I have now been back at Naenae College as principal for 10 years, having promised a maximum of five. I hope I have not outstayed my welcome but the truth is that deep bonds of loyalty and pride have taken root in that time.
In February it was a humbling personal honour to receive the Senior New Zealander of the Year Award for services to this community. Of course we all understand that this only happened because a group of staff, board members and students, both current and past took the time and care to nominate me. I have the privilege of being the figure head but it’s actually all about the shared spirit of pride in our journey through life together. It’s about all of us: Te Whanau Tahi. It’s about how we collectively view leadership; each of us recognising the worth and potential of others so strongly that they begin to see it for themselves. It’s about drawing out the best in us. Everyone counts, everyone is valuable, everyone has a story to tell from which we can learn.
We live to learn and learn to live. We understand that our most valuable learning happens at the edge when we are stretched, but still choose to reach out, give it a go and take the risk of falling short of our goal or best intentions. I love the line from one of Leonard Cohen’s songs “Forget your perfect offering. There is a crack in everything; that is how the light gets in.” So we continue to strive to live an abundant life together, doing our best to make sure everyone learns to paddle and no one falls out of the waka.
In September we had a triennial ERO review. The report concludes: Naenae College is well placed to sustain and continue to improve its performance through its:
• clear operational governance structure, representative of the school and wider community
• inclusive leadership practice which is focused on achieving the college's and community’s collective vision for student success
• reflective and collaborative teaching and support staff
• responsive pastoral care and guidance systems which promote student wellbeing
• collaborative partnerships with local schools and community networks, including participation in a recently developed Community of Learning
• initiatives designed to increase the involvement of parents and whānau in their child’s learning.
That is a summary I am happy to live with. Our 2016 learning journey has been exciting and productive as we continue to work on our Big Picture Schooling model, connecting the heart, the head and the hands. It is about strong patterns of belonging, deep relationships and working to students’ passions, connecting to the world beyond school. We have had our first year of three 90 minute periods each day for everyone, with a group of NCEA Level 2 students doing whole day learning on Thursdays and Fridays. Year 9 has done its month-long Inquiry projects and the whole junior school is poised to do 8 days of Discovery Projects before their EOTC week at the end of the year. We have implemented a number of strategies to support senior students to successfully achieve their NCEA gaols and develop their transition plans out into the big wide world and we have enjoyed some very special successes. These include eight Year 13 students winning University Scholarships for 2017 with a combined value over $45,000, our Head Girl Soe Sola wining the Hutt Valley Youth Leader of the Year Award and our Year 11 team winning the Senior Hutt Valley STEM Science competition. It also includes some great sporting performances and our Kapa Haka once again representing the region at the biannual national competitions. We have walked tall. It’s time people revised their perceptions!
It has been a pleasure and a privilege for me to have the 20 prefects as my Roopu. They have been outstanding contributors, well led by James and Soe. I also want to thank all board members, both current and recently retired for their loyal and effective work on behalf of the school community. In particular, I want to pay special tribute to Jennifer Feek and Liz Wolstenholme who retired after nine years of very active and dedicated service. Liz has played a major role developing policy and coordinating all the community grant funding applications and Jennifer has been total hands-on with community liaison, coordinating football, supporting Te whanau Tahi Kapahaka and a myriad of other things.
Thank you to the editorial team who have committed time and care into capturing the highlights of 2016 and of course congratulations to everyone whose achievement is noted. A special thanks to all staff, students, parents, whanau, coaches and supporters who have worked so enthusiastically to make 2016 a memorable year. We have taken another step forward. Well done everyone!