Friday, 07 August 2020

WHITIANGA WEATHER

New principal says it’s a privilege to officially join the Te Rerenga team

A continued focus on the environment and sustainability, along with the potential offered by digital learning will be some of the things Te Rerenga School can look forward to exploring under newly-appointed principal, Mary Kedzlie.

Mary is already well known to the students, staff and wider school community having held the role of acting principal for much of the last two years. She told The Informer she was “absolutely delighted” to be given the permanent role, describing it as the dream location. “I mean, where else would you want to be,” she said. “It is just wonderful. Our children are just full of energy and enthusiasm, they come to school every day with big smiles on their faces. We have excellent teachers who are always looking to learn and try new things. I feel so fortunate to be working in a team of this calibre.”

Having attended school herself in Thames, Mary recalled the first time Te Rerenga caught her eye when her family decided to buy a bach in Matarangi in 1998. “I would be driving past and thinking, ‘I love the look of that little school,’” she said.

A move to the Coromandel became a reality some years later when a professional time-out gave Mary the opportunity to reassess the future direction of her career. “I had been a principal in Auckland for seven or eight years,” she said. “I took a sabbatical and I decided to spend that time in Matarangi and I loved it. The period of rest and rejuvenation, as well as research allowed me the opportunity to reflect and I knew I wanted to make the move permanent.”

That resulted in Mary giving up her full-time role and moving into principal appraisal and educational and leadership consulting. “So I was in and out of schools, working with principals, teachers and Boards of Trustees, seeing what they were doing and helping them set and deliver their goals,” she said. “It was the best professional development I could ever have done, I learned so much.”

It was in this capacity that Mary took up acting principal roles on the Peninsula, first at Coromandel Area School for two terms and more recently at Te Rerenga where she started in 2018 - 20 years after the little school first caught her eye.

Having grown wonderful relationships within both Te Rerenga School and the Matarangi community, for Mary the opportunity to return to a full-time roll in a place she loves was everything she could have wished for. “It’s a privilege really, and I feel very lucky,” she said.

Now living with her sister, Teresa, who is also based at the school as a resource teacher of learning and behaviour, Mary says Te Rerenga is already a school with a strong identity and sense of direction. “We are very influenced by our environment here which is a catalyst for a much of our learning and I think there are more opportunities we can explore with that,” she said. “We have also recently started a focus on mindfulness, which was particularly timely given the COVID-19 situation, as resilience is strong element of that.”

While leading the school through the uncertainty of the past few months has been a challenge, Mary said there have also been some interesting lessons from lockdown that the school is keen to explore. “The benefit of the crazy time in COVID-19 has been the teachers all gaining so much more digital expertise and they are already doing things in a different way,” she said. “We can see the benefits of the learning from home experience and it is exciting.”

However, the most pressing challenge of all may well be school’s own success which is seeing roll numbers increase significantly. “For our roll return in March 2019 we had 71 students, by March this year that had risen to 101 and by the 1 July roll return we were up to 112,” Mary said.

The trend is putting pressure on space with the school library now functioning as a fifth classroom. “We know this will have to be a priority and we will need to work with the Ministry of Education to identify a more long-term solution to providing additional space,” Mary said.

Pictured: Room 2 students at Te Rerenga School had some work to share with the principal on Pyjama Day last week. From the left - Taylor Mullins, Jimmy Braidwood, Ophelia Morley-Muir, Ava Redfern, Ella Adlam, principal Mary Kedzlie, Mary-Mei Forman and Hannah Kim-Trang.

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The Mercury Bay Informer is a highly popular community newspaper, based in Whitianga. The paper is distributed throughout the Coromandel Peninsula, coast to coast from Thames to north of Colville.