Witherlea School deputy principal Kirsty Stone. Photo: Paula Hulburt.

Goodbye Witherlea

After 20 years of teaching, a much-loved Witherlea School staff member is bidding farewell to staff and students.

Deputy principal Kirsty Stone will move on from the Witherlea school, thankful for the relationships she built with children and families over her two decades.

“I will miss my family here very much,” she says.

“But it’s always good to have a change and I’m excited about that too.”

Kirsty vividly remembers the fire that tore through the Wither Hills in 2001, it was her introduction to the region.

Moving to Marlborough to look after her sick father, she fell in love with the school and put down deep roots.

A teacher for 34 years, first in Wellington then the UK, she says she is passionate not only about teaching, but learning too.

“I taught right from the word go,” she says.

“We’re lucky at Witherlea, we have dedicated, passionate people.

“It’s such an amazing school.

While she isn’t leaving the industry, Kirsty says she believes teaching is becoming more challenging.

“There’s a lot of pressure on teachers,” she says.

“You have to really love teaching, otherwise you do something else.”

She says she will miss the strong connections with the kids and the local community at the 400-pupil strong school.

One of her proudest achievements is growing the school’s flourishing Kapa Haka group.

“Kapa Haka went from my class and one other eight years ago, about 40 students, to just under 200 today.

“That would be one of my proud moments.

Kirsty has also been a force for pastoral care in the community.

“We identify children that might be at risk, from grief, trauma or abuse, and put in small systems and mentoring,” she says.

“Wellbeing has become a special focus at our school.

“To the community, I would like to say a special, personal thank you for the privilege, and it is a privilege, of teaching their children.”

Whitney Street School principal Cheryl Wadworth with students, from left, Rylan Nicholson, Alex Wood, Alia-Rose Mackel and Celia Spencer.

Students feel the squeeze

Students at a Blenheim school have been feeling the squeeze as overloaded classrooms struggled to cope with demand.

Staff and pupils at Whitney Street School in Blenheim have faced a three year wait for the Ministry of Education to act.

Now education bosses have pledged funds for two new classrooms in the space-stricken school.

Students will no longer have to use the school’s library as a classroom, says Whitney Street School principal Cheryl Wadworth.

“We’ve had to wait and be innovative with the space we have,” she says.

A new building housing two new classrooms is hoped to be completed by the end of the year.

Zoned at the end of 2016, the Eltham Road school caters for pupils living in central Blenheim up to the new Omaka subdivision in the south.

It’s last ERO report in 2017 noted the school was undergoing “significant roll growth.”

But after zoning the 67-year-old school, the Ministry of Education realised there were not enough classrooms to cope.

Cheryl says she doesn’t expect the 366-pupil school roll to increase much more.

“We anticipate we should not be getting any bigger,” she says.

“We want to maintain current numbers.”

Ministry of Education deputy sector enablement and support Katrina Casey says the ministry will monitor roll trends and may consider an enrolment scheme review.

Using other school spaces as classrooms is only ever meant to be a temporary fix.

“Spaces such as libraries, halls and multi-purpose rooms are sometimes used to temporarily accommodate students during building projects, periods of high roll numbers or to allow for flexible teaching arrangements.

“As communities change, so too do the schooling needs of their children and young people,” Katrina says.

“Our job is to manage school infrastructure by planning for growth and population shifts both in the short–term and much further out as well.

“To do this, we consider population projections, local council information enrolment data and how well schools are utilised.

“We regularly monitor the capacity and projected growth of the school network,” she says.

Two additional classrooms were built at the school in 2017 but rezoning put the space under pressure.

“The ministry looks at the roll numbers and prioritise from there” Cheryl says.

“Now, we’re at capacity.”

“We’ll be extremely happy to have the new learning environments.”

Coralanne Child. Photo: Supplied.

Support for sex scandal school in wake of guilty pleas

Education bosses have pledged their ongoing support to a school stricken by an underage sex scandal.

Students at a Blenheim high school are a “top priority” say Ministry of Education staff after a former member of staff pleaded guilty to having sex with minors.

In the wake of her guilty pleas, acting deputy secretary, sector enablement and support Coralanne Child says support to those affected is ongoing.

“The safety and wellbeing of students is a top priority for us, as it is for boards of trustees, parents and whānau.

“In this case, we continue to offer our support to the school and its board as it moves past this challenging event,” she says.

The woman, who cannot be named, admitted seven counts of having sex with minors, and two of sending sexual images and video to minors, at the Blenheim District Court last week.

She was convicted and bailed for sentencing.

Her registration with the Teaching Council of Aotearoa New Zealand has been cancelled though she may be eligible to apply again.

A spokeswoman from the council says no formal hearing will be held though the former teacher will be told officially that she has been struck from the register.

“A person with a cancelled teacher registration is able to apply for registration again.

“However, if they have been convicted of a specified offence, they must first be granted an exemption by the Ministry of Social Development.

“Then the person may apply to the Teaching Council for registration and we review and consider if the person meets our registration requirements,” she says.

The school’s Board of Trustees welcomed the woman’s guilty pleas, saying it “ensures justice” for all those caught up in the case.

In a letter to parents, the chairman of the Board of Trustees says he hopes the move will “provide closure.”

“Her actions breached the trust of so many and it is appropriate that she has taken sole responsibility by pleading guilty,” he says.

He added that he hoped sentencing at the end of the year would allow people to move forward.

“I am very thankful that this matter will be concluded before the end of the year for the sake of our community, staff, parents and boys.“I would like to thank the police and all of the other agencies involved in this case for their diligence and their care during this very difficult time … and ensuring that this did not impact on the wider student body of our college,” he says.

But not everyone has been happy with the handling of the case, with one worried parent branding it “disgusting”.

The woman, who asked not to be named, says the scandal was felt by the wider community.

She says the guilty woman seemingly showed no remorse for her actions and was spotted at several public events, including junior rugby games.

“Talk about allowing her access to a smorgasbord of underage boys.

“I’m not comfortable with her being allowed to watch my boy play rugby and I know other parents feel the same.

“If this was a male teacher who was accused of having sex with underage girls- I highly doubt he would be allowed down the netball courts.

“Those poor boys and their families being made to look like fools by our justice system.”

The woman will appear for sentencing at Blenheim District Court on 17 December.

Marlborough Girls’ College students Lauren Doherty, Eleanor Grigg and Claire Lee received cultural awards last week. Photo: Matt Brown.

Student musicians’ cultural success

Talented students who have made outstanding contributions to culture have been honoured for their efforts.

Marlborough Girls’ College students were recognised for their achievements across a wide range of artistic categories last week.

Among those officially recognised were a trio of accomplished musicians.

Year 13 student Eleanor Grigg was named the Cultural Achiever of the Year after an exceptional year of musical achievements.

The musician was crowned under 19 champion for the tenor horn at the National Brass Band Championships in July.

She also came second in the Champion of Champions, competing against entrants playing a diverse range of instruments.

Year 10 student Lauren Doherty was awarded the All Round Endeavour in Performing Arts (Junior) for her contributions as an individual and in the jazz band. Lauren has been involved in house drama, the jazz band and placed 3rd at the annual talent quest performing on the electric violin.

She also won the Junior Instrumental prize in the school performing arts competitions.

Year 9 student Claire Lee was awarded a piano scholarship after coming first in the junior piano solo at the school competitions. She also studies violin and is a dedicated member of the Marlborough Civic Orchestra.

She is training as a concertmaster for the Upbeat Development Orchestra on violin.

Year 9 student Brylee Evans, left, and year 13 pupil Tatiana Manoa think the Stars programme will be a big success. Photo: Paula Hulburt.

Girls’ College students shoot for the Stars

A pilot programme geared towards helping new students settle in secondary school has been unveiled in Marlborough.

From next year, Marlborough Girls’ College students will benefit from the introduction of the Graeme Dingle Foundation Marlborough’s “Stars” programme.

The initiative will see incoming Year 9 students paired up with senior students in a bid to make the transition easier.

Local GP, Dr Rachel Inder has been one of the instigators behind the scheme.

Working together with the team from the Graeme Dingle Foundation and Marlborough Girls’ College, Rachel says they has been looking at ways to boost health and well-being among students.

“We have been looking at various ways we can enhance the health and wellbeing of Marlborough students.

“The Stars programme is exactly the solution we have been looking for, as it builds trusting relationships that enables the students to reach out to each other in times of need,” she says.

Graeme Dingle Foundation Marlborough regional manager Kelvin Watt says the initiative is the “missing piece of the puzzle” for junior college students.

“Stars is the next step of a student’s journey as they move on into secondary school.

“It strengthens young people for that tricky transition into secondary school – through training and supporting older students to mentor and walk alongside the new Year 9s,” he says.

Approximately 250 Year 9 students, and 50 seniors will be involved in the scheme which will take three parts.

An adventure camp will kickstart the programme to help develop relationships and teamwork, followed by peer mentoring and a community project.

Marlborough Girls’ College principal, Mary-Jeanne Lynch says she believes students will benefit from increased self-confidence and resilience.

It will help also help students develop a sense of responsibility and connectedness to the school and the wider community, she says.

“It’s a giant win-win and we are over the moon to be able to start the pilot next year.”

Lawyer Dharshini Ramanathan has won a scholarship towards her studies. Photo: Supplied.

Lawyer wins Adult Literacy scholarship

A lawyer with a passion for literacy has won a scholarship towards study costs as she learns how to help others read and write.

Dharshini Ramanathan is the first recipient of the 2019 inaugural Literacy Aotearoa Blenheim Pat Robbins Zonta Scholarship.

The $500 scholarship is awarded to a female Maori, Pasifika or Youth trainee tutor in Blenheim to assist with their adult literacy tutor training studies.

Dharshini, who is a lawyer with a Masters of Law degree, works for Community Law Marlborough. During her own time, she is studying towards a New Zealand Certificate in Adult and Tertiary Teaching at level 4.

“I think everyone should be able to read, write and do maths. I want to help people learn how to get there,” she says.

The Pat Robbins Zonta Scholarship is awarded in memory of Zonta Club Marlborough foundation member, Pat Robbins who died in 2002.

She was a pivotal figure in pushing for adult literacy classes in Marlborough and spent 40 years helping others achieve their goals.

Zonta aims to raise the status of women throughout the world and educationally, economically and politically enable them to achieve their goals.

Marlborough Boys' College head boy Ben Alexander with principal Wayne Hegarty. Photo: Supplied.

End of an era

The principal of Marlborough Boys’ College has resigned and will be gone from the top job by the end of the year.

Wayne Hegarty revealed he will be retiring as principal at the end of December.

The move comes in the wake of a challenging few months at the Blenheim college after allegations of sexual abuse involving a teacher.

The Board of Trustees received his resignation on Sunday evening.

A letter sent out to all parents of students at the college yesterday at noon.

Board chairman Sturrock Saunders says Wayne has “contributed significantly” to the college during his ten years as principal.

“His strength and compassion has also been evident over the past few months while the school has navigated a considerable challenge and it is a testament to Wayne, his senior leadership team and staff that the school has continued providing a very high quality of education in a supportive and settled environment.

“Wayne’s focus has always been the boys and providing them with the very best learning and teaching opportunities to enable them to be the best they can be,” he says.

Marlborough Boys’ College came under public scrutiny earlier this year as allegations hit headlines around New Zealand and overseas.

Wayne and the board of Trustees worked hard to keep disruption to a minimum, Sturrock says.

The former Rangiora High School deputy principal began at the college in February 2010.

He will stay on at the school in a support capacity, undertaking tasks such as start-of-year compliance reporting and planning and continued co-location project work.

Wayne and his wife Joan, a registered nurse, moved to Blenheim in 2011.

“Wayne is a devoted family man and is looking forward to spending more time with his wife, children and grandchildren without the responsibilities that the principal role brings with it.

“We are very pleased to confirm that Wayne will maintain strong connections with Marlborough Boys’ College,” Sturrock says.

With an arts degree from the University of Canterbury, Wayne’s first job was at Hornby High in Christchurch where he spent 13 years.

The Board of Trustees hope to appoint a new principal to start at the beginning of the new year and will shortly begin the selection process

A formal celebration to mark Wayne’s retirement, marking a career that spans almost four decades, will be held later this year, Sturrock says.

“We are also working through the arrangements to celebrate Wayne and his wonderful contributions to Marlborough Boys’ College.

His formal retirement celebration to be held later this year, but further details will be shared once these are decided.

“In the meantime, the school’s focus continues to be on teaching and learning and ensuring that our students are as prepared as possible for their upcoming assessments and examinations.”

A woman is due to appear in Blenheim court charged with unlawful sexual connection on 23 September.

Renwick School pupil Hugo Foote, 8, is excited for the imminent arrival of several chicks. Photo: Paula Hulburt.

Raising chicken champions

Brother and sister Hugo and Greta Foote are getting ready for some new arrivals.

Renwick School pupils Hugo, 8, and Greta, 6, are getting ready for Pet Day as orders open to buy potential champions.

And the imminent arrival of eight new, fluffy additions to the household has the pair very excited.

“They’re very fluffy and very yellow and like to keep warm in front of the fire,” says Greta.

It will be Greta’s second time helping rear day-old Brown Shaver chicks in preparation to show them at the school’s annual Pet Day.

Outside on the family’s half-acre section, the clucking of past competitors can be heard.

Greta Foote, 6, holds one of her feathered friends which she helped raise from a chick last year. Photo: Paula Hulburt.
Greta Foote, 6, holds one of her feathered friends which she helped raise from a chick last year. Photo: Paula Hulburt.

The family keep all the chicks that make it to adulthood.

Every year schools across Marlborough get the chance to buy 4 chicks for $26.

The goal is to teach children care, compassion and the dedication needed to keep an animal alive.

For Hugo, this year will be his fourth time taking part.

“I’ll take them to Pet Day and hopefully get a place to go on and show them again.

“They love to eat chick crumble,” he says.

Due to hatch in early September, the chicks spend their first few days in a cage near the fire with an all-important heat lamp to keep them warm.

The children complete a daily diary and log the chicks’ weight regularly.

As the chicks grow, they get plenty of room to roam says mum Renee Foote.

“It’s great for the children to have the responsibility and realise that a lot of effort goes in to making sure they survive,” she says.

Dad, David Foote, who grew up on a farm, says he clips the hen’s wings before they get to enjoy their new home in the great outdoors.

“It’s a great learning curve for the kids,” he says.

After Pet Day at individual schools, children can enter their chicks at regional events before going on to show them at Marlborough’s A & P show.

Whānui Hub coordinator Rebecca Toms and Redwoodtown School teacher Rosemary Crockett. Photo: Paula Hulburt.

School hub at heart of community

A bid to put community at the heart of Redwoodtown School is set to get underway next term.

The Whānui Hub is the brainchild of year 5 and 6 teacher Rosemary Crockett.

She came up with the idea of a drop-in hub as a way of offering school families a “safe place” to get together and build relationships.

It’s a move, she says, that will benefit not just the children but their extended families and the wider neighbourhood.

“It’s about making connections within the community, the school, and kindergarten families that feed into us,” she says.

The trill of excited chatter floats in the wake of a gaggle of children as they walk across the playground.

Watching the pupils, Rosemary says her hopes for the hub include a return to forging closer bonds as communities did in the past.

“So many families out there are living in isolation from their extended whanau.

“It’s not like my day when you grew up with family nearby, now they could be all over the world.”

Hub co-ordinator Rebecca Toms has been brought on board to oversee the project which has been in the making for a couple of years.

Her oldest son is a pupil at the school, and she will be the contact person on the day.

It is a successful hub at Mayfield School in Blenheim which sparked the idea for a similar one at Redwood, says Rosemary.

A survey went out to school families to see what subjects might be useful.

Child health, budgeting and nutrition were all key areas people wanted to see covered, says Rosemary.

“It’s about the community standing up and supporting each other from within; building strength from within.”

There will be no charge to attend any of the sessions which will be held in the Kotuku Room between 9 and 11am. Free tea and coffee will be provided.

People are welcome to attend the whole session or stay for just part.

“It’s totally fluid. We’ll have guest speakers every week during term time.

“If we can get people engaged then there’ll be better outcomes for all,” she says.

Jonty Zydenbos hopes to study music at university. Photo: Supplied.

Music talent times four

A wealth of talent has seen four talented musicians share a top award.

The prestigious QEII Music Fund Award, set up in 1963 after a visit by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, recognises top talent in Marlborough.

Singer and cellist Libby McDonald, pianist and singer Iona Pānoho, violinist Samuel Lee and trumpeter Jonty Zydenbos are this year’s recipients.

Marlborough Mayor John Leggett says it was the first time so many worthy recipients had come forward in one year.

It revealed the depth of musical talent within Marlborough, he says.

“It’s also worth noting how willingly these top performers share their talents with the community.

“They’re all hardworking musicians who are great role models for younger kids and I expect we will see them all achieve higher qualifications as they further their musical careers.”

Set up with contributions from local bodies throughout the region at that time, today the Kaikōura and Marlborough District Councils administer the Award.

The grant assists recipients to continue their musical training.

Former Marlborough Girls’ College pupil Libby has Grade 6 Singing, with distinction, under her belt and has won a performance entrance scholarship to Otago University this year.

Fellow singer Iona has achieved Grade 8 Singing with distinction and teaches musical therapy to local school aged children. She intends to study a diploma in Singing.

Samuel has achieved Grade 8 Violin with distinction. He also plays the saxophone and intends to study classical performance at the University of Otago.

Jonty has achieved Grade 8 Trumpet with distinction. He also plays classical guitar and after completing year 13 at Marlborough Boys’ College, Jonty intends to embark on a music degree at university.