The School Board

The George Street Normal School Board holds monthly meetings which include curriculum reports, student achievement information, financial and property matters as well as a Principal’s report.

Meetings are usually held on the third Tuesday of each month beginning at 6.00pm in the school staffroom and parents are welcome to attend the open sessions of each meeting.

Download the Strategic Plan Summary here.

Holly Hammond - Presiding Member

I have been a parent at George Street School since 2016 when my oldest child started as a new entrant. 

I now have three children at the school (Stanley, Angus, and Ed) and have a huge appreciation and 

sense of gratitude toward the school for the extensive opportunities provided to them over the years. 

I have been a member of the PTA for the past 3 years, and with this have had insight into all the hard 

work and energy put into the George Street Children. I value the strengths-based approach, strong 

emphasis on values, inclusiveness, care, learning, and cultural and sporting experiences provided by the teachers, staff, and leadership.

A school requires a community to support it and in turn, a school can create a community that 

children can thrive within. My purpose in being a member of the board of trustees would be to 

support and contribute to the school and its community. As my youngest child started school this 

year, I can see that I have many years of involvement with the school ahead of me, and so also the 

opportunity to give back. 

My professional background is in mental health and well-being. I work as a Clinical Psychologist in a 

multi-disciplinary team. With this I bring experience in working with people from a wide range of backgrounds. Currently I work with adults but also have experience working in a paediatric setting 

with skills and 

knowledge related to child development, learning and well-being. I enjoy working in a team setting 

and bring skills in listening, communication, perspective-taking, and objectivity. I work daily to help 

people face challenges, problem-solve, and find new ways forward.

I have willingness and motivation to contribute to the governance and future development of the 


Vanisha Mishara-Vakaoti

I am a current George Street Normal School (GSNS) parent, my son Rafa is a Year 2 student in Model 2B.

My husband Patrick and I moved to Dunedin with the intention of perhaps being here for 3 years, 8 years later here we (still) are! Dunedin has become home for us.

I currently work as an independent research consultant on projects around the Pacific. I have just completed a teaching consultancy with the University of the South Pacific, teaching into their Sociology program.

My background is in Psychology and Social Research. I completed my PhD at the Australian National University in Canberra, Australia before moving to Dunedin. My interests are in issues affecting children and young people, particularly their experience of schooling and discontinuing schooling. I have served multiple terms as a board member of the Oceania Psychology Register.

I have strong Pacific community links in Dunedin, and support Pacific students at the University. Now that Rafa is at GSNS, I look forward to also extending this support to the Pacific community at the school. I have strengths in cross cultural communication, and as a researcher I have developed skills in building and fostering relationships, managing projects and strategic decision making.

In the year and a half that Rafa has been at GSNS, I have volunteered my time in a variety of ways. Doing so has given me a sense of the school, and where I might best be able to contribute. It is an honour to serve our children, teachers, and school as an elected member.

Harald Schwefel

Since October 2021, I have been a co-opted member of the Board. During this time I learned much 

about governance and the complexity and the amount of work required by the leadership team to 

make GSNS what it is today.

The reason why I joined the board was that I felt that GSNS had given much to our children: six years 

ago, our eldest daughter, joined GSNS in Kindle 2. Our second followed in 2017 and our youngest 

started GSNS last year. During this time my wife Nicole and I had followed the activities at the school through our support of school activities such as marae visits, swimming, art gallery & camp as well as engagement in the PTA. Now as our mid-point was reached, I felt that I might be able to give back to 

GSNS by standing for the board.

I am passionate about education, learning, and science. I believe it is important that all students have access to a sound and exciting education in rational thinking and science, while not ignoring the 

arts and social competencies. GSNS does a great job by offering the students support in their 

character and strength-based learning – as an active scientist at the University of Otago I think I could provide a closer connection to the university. I am strongly engaged with science outreach programs targeting, students, teachers, and the public. 

Since being on the board I have primarily learned about the complexity of what lies behind running the school and the role that governance plays and I have participated in several committees.

I am honoured to have your trust to continue to serve on the Board of Trustees. 

David Coburn 

I have a son currently in year 3 at GSNS. He has thrived in the supportive environment provided, establishing good friendships and life skills that will enable him to achieve his potential in life.

I completed my professional training in dentistry in 1998 and after an initial role at Dunedin Hospital went abroad for a decade. During that time I was a commissioned officer in the Royal Air Force, which provided many opportunities and, crucially, developed leadership and personnel management skills. I returned to Dunedin recently to take up a teaching role at the University after nearly two decades in practice. I have furthered my interest in learning through a qualification in Higher Education, sparking a fierce interest in how students learn and how we can support that learning. Set alongside my son’s journey at GSNS, my personal teaching experience has led to a passion and interest in contributing to the continued success of the school and our children’s futures. 

I bring a strong commitment to supporting staff in providing the most effective learning environments that enable all children to learn, achieve and enjoy their time at GSNS.

Richa Jain 

Kia Ora / Namaste

I am a parent of two children, one is currently at GSNS in year 4. My daughter was a student of 

GSNS for 6 years. I feel strongly about supporting my own children’s education, and our wider 

community of student learners and so I am eager to be involved with the school on the Board of 

Trustees. I bring knowledge and skills in Financial Management and governance to the board. 

I also bring a positive, friendly, supportive and can-do attitude, with extensive experience in 

relationship building, business and finance management and strategic thinking.

I have been part of the GSNS community for the past 8 years and have been involved in helping 

with the management of finances on the school fair days and have actively participated in the 

PTA meetings and helped school children in learning and sports-related activities. In each engagement 

with the school, I have enjoyed working with the school staff and parent community. I know how 

motivated and focused they are on improving the educational and cultural outcomes helping to 

better the school for the students. 

I have strong interpersonal skills and can build good working relationships quickly. I am a creative 

thinker and tend to bring new ideas and ways of looking at things. I hold MBA in Finance with 20 years 

of work experience in a variety of businesses. I strongly believe that it is the responsibility of the 

school board to engage stakeholders from society to participate in the development and delivery 

of quality educational services for the betterment of future generations. 

My current role as a Finance Associate in multiple departments at the University of Otago enables me 

to work in a cross-functional multicultural environment, a skill essential to being a valuable 

member of the school board. 

I am looking forward to being able to help the school and its students to achieve their goals over 

the coming years.

Bethany Penny

Catherine Smith - Staff Rep

Robyn Wood - Principal / Tumuaki