Dilapidated buildings will soon be a thing of the past at Northland College.
New principal Jim Luders says the Ministry of Education is set to invest $6 million into the school and students can expect a fresh look within two years.
He says the existing administration block looks good but work on the rest of the campus is long overdue.
"I find it repugnant when we have a flash facility for us and the kids are in Soweto - it's morally wrong.
"The property is the worst I've ever seen in any school in New Zealand by a long shot. It's abysmal and I'm amazed the staff have kept working in these conditions.
"The buildings haven't been maintained properly in a long time and they've just fallen to bits."
Mr Luders was hired after the ministry disbanded the previous board of trustees and appointed a commissioner in a bid to address a raft of problems.
He's already met with ministry officials in Wellington and emphasised the need for financial support.
Now the community is starting to see signs of change.
The school's abandoned "B Block" has second storey windows smashed and will be demolished later this year.
The gym and the library will get a new roof and paint job and the technology block might also be up for similar treatment.
There are also plans to install a BMX track.
Mr Luders is now in his second term.
He spent the first looking at student behaviour and teaching practices and learning outcomes now is a focus in an environment where a 60 per cent truancy rate is not uncommon. It was a tough time for everyone and there were 40 stand downs, five suspensions and four exclusions.
But this term is much better, he says, with incidents of fighting and drug use down.
Mr Luders is also looking at greater community support.
Northland College is 98 per cent Maori and he says leaders need to have direct input into the way it functions.
"The kaumatua are absolutely crucial," he says.
"I want them to say what direction they want the school to go in and how they see it happening.
"There's talk that they want to come in and get involved - and the kids here need it; they need that connection to their elders, they really do. It's missing in a big way."
Barney Rakatau, year 13, says the school on the right track.
"Everyone's become happier," he says.
"Northland College's reputation had just gone down among other schools who thought we're no good.
"But now they're realising that we're a decent school with actual people inside it," he says.
- © Fairfax NZ News