The chairman of a school board in an area with some of the lowest rates of vaccine uptake in the country resigned from his position less than two hours after the Government made Covid-19 immunisation mandatory for education workers.
Trevor McIntyre told board colleagues at Haeata Community Campus and principal Peggy Burrows on Monday that he was stepping down with immediate effect from his role at the school and from an advisory role with the Ministry of Education.
“This will come as a shock to you,” McIntyre, who had been the board chairman for less than two months, said in an email.
His message was sent at 5.30pm, just 90 minutes after Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins announced the Covid-19 vaccine would be mandatory for teachers and high-risk health workers.
McIntyre, who joined the Wainoni school’s board as a Ministry of Education appointee in July 2019, said it was a personal decision to resign and he did not want to comment further.
When asked if the decision related to the Covid-19 vaccine, he said “no, not directly”.
Haeata is hosting a vaccine clinic on Wednesday for students and whānau, but McIntyre said that had nothing to do with his decision.
Burrows said McIntyre’s resignation came as a shock, but she believed he was a “man of principle” and was “making a stand”.
“My understanding from talking to him [on Tuesday] morning is that he is just philosophically and politically opposed to what the Government is doing, and he’s had enough.”
Data on Covid-19 vaccine rates from the Ministry of Health released last week showed Wainoni in east Christchurch was among the least vaccinated suburbs in the country.
McIntyre said he was “fine with vaccines”.
“I haven’t had my Covid vaccine, but I’ve had all my other vaccines.”
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He refused to discuss his views on the Covid-19 vaccine, and why he had not received it.
Haeata Community Campus, the largest school in east Christchurch, had about 600 students on its roll in 2019, according to ministry data.
The school, which offers classes from year 1 to 13, opened in 2017 following the closure of four schools in Christchurch's eastern suburbs: Aranui High, and Aranui, Avondale and Wainoni primary schools.
Burrows said McIntyre told her the mandating of the Covid-19 vaccine for teaching staff was the straw that broke the camel’s back for him.
“I have very, very much enjoyed working with him. He is a man of integrity and has a heart for the community. He lives in Aranui, and I’ve just really enjoyed working with him, so it was a shock.”
Burrows said the board would meet on Thursday, and had a succession plan in place.
Only two staff members from a total of 70 at the campus said they did not want to get the Covid-19 vaccine in a recent survey, Burrows said.
Of those, one said it was on medical grounds and the other said they did not trust the science behind it.
Burrows said she was fully vaccinated and supported the roll-out because “as an educator I am science-driven and the science says that it’s safe”.
At an assembly on the last day of term three, Burrows spoke about the Covid-19 vaccine and shared her view, but told students it was their choice. A staff member and student received information about the vaccine before being vaccinated by a Whānau Ora Community Clinic nurse Marni Manibaniwal.
“I said to our students, ‘I’m not here to tell you you have to have a vaccine. I am fully vaccinated and so is my husband, and we’ve made that choice, and the choice is yours, and I want it to be an informed choice’.”