Purerua Peninsula resident Donald Chandler was frustrated that local parents bypassed the Peninsula's Primary School and took their children to schools in Kerikeri.
The small country school, established in 1906, was last year on the verge of closing, its roll having only eight children on it. The school was in the hands of a Government appointed Commissioner. The successful American computer engineer decided to do something about it. Mr Chandler, who created the precursor to the QR Code, called together fellow residents of the peninsula requesting their support to bring the school back to life.
The school began 2013 with a new name: The "Bay Of Islands International Academy (Te Whare Matauranga o Te Tii)." Explaining the use of the word international, Mr Chandler says he hopes that some time in the future, the school will attract foreign students whose parents want them educated in New Zealand. But for now, the roll of 32, four times more than it was at the beginning of the year, comprises children from the Peninsula and from wider Kerikeri.
The school has retained its status as a state school, and for children of parents with New Zealand citizenship or residency, attendance is free.
This was the result of a case put to the Ministry of Education by Mr Chandler and his supporters. The school has adopted the International Baccalaureate approach to education. "IB" as it is called, is a widely recognised standard, popular with parents working in countries other than their own and wanting their children educated to an internationally recognised standard.
Mr Chandler and his board set about finding a suitable principal. About three months ago, Aucklander Sean McDermott arrived from the highly acclaimed Auckland private school, Kristin.
Mr McDermott, who has taught both in New Zealand and overseas, said that Te Tii principalship was his dream job. After years of apartment-living, he wanted to provide his own family with a clean and pleasant environment.
He said there is a lot of work to be done at the school physically.
Given that the school had run down almost to the point of closure, there are lots of jobs that need doing in and around the grounds. Voluntary help from the community is beginning to emerge, but he says he will subtly seek more.
Mr McDermott says the approach to some of the learning is "inquiry based". This means that typically, children are set a topic or issue and are then tasked to find out everything they can about it, process the information, decide on levels of relevance for the various facts they uncover, and then write a meaningful report.
He said observance of Maori culture has been retained, and is mixed with flavours of various other cultures. The school makes Skype video calls to classrooms in other countries. But each day's tuition begins with a Karakia, as has been the practice at the school since 1906.
Peninsula resident Vanessa Owen has a child at the school. She said that she and her husband put their waterfront property on the market for a month earlier this year. "We decided to stay put," Vanessa says. "But of the four couples that were interested, two of them, both from overseas, had schooling at the top of their priority list."
Don Chalmers commented that a really good school such as the one he and his supporters are now creating, could have "real estate benefits" as people from around the world search out where they want to live and where and how they want their children educated.
For photos and videos of the Bay Of Islands International Academy's visit to Mountain Landing to release brown teal ducks (pateke) check out this week's e-edition.
- © Fairfax NZ News