Principal to help with school merger

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New (temporary) challenge . . . Fairlie Primary School principal Ginny Neal (centre), pictured with the school's new entrant pupils, is off on secondment for a year, and her role will be shared by Karen Dunbar (left) and Michelle Fowler during this time. PHOTO: GRETA YEOMAN

by Greta Yeoman

Fairlie Primary School principal Ginny Neal is off to help with the merger of New Zealand’s two deaf education centres.

Mrs Neal, who accepted a 12-month secondment role as the national alignment project manager in May, had her final day at the school on Friday.

She will return to the school in June 2020, following the merger project between Auckland’s Kelston Deaf Education Centre and the van Asch Deaf Education Centre, in Christchurch.

The two schools have shared a board of trustees since 2012, which requested the merger in September last year.

Education Minister Chris Hipkins announced the move earlier this year, which will form one school and network of services for children and pupils who are deaf or hard of hearing from term three of 2020.

“It’s nice to be able to give to a different part of the sector.”

Mrs Neal said her role would involve co-ordinating the “policy and procedure” in the merger.

“I’m really excited,” she said of the new job.

She had been shoulder-tapped by former Fairlie Primary School commissioner Terri Johnstone, who was leading the merger.

Mrs Neal’s time would be “split evenly” between each of the two locations, one week a month in Christchurch, another week in Auckland and “elsewhere when needed”.

It would be the first time she had been involved with deaf education.

“It’s nice to be able to give to a different part of the sector.”

Her principal’s duties will be split between staff members Karen Dunbar and Michelle Fowler, and Lake Tekapo School principal Simon Waymouth will take over her role as the lead principal in the Mackenzie Schools Community of Learning (CoL).

Staff and principals involved in the group had spent the past year working on the achievement goals for the CoL, including collaboration between all the education providers, transitioning between education providers and increasing “digital fluency”– which had been “a major piece of work”.

Mrs Neal said the primary school had met other primary-aged pupils from across the district for a workshop on “digital literacy”, including how to use technology and prepare for the increasingly digital world young people were growing up in.

This work was important, as the Ministry of Education was preparing to roll out its new technology curriculum next year, she said.

Another highlight in the school’s progress had been the growth of its roll, which had increased from 84 pupils to 130 in about 18 monthsshe said.

This was partially due to people moving to Fairlie from other parts of the Mackenzie district because of its housing, along with growing numbers of farming families, she said.

The growth had enabled Fairlie Primary School to employ two new teachers.

For now, however, Mrs Neal was looking forward to her new role, even if it meant leaving Fairlie Primary behind for a year.

“I’m feeling comfortable about it, because our school is in a good place.

“I’m [also] looking forward to learning some sign language.”