The Auditor General report stated that at Te Kura Kaupapa Māori O Whakawatea – “The kura spent $5,120 on Christmas gifts and vouchers for its staff and board members bought from a business owned by the principal. In our view, spending of this nature illustrates waste and a lack of probity on the part of the board.”
The business is a beauty spa with a side-line in colonic irrigation – which offers such things as microdermabrasion (from $99) and Hopi Ear Candling (from $55). It's owned by the principal and her husband.
The principal, Susanne Simmons-Kopa, went in the local paper to claim that the spending was all above board and was after all, only $200 per person – enough for a coffeeberry yoga with enzyme mask specialised facial.
How they managed to find 25 staff and board members at a school with 110 students is mystifying – the school I’m on the board of has a lot fewer staff with more than double the students.
Anyway, it turns out that the principal had in 2013 applied to open a charter school as well, under the aegis of the Whakawatea Kaporeihana, a clever way to get around the rule that existing schools can’t apply. The application form is revealing. Simmons-Kopa calls herself the ‘innovator-director’ of the Whakawatea Kaporeihana, an incorporated society that is paid over $30,000 a year by the Whakawatea Kohanga Reo for ‘administration services’, as well as getting MSD funding for afterschool care, presumably at the Kura Kaupapa that Simmons-Kopa runs too.
At this point it’s obvious that she’s a very busy woman – nothing necessarily wrong with that, though most principals I know report that the job is fairly demanding on its own.
But what is wrong with this picture is that if she does open a charter school, spending tax-payers money on things like gift vouchers from her beauty salon won’t be picked up, as the Auditor General doesn’t have any oversight of charter schools.
One question that strikes me - why isn't the Taxpayers' Union crying foul about charter schools?