Dear Parents and Caregivers, Well, we made it! I was a little unsure in what context I would be writing this final newsletter of the year, it could have been anything from in isolation at home to a COVID-free world.
I am immensely thankful that as both a country and a school we have not been impacted as much as the rest of the world. Last week the School had four Year 9 students, Rebecca Hooper, Aaliyah Raja, Elly Ngo and Rico Pradham, take part in an online meeting with a school in New York. The initial reaction from them was utter surprise to see our students sitting on a couch together without social distancing and masks. It really hit home for us how fortunate we are, even though it has been incredibly hard.
I am so pleased that we have managed to still have a school formal, our sports awards, a Māori and Pasifika celebration, and our leavers' assembly and dinner. We have managed to maintain our unrelenting focus on striving for academic achievement, whilst keeping in mind the wellbeing of our students and staff. I personally get a great deal of good-natured ribbing from the students about my speech to the incoming Year 9 students, that school is like a vending machine…you get nothing out if you put nothing in. In this year of all years, it has been our focus to make sure that our students had as many, if not more, opportunities to engage in the wider school life. This year has been a hard year, but I would like to think that it has also been a year in which we have seen our students and staff rise above the challenges. A year where we re-evaluated what was important to us, spent time within our family bubbles and reconnected, and possibly with all that learning from home, some of us may now appreciate teachers and what they do just a little bit more.
I simply cannot thank our staff for the work that they have done this year. It has been a year where we have had to become more flexible and shift more and more outside our comfort zone. We threw ourselves into online learning and may have overloaded the students a little, and then pulled it back to a more manageable workload. We were really pleased with our pastoral system and many of our staff made regular contact with both our students and their fellow teachers to make sure all were supported as much as possible. Following on from lockdown, we worked very hard to change programmes and implement assessment opportunities for our students to ensure that they had every possible chance for success. I am so proud of how they managed this new world of teaching and learning, whilst staying connected to our motto of mā te aroha ka tutuki – with care and concern we can achieve anything.
Over the last term, we have celebrated a number of successes in our school community. I want to once again congratulate all the prizewinners. I do want to make a special mention to those students who worked incredibly hard this year and achieved personal excellence, whilst not actually receiving an award. We need to realise that this is the case for most of our students and I hope they feel as proud of their own efforts and achievements as we do.
There is one student I would like to publicly mention. Emma Blackwell received our school's premier award of Dux of School. This is awarded based solely on academic achievement. Emma also received our School Spirit Award that is given to a student that best shows our school values. This award is decided and presented by our students via the School Council. It is the first time that a student has received both awards and I cannot think of a more deserving person.
I want to thank my head students for an amazing year. During these difficult times, they stood up and became more involved in our school. Emma and Lollie are heading to Otago University, Katelyn and Leyton are going to be studying at Canterbury University, Waiora is heading to Waikato University, Jack is joining the Armed Forces, and Mana and DJ are taking a year to work. I am so proud of them and it has been a pleasure watching them grow into the fine young people they are.
Finally, I want to say how very sad we are as a school at the unexpected passing of one of our international students. Otone is now back in Japan with her family and we here will miss her a great deal. A few weeks ago we had a commemoration service for Otone and planted a beautiful Japanese blossom outside Te Kohiko on the front lawn of our school. I am looking forward to seeing it blossom and grow over the years and it will be a beautiful reminder of a fantastic young lady whose life ended far too soon.
Mā te aroha ka tutuki
Have a great holiday and a very happy new year.
Bruce Kearney, Principal