By Pauline Stewart
"I love getting to know people, whether it’s staff, students or in the community."
The new Principal of Mercury Bay Area School will be officially welcomed by his school and community, at midday, Tuesday, February 7, with a Powhiri at the school.
Ross Dunn is originally from Tauranga. His teaching experience of 22 years has been in Rotorua Western Heights High school of 1800 students, where he was Head of the Arts Faculty for ten years, followed by Assistant Principal of Rotorua Lakes School for six years and then Principal of Akaroa Area School since the beginning of 2021. Ross also had a teaching stint in South Korea.
Natasha, Ross’ partner, is an accomplished senior English teacher, but for a period she will be supporting Ross and their children, Xavier 13, and Sebastian 5, adjust to their new community and school.
The Informer caught up with Ross for a brief phone interview.
“We have just come from a warm and dry summer period in the South Island, “ said Ross, obviously finding several days of rain and wind a surprise. “However, coming from the South Island, we are used to weather events.”
I asked Ross about how he found his experience at Akaroa Area School being his first time as Principal and first time in an Area School.
“An area school is a very different entity. I love it. There is so much opportunity for cohesive pathways. You have an amazing opportunity to know students, as they have a cohesive journey through their education – junior, middle and senior school. Teachers can collaborate to assist this pathway. The knowledge and understanding of students is greater, their being within the community of the school from infant through to senior years. The culture of area schools is different. There is a lot more dynamic thinking over problem solving with other pathways for students being possible. MBAS, because of its scale, does not have the situation of a lack of options for students, which can be an issue with small area schools. My experience has been that I felt I was more connected with the whanau of our students in the Area School setting; there was more inclination to embrace opportunities to connect.”
Ross sees that the class room sizes are a real benefit as well as the ratio of staff to student being a big plus. “We are not sitting in a large city school with 35 students in one class. I don’t think there are any disadvantages for an area school. MBAS is a large area school in a country setting. It doesn’t have those limitations that the smaller areas schools have and I am aware of the collegiality that exists with MBAS and other schools. I will foster that. Area schools are not insular and I look forward to meeting the wider community.”
There was time to ask Ross if he had put the ten years experience of being Head of a large school’s Arts Faculty behind him.
“I would always like to continue my love of arts,” says Ross. “We have had past and successful experience with Wearable Arts for example, and perhaps we can offer that here. It gives you a different lens when you look at things. Always for me, our students are the centre of consideration. My goal is to support the students and to support staff to enable that. A big part is connecting with the community, and if I can do that in an arts context, I will do that. But I love sport and will be connecting through that as well. This school has a great history of connecting to its community through the context of the curriculum.
To conclude, we discussed where Ross might start in these first weeks.
“We did not arrive until 17 January, so it’s early days in terms of getting to know people and the fabric of the school. I want to start by finding what’s sacred and what are the beliefs and understandings of the school. I enjoy engaging with students. I love getting to know people, whether it’s staff, students or in the community. That’s a strength I have and I intend to work with that. I genuinely have an absolute passion for education and students are at the centre of that. I see it as a huge responsibility in the position that I am in, to help shape education and help shape the young people’s lives.”
Caption: New Principal at Mercury Bay Area School, Ross Dunn.