Rangiora High School has always been a good school. When I was appointed in 2003 the school’s role stood at 1276. However, many local students went into Christchurch to attend secondary school. There was general consensus in the community that the school was underperforming when compared to other schools of similar type and decile therefore those who could went to what they considered to be a “better” school.
To describe Rangiora High School as a failing school at this time would have been an over exaggeration however specific areas for improvement were identified in the Education Review Office Review June 2003. The ERO Review reported:
As well the school’s suspension and stand down rates were higher than those of schools of a similar size and decile.
“a lack of a professional engagement on the part of some staff, a general lack of student achievement, limited student engagement with quality learning opportunities and regular incidents of student bullying.”
The Board acknowledged at my interview that the local community was unsettled about the general behaviour and achievement rates of the students and that as a Board their primary focus was raising student achievement levels. As well the Board had significant concerns about the school’s infrastructure, particularly as one third of the school was housed in prefabricated temporary buildings. I was given a very clear mandate from the Board to raise student achievement, build a positive learning culture and improve the learning environment.
The Board also included in my 2003 Job Description a direction to “manage the school’s assets.” The Board acknowledged this extra workload by applying to the Ministry of Education each year for Concurrence, which approved annually by the Ministry. The management of the school’s assets was one of five additional duties I undertook in addition to those outlined in my annual Performance Agreement. I received an additional salary payment of $8,000 per annum on average for Concurrence. The additional duties included:
- Rangiora High School Farm
- Rangiora High School Farm Land Funds Management
- Rangiora High School Education Trust
- North Canterbury Sport and Recreation Trust
- Maungatere Alternative Education Centre
- International Student Programme
- North Canterbury Alpine Trust
My annual appraisal was always delegated to an external appraiser. From 2003 – 2013 inclusive my performance was consistently measured at Excellence or Exceptional level. I consistently made my annual appraisals public as I saw them as a public document. I provided copies to my local member of Parliament to ensure the local electorate knew how their Principal was performing. As well each year I provided a copy to Nick Smith MP for Nelson as he is an Old Boy of our school.
The School Farm
The Rangiora High School Farm has always been a major asset of the school. The original Board of Governors purchased the first piece of land in 1912 and added to this asset in the early twentieth century.
In 2003 I on behalf of the Board I set up a Farm Committee, I managed the leases and I drafted the strategic plan for the farm.
When I was first appointed one of my great joys was to go over to the farm during the school day and watch the students enjoying working with the animals and enjoying being on the land.
I worked closely with the Board and the farm committee to reduce the level of debt the farm carried and to find a Farm Manager to assist the academic staff.
The privilege of owning such an asset was not lost on any of us and we all agreed it was the thing that set us apart from all other schools, not just in Canterbury but nationally.
The Board clearly articulated its goals for the farm and for student achievement in this area. From 2003 until 2008 we followed a cohesive approach to the implementation of that plan and I submitted a monthly report to the Board.
I had extremely positive relationships with members of the Ex-Students Association and attended their meetings regularly. I prepared Farm Reports for their committee and during meetings enjoyed the nostalgic stories about their time on the school farm.
In 2005 the Waimakariri District Council rezoned 20 hectares of the 40 hectares owned by the school. The Board resolved to sell that 20 hectares in 2007 because our core business was education and not land development. The land was sold at auction by Doug Guthrie of Ray White Real Estate. Doug Guthrie’s children had attended Rangiora High School and over the months leading up to the auction he and I became good friends. When the sale was complete, as his gift to the school he did not charge the Board any fees.
The remaining 20 hectares is still used by the school to provide Land-based courses for students in Years 9 – 13.
to be continued …