Welcome to the first newsletter of 2022 and my first newsletter as Principal of Waimate High School.

It’s been a week of welcomes!

I’ve been in Waimate now for just three weeks after moving down from Christchurch and have had my first full week at school preparing for the start of the year. Before I was welcomed by staff last week with a mihi whakatau. As well as myself, we also welcomed three other new staff members to Waimate High School; Angela Donald, our new Special Needs coordinator, who has come to us from Dunedin; Courtney Begbie, our new Art teacher, who has moved down from Auckland and Andrew Carswell who has also moved down from Christchurch to teach a Science class and do relief.

On Tuesday we held an assembly for our senior students and our next welcome was a pōwhiri for our new students on Wednesday. This was run by our new Head Prefects. Finally, we held an official welcome pōwhiri for me, as the new Principal. Originally, this was to be a whole school event with people coming from my previous school in Christchurch to support me. However, moving to the Red setting of the COVID Protection Framework has meant that we have had to adapt how we run our events and assemblies to make sure that we comply with the Ministry of Health guidelines.

The pōwhiri is about fostering new relationships, the first, important step in building trust. It is a great privilege for me to be trusted to lead this school and serve this community. So far, I have found the students, staff and community to be warm and caring.

Kayla Briggs and Kate Melville are our Board of Trustee student trustees for 2022 — Image by: Waimate High

If I’ve learned anything about schools it’s that, although they are made up of individuals, they are essentially one community. Collectively, our individual actions (whether positive or negative) shape who we are and affect the way others relate to us. Yesterday, I made my expectations clear – let’s focus on the basics and role model our school values of Respect, Responsibility and Real Honesty. I challenged students and staff to reflect on last year and make an improvement for this year. If we all commit to continually bettering ourselves then Waimate High School will go from being a good school to a great school.

As a new Principal, there is a lot of new information to take on board. My priority is to get to know our students. This term I will be focussed on understanding how Waimate High School operates. I will be visiting classrooms and meeting with staff and students. I also hope to see you, our parents, when I’m out in the community.

In terms of COVID, we are getting new information on a daily basis from the Ministry of Education and so we are continuing to adapt our plans, particularly around how we run events such as Swimming Sports and Athletics, to work within the COVID Protection Framework and we will continue to keep you updated via Facebook and email. But we do need to signpost that these events will be unable to have spectators.

This week has passed by in a blur! There has been even more to organise with the arrival of a new Principal and I would like to acknowledge our Deputy Principals, Kellie Tagiaia and David Shea for helping me settle in. I would also like to thank Marie Donaldson and Whaea Wendy and Te Wera from the Waihao runaka for supporting us with the pōwhiri process. I have felt both honoured and humbled, not just by the pōwhiri but also the warm informal welcomes I have received from the community too.

Image by: Waimate High

It is with great sadness that last week we heard of the passing of Whaea Makere. She was heavily involved alongside Matua John in delivering Kapa Haka and fostering Te Reo at Waimate High School. She was also a strong presence in local primary schools helping deliver their Te Reo programmes. We acknowledge her work in supporting and nurturing young tamariki attending Waimate High School to develop life skills. We would like to extend our heartfelt condolences to Matua John and their whānau during this difficult time. E moe ra Whaea.

After the pōwhiri, I had my first official duty which was to present the blazers to our prefects. This was a real privilege. I had the opportunity to spend the day with these students on Tuesday where we did a leadership workshop together. Already, I am in awe of their commitment and willingness to give back to our school. I’m excited to see how they grow into their roles and what they will accomplish before the year is over.

Ms Hunnikin with the 2022 Prefect team.  — Image by: Waimate High

I have thoroughly enjoyed my first week at Waimate High School. However, I’ll admit that I’m looking forward to the long weekend and despite the weather forecast I hope that you too are able to find some time to relax and recharge.

Ngā mihi nui,

Jo Hunnikin