Principal's Comment 20 September

Congratulations this week to the cast of “We’ll Meet Again”. I mentioned in the previous newsletter that they had been selected for the 2019 National TheatreFest Final at Te Whaea: National Dance and Drama Centre. This is an open event, with competitors from the wide range of adult amateur theatre groups across the country. 

They won. 

Congratulations to the cast and to their director, Tama Smith. 


Best Overall Production We’llMeet Again HVHS

Director: Tama Smith

Excellence in Acting (One of three NZ awards) Leroy Paton-Goldsbury 12RI

Jannat Aitchison Award for Emerging Distinctive Talent Helena Cvitanovich 12TS

Cast members: Leroy Paton-Goldsbury 12RI; Helena Cvitanovich 12TS; Xander Cox-Turk 12RI; Levi Henderson 12BQ; Thomas Dee 12NG (member of the troupe for touring performances although not in the show for the finals day). This is a brilliant effort, with a tinge of sadness as Mr Smith leaves the school at the end of this term to take up a role elsewhere. 

Congratulations, too, to Sithmi NMS Hewage 13FX, who has won a prestigious Price Waterhouse Coopers award of $7000 and the internship pathway that makes this such a keenly contested award. Sithmi has been a winner in national Business Studies competition earlier this year; she’s doing rather well.   

This is a time of year that is busy for the school, with enrolments for 2020, recruiting of staff for the new year, the scramble for internal assessments for seniors, preparation for the externals next term, setting up systems for 2020 and so on it goes. One element each year is budgeting. It’s a challenge every year, as we wrestle to encompass everything we want to do and a range of new ideas, all against the backdrop of what I see as a seriously under-funded model with unrelenting financial squeeze. However, the ray of light in all that is the willingness of many of our families to support us by means of making financial donations. That support is not taken for granted and it’s very much the extra that allows us to offer the diverse opportunities we do in both a curricular and co-curricular sense. One part of that financial mix is the Infrastructure Donation. We introduced this with a clear goal. It is to add to the human dimension of the site, in ways that core MOE funding will not cover. Part of the “deal” here is that any funds raised will be used to add what is visible and of direct benefit to the donors’ children during their time here. Broadly, the focus is on the small items list that is part of our Campus of the Future Plan (available to see on ourwebsite). That plan is our blueprint for our future property directions as a school, Ministry financial support allowing. In the last two years, infrastructure donations have been used for two key elements. We have put additional fountains in the front part of the school, along with waste and recycling receptacles. The major school signage project was next, with a mix of school funds and infrastructure funding behind it. This has added a visual bounce to the site, as well as encapsulating Māori and English dual language directions, and also a pattern of motifs that create a new “house style” for the school both in signage and in our printed documents. Next is a set of shade sails that are going in between the hall and Hotuwaipara. The posts are in - and the angle of lean is deliberate to allow for tensioning - and by somewhere around week two of next term sails resplendent in school house colours will offer protection from the sun as we move towards the hotter months. All of that has come from the infrastructure funding, so I’d like to offer my very real thanks to those who have contributed. These are elements that are lifting the site and making it a better people space. It’s important and we cannot do it without help.

And soon to be are the new toilets. These have taken a very long time to complete, for a variety of reasons that I won’t bore people with. I understand that readers of this material may not find the subject of toilets an energising one.  For me, though, this has been a significant thing, because it’s a weirdly key test of who we are. For years we have had complaints about loos at the top of any list of students’ favourite gripes, but we have been unable to complete the integrity loop that demands we fix it. When our students go to the local mall they are provided with modern facilities because they are valued customers. I have never seen why national education funding would treat them in such a radically different way, providing breeze-block areas that most of our parents will recall less than fondly from long ago; they’re still there. We definitely value our students a good deal more than the mall, so we set out on what has proven to be a long journey.  What we wanted were modern mall quality toilets available to any gender. That means single cubicles around a central lobby area. That’s what is about to become operational in D Block. There remain a few small tidy-ups to finish, but in a matter of days students’ greatest annoyance will finally be resolved, and we’ll pass the “mall test” of how we treat our students. Such are the various small triumphs of education.

Today’s key event is the HVHS School Triathlon. Each year over 200 competitors line up, including around 25 staff. It’s all student-organised as part of NCEA assessments, and the spin-off is the brilliant atmosphere it creates. Some staff train not very secretly for months in advance, eager for the status of a win, and of equal seriousness is often the race between first student and first staff member. At the core are a group of students for whom this is a serious assessment effort, with credits and grades on the line. There’s also some serious re-living of glorious pasts, lots of banter, a large number of people working for the sheer pleasure of completing the event, and a really lovely noisy group of supporters urging competitors on. It’s school spirit made manifest. Best wishes to all involved today.

Senior students are under a fair bit of pressure in the final weeks of term three. It’s the key term for seniors’ internal assessments, with many work-intensive folio requirements being completed. After the holiday break, we are straight into derived grade examinations. These are not “mock’ exams; they are very real. For a group of students each year, these are the means of providing a derived grade when life intervenes through accident or illness to prevent them from sitting their finals. Current students remember when all of a year group’s science grades came from the derived grade exams after the post-Kaikoura earthquake building safety checks knocked out a day’s examinations. This year it is measles that looms as a threat. So far we have been fortunate in avoiding measles at the school, but if we had a case during examinations the next steps would be problematical. My point is that yes, students will need a rest during the holiday break, but more than ever they also need to approach the school examinations as a serious event that might well provide their final grade for the standards involved.

I have mentioned previously enrolments for 2020. We have sent letters to Year 8 students on the out-of-zone wait list to say we will not be taking additional students for the 2020 Year 9. We are already at a record for in-zone enrolments and for the absolute total for the time of year, and we still have a fair while to go before the start of 2020. It’s a challenge at one level, but a heartening one, too. I have always been of the view that nobody should be driving past the gate of our school to pay to go elsewhere. It’s encouraging to see strong demand for places at the school. There are 185 people  - support and teaching staff - whose only reason for being here is to advance the interests of our students. The students get that, too. With the wider support of our parents and caregivers, this local state school is a good place to be. Thank you to everyone who is working to see that our core values are more than words: we are kind; we are welcoming; we persevere; we achieve.  

Ross Sinclair