Lee Whitelaw, Convening principal at Ohaeawai School, explains why they set up a Trust for the purchasing of their Chromebooks and the process they went through to do that.
Our Kaikohekohe Education Trust was formed because if we were going to roll out devices to our families and our children, the Trust was the legal entity to provide the equity for the Chromebooks basically. So that was a really important part because it's not legal to be leasing out Chromebooks to parents. So we did a lot of work with our community as well, in each school, because we needed to share the idea with them because whānau, they are huge players because they are paying $3.75 or whatever per week, they needed to be fully involved and know what they were involved in. We spent several months meeting with them, having different ways of engaging them, like some people don’t like coming to meetings, some people don’t like asking questions in front of a big crowd.
At this school, we had one big meeting to start with and then we put whiteboards up outside and people could put little sticky notes or write their question on and we would get the question answered by the end of the day. So it was really important at that stage to give as many people an opportunity to find out the answers to the questions. And we find now that we don’t have to do as much of that because it’s just in the culture of each school that now they can see, whānau can see what their children are doing, they can see how they can engage with them on their blogs and on their site, they can see their learning, so it’s not such a huge issue, it’s just part of the culture now.
The Kaikohekohe Education Trust has been hugely important to the success and the involvement of the community. It started off, we had to find somebody that would be able and knew how to set up a Trust, or knew the right people to get because we had no money, we had no equity to start off with. Luckily enough my husband was able to do that, so he worked behind the scenes to get the Trust set up, because that can be quite a costly exercise setting up a trust, but we were able to get support from a local law firm as well.
At the start we had, we asked people in the community from each school area if they could have somebody, a representative from every school to be on the Trust. We’ve done presentations to community people and we were lucky enough to get a Rotary International grant, which was significant, and that really got us on the way because we needed to employ a facilitator to actually share the practice and the digital stuff that needed to be done to upskill our teachers so they were ready for these children and their devices. We’ve had small donations from other people and it’s really been by word of mouth and people in the community hearing the work that we’re doing, and we try to tell as many people as we can because we’re so passionate about these parents, and whānau, and grandmas and grandads in Taitokerau and especially in the far North where people don’t have a lot of money but they still value education and they really want the best for their children.
I think we’ve worked it out over the last three years, whānau have put in over $600,000 by paying for their children’s Chromebooks, our local community, are putting in a huge amount of effort. Recently, we’ve just been given a grant of $100,000 from Ngāpuhi Asset Holdings , which has been fantastic as well which has allowed us to carry on and pay for our facilitator, help pay for the administrator because that’s a huge job to monitor the payments for Chromebooks weekly. Being part of Manaiakalani Outreach group and being one of the five clusters in New Zealand, part of that was the Woolf Fisher research data, so our Trust has actually paid for each school’s Woolf Fisher assessment. So once the three schools had been established, and the Trust had been established, other people became interested, so we have gradually over the last couple of years grown from three schools to now eight.