Free kindergartens claimed back by the people: Evening vigil outside the AGM of the Auckland Kindergarten Association

Vigil outside the Annual General Meeting of the Auckland Kindergarten Assn 2017Children are now looking more likely to be put before empire building by the Auckland Kindergarten Association as parents strive to have their voices heard. And their voices are having an impact.  

At this year's annual general meeting, held Thursday 30th November 7.30pm, many families and supporters who were not allowed inside the meeting venue held a vigil outside. 

Inside representatives from kindergartens squeezed into the 150 seat venue.

A number of motions were put forward aimed at increasing transparency and challenging the undemocratic decision-making that has operated at the AKA for many years now.

Standing together was something emphasised by the former chief executive, who resigned suddenly a fortnight ago, but this was so that no other voices other than that of management and its professionally appointed Board could be raised. Teachers were effectively silenced and information was not shared with parents and parent questions often failed to be answered.

"Since 20 Hour ECE funding came in the AKA has got badly off track in operating more like a corporate organisation and chasing the money, and forgetting to be about children and community", says ChildForum ECE Network chief executive Dr Sarah Alexander. 

Five positions on the professionally-appointed Board were up for election. One member only of the board had resigned. Two current Board Members were required to retire in accordance with the constitution but put their names forward to continue; and two Board Members, who were seconded to the Board offered themselves for election.

It was a major acheivement for parents, unhelped by the AKA's structures and treatment of kindergarten representatives, to get three parent and community representatives elected to the Board. 

The Chairman, Simon Jones, said he will rename AKA's Queen Street management office as the 'support office'.  He acknowledged for the first time (on record) that there were failings with governance and promised a change in the organisation's culture. 

What remains to be seen now is if this is followed by actions that include:

  • a full independent auditing of spending by the AKA chief executive and management over at least the past two years
  • the development of a written ethics code for the AKA Board and adherence to a Code of Ethical Conduct by the AKA managers and kindergartens
  • discussion of the protection of teachers and parents, and the development of a written whistle-blowing policy
  • the development of a policy on bullying with application across the organisation 
  • a return of individual accounts, including equity funding to kindergartens.
  • a return of the AKA to its purpose - the control of free kindergartens. This means exit of the AKA from running a NZ registered company for childcare, opening childcare centres and turning kindergartens into daycare service.
  • a halt of the change to the operation of Pt Chevalier kindergarten which will see the Pt Chevalier losing their kindergarten to the ownership of the AKA's  daycare company (KINZ). From 1 January 2018 it has been scheduled by the AKA to become a full-time 'care and learning centre' (or a KINZ) and as a compromise for current kindergarten families the KINZ centre will continue to accept current children as kindergarten children.  For daycare enrolments charges are for example: 1/2 day sessions - 4 hours at $35.00 a day and 5 days full-time care $335.00. The teachers will not be covered by the Kindergarten Teachers' Collective Agreement so can be paid less and the KINZ will not have the same expectation placed on it (as it did as a kindergarten) to employ teaching staff who are all qualified teachers.
  • immediate release of the secret research that the Board said provided justification for the increase in hours to 7 hours a day and all-year operation at all kindergartens
  • disestablishment of all teaching positions filled by unqualified staff and a return to only employing 100% qualified teachers as teachers in all kindergartens
  • supporting sessional kindergarten as an option for families and making a case to government to fund sessional kindergarten (as this benefits children's learning and social-emotional development, while providing for twice as many children to access kindergarten) at the same amount at least as the funding rate for all-day care kindergartens.

In 2015 the AGM was held on a Wednesday morning at 9.30am in a central Auckland office and finished at 9.45am. Only four board members attended the 2015 AGM and the chief executive officer – there was no one else except for a large number of management office staff who may have been counted towards achieving a quorum although under the AKA’s constitution these people were not members. Read more: Democracy missing – the troubling state of management and relationships at the Auckland Kindergarten Association

Earlier this year, AKA Life member Sue Crockett described how the AKA management had systematically excluded parent and community voice:   

Annual general meetings are now in middle of the day – this is difficult for people who are working to get to and the meetings are for the management people and a few representatives. I remember we had as many as 300 people attend the AGMs in the evening before AKA started changing to a business model.  (Read more:   Heroes or dictators - a charitable community board, its CEO and standard of consultation).  

Auckland parents and supporters are now reclaiming back the right to have say in the running of their kindergartens. 

Tonight's significant turnout of parents represents a major occasion in the history of the AKA and for the kindergarten movement in general across the country.  AKA agm 2

See related articles concerning the AKA and management 

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