements of the [Education] Act”. A string of measures was ordered.

 

The most recent routine assessment on Yipirinya School had been conducted in 2009.

 

The school went through a torrid period early this year when the former principal, Ken Langford Smith, was locked out (photo above) and an American educator, Lance Box, appeared on the scene.

 

When the Alice Springs News Online learned of Dr Box’s recent departure we rang Ulbunda David Kriss, apparently the school council president. He would give no comment other than to say: “F… off, you c…, f… off.” A senior school employee said he was not permitted to make comment. When contacted today Mr Kiss declined to comment.

 

A departmental spokeswoman says in May the department offered “support to the council in relation to their role in the governance and management of the school at no cost to the school.

 

“Departmental officers followed up on several occasions with the school on this offer and were advised that the school had engaged support from ‘Education Transformations’ consultancy based in Melbourne.”

 

There was no further communication from the school.

 

In 2014 and 2015 Yipirinya School received $886,400 from the NT and $3,620,300 from the Australian government plus – it is understood – substantial support from philanthropists around Australia and the world.

 

According to MySchool, Yipirinya has 138 pupils but “student attendance data are unavailable for this school”.

 

On these numbers thp2205-1350-Yipirinya-Schoole annual funding per enrolled student is $16,328 from government sources alone, which is more than $4000 above the corresponding figure for the local secondary school, St Philip’s College. (The parents of its students kick in an average of $6500 to make up the $18,300 “per student net recurrent income” quoted by MySchool.)

 

In the latest MySchool survey year, 2014, all Year 7 Yipirinya students were in the “substantially below average category” (the lowest of five rankings) in persuasive writing, spelling, grammar and punctuation and numeracy, and “close to average” in reading. Year 7 is the highest level offered by Yipininya.

 

The spokeswoman says: “A special investigation can be authorized by the Chief Executive Officer at any time to look into suspected non-compliance.

 

“In February 2015, after consultation with the Association of Independent Schools Northern Territory (AISNT), the Department of Education appointed an external assessor through a select tender process for a special investigation. [It]considered each of the requirements under the Education Act which considers governance, financial management, performance management processes and accountability, staff and teacher registration, and complaint and dispute policies.”

 

The report delivered in March listed five key recommendations to be undertaken by the school council:-
• Develop a strategic plan.
• Develop a business plan.
• Receive and review school performance information.
• Prepare a contract of employment with the principal.
• Direct the principal to develop policies in areas such as conflicts of interest, confidentiality, delegations of authority, and complaints handling.

 

We asked the department what are its likely next moves, and whether “having support from Education Transformations consultancy” relieves Yipirinya from being accountable to the department.

 

UPDATE 7:40pm

 

The department had provided the following information:

 

The department will be conducting a regular routine assessment of the school at a date to be determined.

 

Does having support from “Education Transformations’ consultancy” relieve Yipirinya from being accountable to the department?

 

No. Like all other schools, Yipirinya is held accountable in relation to the Education Act and required to operate and meet the requirements outlined in the regulations of the NT Education Act. Compliance requirements for funding from both the Northern Territory and Australian Governments must be met.

 

 

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7 Comments (starting with the most recent)

NB: If you want to reply to a previous comment, start your comment with this notation: @n where n is the number of the comment you want to reply to.
  1. Posted October 4, 2015 at 10:49 am

    I had my own special experience of Aboriginal organisational politics when I was asked to become involved with the Arrillhjere Aboriginal Corporation in 1997.
    During my period of involvement with this “corporation” I ended up being employed on the CDEP scheme administered by the Arrernte Council of Central Australia.
    This was the body that in 1997 established a committee and very publicly undertook to adopt proper financial accounting and management procedures to avoid the kind of mismanagement scandals that plague some Aboriginal organisations – and ended up going into receivership in 2004 owing six million dollars.
    In the short period of time I was involved (1997-98) it rapidly became apparent to me there was something seriously wrong; but nothing I did to alert relevant authorities (Australian Federal Police, Australian Taxation Office, ATSIC, Centrelink, or indeed any of the media, especially the ABC) did any good at all.
    The chronic mismanagement of Aboriginal affairs in Australia, not least in the Northern Territory, is easily one of the greatest corruption scandals in Australia. A precursor to the depths to which this kind of situation can develop to such a degree over decades is provided by the system of governance that prevailed in Queensland during the reign of Premier Joh Bjelke-Petersen, and it from this precedent I append the following comments: “Uproar was relatively muted in Queensland, possibly because journalists and people in the Labor Party also took shares” and “The media lies at the heart of democracy. It is significant that once the media got serious, the Bjelkist system collapsed like a house of cards. Corruption cannot stand scrutiny”.
    These are a couple of favourite quotes from the book “The Hillbilly Dictator” by journalist Evan Whitton who extensively covered the Fitzgerald Inquiry (and published by the ABC).
    A Fitzgerald-style inquiry is desperately needed for Aboriginal affairs in Australia.

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  2. Pagan
    Posted October 4, 2015 at 8:06 am

    A pity we all do not get back to basics. A school is for all children, and for learning, regardless of colour, and all children must attend school to get an education and be part of this great nation.
    Giving money to separate races within Australia is racism, and schools are for all children, not just a certain race.
    Australia should get over being guilty, as the Australian Government has said sorry, to what advantage, as nothing has changed in society in regards to getting up and moving on.

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  3. Paul Parker
    Posted October 3, 2015 at 11:34 am

    Many a PM has talked of their dreams to resolve “Aboriginal disadvantage”, yet they continue to use the approach which created original disadvantages.
    To Australia’s ongoing disgrace, our single greatest barrier to eliminating these disadvantages remains Commonwealth racism.
    Commonwealth racism built upon constant racial tagging, which is NOT used assist.
    Commonwealth racial tagging is to avoid, delay, distract, divert, attention away from structural problems originally created by racial tagging.
    Commonwealth racial tagging is used to prevent essential equality of opportunity.
    Commonwealth created the “Aboriginal” industry.
    Commonwealth maintains the “Aboriginal” industry by postponing required improvements, with delusions big solutions on their way from Canberra, Darwin or elsewhere.
    Commonwealth, NT and Yipirinya School approach to fixing things involves more lawyers, more inquiries, more money…
    Yipirinya’s failure in scheduled “routine assessment” by Education department requires suspension of funding until Yipirinya completes the “routine assessment”.
    Children enrolled at Yipirinya NOT attending should have their Centrelink allowances suspended.
    Centrelink payments are conditional, apply conditional upon attendance at school each day, use proportional reductions for each half day non-attendance to those identified as not attending.
    Centrelink regularly and easily enough suspends other claimants’ funds.
    IF Yipirinya School does not get its act together quickly then close it down, reallocate the resources to another education focused group prepared to educate the children.

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  4. Tax Payer
    Posted October 2, 2015 at 2:38 pm

    What really needs to be investigated by the government are the huge costs involved to the school this year due to the conflict of interest between Mr Kriss and his friends who have been paid astronomical amounts out of the school budget, out of money raised for projects to benefit the children, as well as tax payers’ precious government funding –
    Lance Box, Anne Robinson at Prolegis lawyers, Andrew White at Education Transformations.
    What have they done for the school as it slides downhill and still has no permanent principal?
    What of the intimidatory tactics used by Mr Kriss and his lawyers to change the Constitution which allowed Mr Kriss to rob the traditional Arrernte Elders of Alice Springs of their school?
    How on earth does a man not qualified in education and prone to abusive language get to run such a special, important and unique school?

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  5. Mark
    Posted October 2, 2015 at 1:37 pm

    It’s another case of not saying that the emperor has no clothes. Everyone knows that Yipirinya is a basket case and has been bleeding money for ages with few “outcomes”. Some are in denial of course. There are people who have done very nicely from the public purse and wish it to stay exactly as it has been.
    But honestly, schools are not businesses that need strategic and business plans! This is partly how we got into this mess treating schools like corporations!
    For way too long in order not to discriminate against aboriginal kids – we do EXACTLY that! We put them into special schools where a modified curriculum all but ensures that they are condemned to little more than face and finger painting. These kids are treated like morons with few if any expectations. A fleet of vehicles takes them door to door! Then we wonder why they grow up obese! Let then start to use the crossing outside the school that daily slows the traffic to 40kph without a single child ever being seen by me on said crossing.
    I have even watched the fleet of minibuses delivering the kids home after school. Not a single kid walked the crossing! More government regulation and waste. It’s a national disgrace … and about time it ceased. But I’m not holding my breath!
    Then to add insult to injury there’s an Education Transformations consultancy to pay as well. More white-fella “experts” flying in and out on expenses no doubt. Bronwyn lives!
    Interesting how up to the 60s the mostly untrained Mission teachers taught these kids’ grandparents to read and write! No Mission Statement (LOL) or Business Plan either I’m betting. From my vantage point I’m not seeing much progress. It’s ridiculous.

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  6. Alarmed
    Posted October 2, 2015 at 11:28 am

    Alarming to learn that the man running a small primary school full of vulnerable children speaks that way, anywhere, never mind in a press interview, in which he is officially representing the school: “F… off, you c…, f… off.” Yes it is HIGH TIME the Dept of Education took this situation seriously.

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  7. Peter
    Posted October 1, 2015 at 5:26 pm

    A key area for the board to develop skills in is the legal requirements of employment under the Fair Work Act.
    Regardless of the merits of the dismissal of Langford-Smith, it was not a legal process.
    Locking the man out of the school does not cut it.
    The outcome was that the school had to pay a large sum of money both to Langford-Smith and his legal costs (plus their own).
    Incompetence of governance cost the school a mint and students have less funding available to them as a result.
    The Education Department must move decisively to put the governance on a sound footing.
    One suggestion is to widen the board to include expert educational and legal positions with voting rights.

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