Professional Growth and Wellbeing Monies. Thoughts from PSO, Denise Torrey.

Kia ora PPCB e te Whānau,

While we are hearing from many of you about the use of the Support Fund, I am reminded of the saying, “Is this the hill I’m going to die on ?”

Bear with me. I decided to pen this article after a colleague shared with me the NZSTA article in their NZSTA News May 2023 Issue 328, “Effective school leadership” means school boards too. On reading the article my alarm bells, which I believe are fairly well-tuned, started ringing. Whether you agree with the sentiments in the article or not I reflect on NZSTA’s attitude to principals since their inception in 1989.

Along with conversations with principals who have highlighted some issues with their PM when discussing the Support Fund and added to the attitude in the article, I realise one of the “unintended consequences’ of the fund is making some of our principals vulnerable.

As one excited colleague explained to me, when they rang to chat, “This is the first time anyone has thought just of me, not the school, the kids or the staff, just me.”

Yes, that is correct or did we just put a bullseye on her back??

In another conversation with a colleague, he told me about the control their PM was trying to exert on the use of the fund. We went through what he wanted to do and I asked,

“Does it build the capability and capacity for you as a leader and or is it an activity or experience that would contribute to your well-being and will you end up on the front page of The Press, the Dom (does it still exist?) or the Herald?”

It passed the “Torrey test “ but on reflection, I should have asked, why is the PM acting this way and are you feeling vulnerable?

There are things we do as principals when we know we are absolutely in the right. But sadly, in my experience as CPPA President, mentor, NZPF President, five years on the NZPF helpline and recently as your PSO dealing with issues principals are having, you become aware that it doesn’t always matter if you are right!

If you are having conversations with your PM and you are getting a sense that they are trying to control the use of the fund instead of collaborating for you in your role as a leader you have a few options. You need to check back and see if there have been other niggles that have occurred – remember the article. Some think they lead the school and you!!

Check out the sensitive expenditure doc, and go through the criteria carefully with them ( I’m working with MoE to get the Ministry site aligned to the wording in the document we sent you which was approved by the OAG). Ring me for some help. But most importantly, be careful not to make yourself vulnerable. When you are vulnerable they start to dig up all sorts of unrelated incidents to exert control and then use words like “loss of trust and confidence”. This can mean “the writing is on the wall.” I know, I have seen this played out for nearly 20 years and have seen it recently as your PSO. Principals are often blindsided as to how quickly this happens.

So my PPCB whānau, don’t roll over and have your tummy tickled but decide if you are in this uncomfortable situation, “Is this the hill you are going to die on?”.

There are many cliches tonight, but there are many ways to skin a cat. Can you do something that will help you, as intended by the fund, as well as ensure the PM is not going to escalate concerns more than they need be?

Decide, “Is this the hill you are going to die on?”.

Always here to help.

Nga mihi

Denise Torrey


021 262 5557