communication, social & design

Everything you've always wanted to know about trustee elections for school boards in New Zealand.

Added on by Vibeke.

Well, not really everything, but perhaps some things, you probably didn't know you wanted to know : ) So here is what I know:

For the past three years I have been a member of the Board of Trustees at my local primary school. The trustee elections are coming up and I am not standing again, as my kids have moved out of primary school age and it is time to do new things!

For the longest time, before I decided to go on the board I was 'just a parent' at the school and I really did not have a clue how things worked and what the board actually did. It was all a bit intimidating to tell you the truth! So I want to write something for those who are voting in their own School Board elections or even considering standing to maybe help you get your head around it all.

If you are a parent at a public school in New Zealand you will probably have received a letter in the mail asking you for nominations for your school's board. Elections are held every 3 years and at that time happen nation wide. Some schools, like ours, also have mid-term elections for part of the board positions, to ensure continuity. So in our case 3 out of 5 parent representative positions are coming up and the other 2 in 18 months time. In some schools it is all positions being elected now.

Some things about the nominations and election process you have been dying to know:

1. The nominations are only the first part! At our school the returning officer needs your nominations by Friday the 20th of May. 

2. If there are more nominations than positions, an election will be held and all parents will receive another form. Your votes will need to be in by the 3rd of June for most schools.

3. You can nominate yourself! Or you can nominate someone else, but I think you probably do need their permission ; ) So talk to people who you think may be good. It may help them make up their mind, knowing they have support.

2. If there is going to be an election and you are standing you will have to write a little bit about yourself and your background to help people vote. If you're wondering what kind of skills or backgrounds may serve your community, talk to the current board chair and or principal or have a look at the trustee elections website.

3. The staff also vote, but for the staff representative on the board. 

Some things about being on the Board of Trustees

1. At our school there were roughly 10 board meetings a year, 1 a month, typically on a Wednesday night between 6:30pm and 9:30pm. This may be different at other schools.

2. Board members are also often part of committees working on something specific and have separate meetings. I was the parent communication liaison so I would go to our parent and fundraising groups meetings as well . I was also on a policy committee but we managed to do a whole lot in one year and then did not need to meet very often again. So some committees are temporarily. Different boards do this differently.

3. You do get paid a little bit per board meeting, it is tax free. A lot of board members choose to not take payments and donate it to the school. It would however cover the cost of a baby sitter for example. As I was solo parenting a big part of the time I used it for that, as I believe being a solo parent shouldn't stop you from being in a governance role.

4. There is excellent help and training available for school board members, for example from NZSTA. The training will help you in all areas of life. I think boards should support heaps of professional development, for their staff, but also for the board members! 

5. As a board member you learn a lot about everything that goes on in a school including about being an employer, which is one of your roles. I have found great appreciation for school staff.

6. You need to be able to keep things confidential, as you are in a position of trust. Sometimes you know things, that you simply can't blab about at the school gate or to your partner or children. 

7. The role of the board is to be the ethical heart & mind of the school and consider the needs of all the children in your community, (not just your own). Sometimes that means you have to take difficult decisions, but you never have to do so alone. You also hold the management responsible for how they run things at school. They are in charge of running things though, and you are just there to support them and ask the right questions.

Last night was my last board meeting. I am sad to be going because it has been a real privilege to be part of our board, a great team with wonderful people who collectively had lots of skills and knowledge in finance, property, youth health and wellbeing, education, communication and more. I have learned so much from them and from the people who work at the school. 

Having been in a governance role, I have become passionate about accurate representation of our communities at board level. I have seen first hand the value of everyone's input in the discussions we have and how it helps make better decisions when there is a variety of views.

We really need people from all sorts of backgrounds, ethnicity and gender to be involved in thinking about the bigger picture for our kids and communities. One of the things I have really valued is being on a board that was fairly gender balanced, I believe this is one of the things worth striving for as a community. I know this is just one way of having a balanced board but as it is pertinent to our little school at the moment I want to tell women in particular to take an interest in governance. Not all school boards in New Zealand have much talent to choose from or many people sticking their hand up, so boards that are fully representative of communities are hard to achieve. I know that women are often involved in many ways in their kids schooling, but I hope they also consider governance.

Boards have to deal also with complaints, discipline matters and appointments.  Sometimes a committee is formed to take decisions about kids or teachers and sometimes about sensitive things. When you're making these decision you can't go and do a survey or discuss things with stakeholders, you just have to try make the right decision in the moment knowing what you know as a group. Sometimes if you are the only woman, or the only Maori, or the only Pasifika person in a committee or a board, it can feel like a lot rests on your shoulders. Board really want to make sure they have a variety of perspectives on these committees. We should be grateful for those that are taking those roles, and please help them by sticking up your hand some time as well, so a board can rotate responsibility. Your perspective will be valuable and is relevant.

At our school, 2 of the existing board members are standing again and I am really glad they are because of their wealth of knowledge and skills. In our meeting last night  however we all agreed we would love to have a wide variety of people standing.

The elections process can seem daunting but it really should not be a reason to not express your interest. I think one of the reasons why people don't stand is because it feels like you have to take part in a popularity contest. Often the people who get the most votes simply are  socially active or have had kids the longest at the school so a lot of people know them, and it is really important to have people on the board that are seen as approachable and who can draw on a wide network. We do need all sorts of people on our boards though.

Sometimes board members don't stay the full term, because people have lots of commitments, it may turn out it is not what they expected or things in life, work, school change and people move on, leaving a board to find replacements at any stage during the board term.  If there is a need for certain skills or more balanced representation on a board, boards can also choose to co-opt some people for a period of time alongside elected members, which has proven very valuable for our community quite a few times.

For this to work your board needs to know who may be interested in helping out. Maybe you just have skills in a certain area and you would be willing to work on a project, could be finance or IT for example, or it could be building or architecture. If you have ever thought of standing or just helping out, go and talk to existing board members, the board chair or your principal. You can also talk to the school trustee organisation NZSTA and for more info about the elections you can have a look at the Trustee Election website 

This is my reading of how school boards and elections work and may not be relevant for the upcoming elections in your community or school, but I am happy to answer any questions or change anything I got wrong.
happy nominating and voting!


On getting a domain name.

Added on by Vibeke.

OOh I love twitter (I'm @kirstenvibeke incidentally), mainly because it's like a huge treasure trove of information. Today someone I followed mentioned I Want My Name. They are a Domain Name Registrar, looks like they are based in NZ. They come highly recommended by @szechuan who reckons their customer support is flawless. Which is kind of what I've been looking for!

I just found this blog post on things to know about domain names before buying your first domain name and I think this may be helpful for some of the people I work with. Great to have all that info put together in one place, straight from the horse's mouth so to speak!


Working with beauty

Added on by Vibeke.

One of the pleasant side-effects of working and living on beautiful Waiheke Island is that I get to work with lots of people active in the wedding industry. Waiheke is covered in luscious vineyards and fringed with amazing beaches and only a boat ride away from the biggest city in the country, which makes it the perfect place to get married and treat your family and friends to an island getaway. Of course this means a lot of photographers get to shoot some of their most romantic work here and I often have the pleasure of working with all the lovely original imagery.

Today I worked with my friend Charlotte Edwardes of Island Beauty, one of the best and most experienced beauty and makeup artists who is based on Waiheke. She is a bride's dream, a lovely calming, understanding and nurturing energy to have around on your big day and her knowledge and skill in beauty are beyond compare. Her new website is now live, it was fun brainstorming ideas for branding for Charlotte and in the end the brand was a collaboration between Charlotte herself, me and another designer friend.

Difficult Conversations Training, Suva, Fiji

Added on by Vibeke.

Two weeks ago I was busy preparing to fly to Fiji and present a half-day Difficult Conversations Training at a Seafood Inspectors Training for inspectors from Kiribati, PNG, Fiji and the Solomon Islands. Flying to Suva via Nadi was a treat in itself as Fiji Airways put us on their brand spanking new plane, which had just arrived from France and everyone was very excited to be on the first flight with passengers on the new plane.

I have been involved in this 3 week general Seafood Inspection training before when it was in Auckland, but I was really stoked that they asked me back to come to Suva this year.

I don't really know much about the technical side of seafood inspection, or about the intricacies of local bureaucracies and custom combined with the kinds of overseas (mainly European) regulations authorities in the Pacific Islands have to make sure their industries comply with, if they want to be able to export their seafood. The training that I do with all these highly skilled and competent men and women mainly becomes a really good conversation about what kinds of obstacles they face when dealing with  the industry, foreign crew on vessels, and in their workplace in general. We talk about culture, about different attitudes to conflict, about how to assert yourself respectfully, how to separate the people from the problem, but don't lose sight of the people factor, how to build rapport and get along side people.

I always learn a lot from doing a training like this and I was humbled by the insights that were shared. Thank you Pacific Islands Competent Authority and FFA for inviting me along and being so generous in welcoming me!

I did get to do some relaxing as well while in Fiji and had a lovely weekend on Toberua Island, managed to watch the first game for the Netherlands in the staff quarters of the resort (5-1 WOOT). Love my work!

Island Styles 2014

Added on by Vibeke.

Last Saturday we wrapped Island Styles 2014, a local Waiheke fashion and shopping event, held at Batch Winery, which has simply breathtaking views all the way back to Auckland. The event featured local designers, makers and creatives, and had an all local cast of models who did an amazing job.

I helped Louise and her team with their website, design work and social media. The original look and feel and art direction came from Amanda Wright (

Louise always puts some inspired ideas in place, like asking our local members of parliament to model, last year we had Labours' Jacinda Ardern rocking the catwalk, so when Lou asked Nikki Kaye from National this year I suppose Nikki couldn't be chicken. Both are pretty glamorous as far as politicians go, but it takes a special kind of confidence to walk the runway. Wondering if Waiheke's own Denise Roche from the Greens is game for next Island Styles?

Sass Collective Dancers during the kids show in the afternoon at Island Styles 2014

Sass Collective Dancers during the kids show in the afternoon at Island Styles 2014

View from the Island Styles Marquee at Batch Winery, Waiheke Island. April 2014

View from the Island Styles Marquee at Batch Winery, Waiheke Island. April 2014

Squarespace overview for tools to edit images

Added on by Vibeke.

Ooh this is handy. Just posting this here so I can go and find it again.

Some free and paid options for editing images to be found in that list, which is helpful for those who don't have CS or don't want it, or are deciding that they do need it.