Reflecting on 2012

The following 2012 Celebration Day speech highlights important events and issues we faced as a school, and as a profession, in 2012.

Kia ora tatou

Welcome everyone to our Celebration Day.  My thanks to all of you who have come to join us in celebrating our achievements in 2012 – and, as usual,  it has been a busy year!  This year we took the lead role in the huge ASB Polyfest – as the host school for the Maori stage and convener of the overall event, and where, for the first time, we entered groups in all our Pasifika performing arts. 

We expanded our Whanau Centre, and the social work and health support we are able to provide for families, and, as always, we challenged ourselves to meet our own high academic expectations.   We are a decile one school.  Out of 32decile onetwo and three schools in Auckland our NCEA results last year placed us

  • ·        10th for our NCEA level 1 results
  • ·        7th for NCEA level 2
  • ·        1st equal (with 5 other schools) for NCEA level 3
  • ·        and 4th for our University Entrance  results. 

Our students have spoken out in many different forums and in April, five of our senior students brought an international audience in Vancouver to their feet, and to tears, when they presented their outstanding research about the way working as a whanau in this school, works for them.  What is special about Kia Aroha College is that we believe our young people have the right to excellence in their cultural languages, knowledge and identity as well as academic success.   I want to thank our parents and families, for your support for this very special character and the philosophy of our school. 

Again in 2012 we have hosted visitors from all over New Zealand and the worldto see the work we do – and today I’m delighted to welcome to our Celebration Day Professor Suzanne Soohoo from Chapman University in California, and her husband Pat.  Suzi’s areas of expertise in multicultural education, critical pedagogy, and culturally responsive practice and research are exactly what Kia Aroha College is all about – and we are privileged to have people like Suzi speak about us all over the world.  Sometimes I think we are more famous and more celebrated in California than we are in New Zealand – and that is no surprise to me unfortunately!

In 2012, across the country, principals’ associations and teacher groups have taken action against the current government’s pressure on schools and communities to conform to a one-size-fits-all framework –  which treats our children as consumers, schools as businesses, learning as pass rates and percentages  and which has never worked for our Maori and Pasifika students. This type of bullying forced us out of our partnership with Moerewa School’s senior students and closed their senior class at the end of Term 1.  In spite of this action I am proud of the support that our board and staff were able to provide for the Moerewa community. 

 I want to thank our Board of Trustees for their strength and courage and my personal thanks particularly to Julie for her leadership and her commitment.  It’s not easy to stand up for what’s right in this hostile education environment and our board has a long and successful history in that struggle.

Last year I was invited to speak at the New Zealand Principals’ FederationEducation Summit The president of theFederation, described agovernment that has lost all sense of direction for education, that undermines the trustworthiness and integrity of our profession as educators, that reduces communities’ self-determination and increases state control, that sets up a system that assumes every child is the same,  and allows the government to divest itself of the responsibility for the inequalities in society and the issues  like poverty –  that impact on our children’s success – and deliberately makes these issues the responsibility of the school. 

That hasn’t changed in 2012 and one of the worst aspects of that thinking is the way it paints teachers and boards and schools themselves as the problems.  It is harder and harder to be a teacher in this current climate so today I want to specially appreciate our wonderful staff – our leadership team and our teachers and support staff who walk alongside our students’ whanau, in their support of our young people.  I want to acknowledge the hours and hours of extra work that students and parents never see, the extra professional learning and study to continually advance their practice, the cultural knowledge and experience they instil, their advocacy for Kia Aroha College, the many nights our Tupuranga staff sleep with large groups of students on our marae, the huge meals they cook, thenurturing, supporting, challenging, motivating and the difference all of our staff make in our young people’s lives. 

At our Year 13 dinner last week, as our graduating “Warrior-Scholars” stood to thank their teachers, our collective pride in their achievements, their goals and their chosen pathways to university, to future trades, and to further service in our community made several of us shed some tears.  Some of them told us they had looked forward to their graduation dinner for seven years so again I make a plea to parents to support your 15, 16, 17 year olds to stay at school right to the end of this important Year 13 year – not just so they can go to dinner – but so you can see what we saw, and what will be obvious when our graduating students take the stage shortly.  We are so very proud of you all and we know you will continue to do great things.

Finally, my congratulations to all of our young people who we will honour and celebrate today.