New face in sharp shoes

Last updated 12:00 21/11/2012

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Milson School is trading up for a younger model.

Replacing Barry Eccles is Vanessa Pitt - who is already making waves among pupils with her choice of footwear.

She cannot really fill Eccles' shoes, Pitt quips.

On her last day at Ruahine School, near Dannevirke, where she had been principal since 2006, the children put on a "Mrs Pitt appreciation day" to farewell her.

"They just had to do anything they thought was ‘me,' and most of the girls at the school turned up in high heels."

The new principal, who has a self-confessed soft spot for shoes, has drawn breathless admiration among the feminine population of her new school too.

"They were just fascinated, and I get them come up and check what I'm wearing."

When word got out Eccles was retiring she jumped at the chance to take her high heels to Palmerston North.

"I wanted a new challenge and was pretty picky about where I wanted to go and Milson just had such a great reputation, so I knew I was inheriting a really great school and a really good community too."

Just over three weeks into the job, she has already got the measure of the pint-sized population of her new stomping grounds.

"The thing that has really stood out to me is how friendly and open the kids are.

"They are really affectionate, they are friendly and outgoing."

In her new role, Pitt is keen to raise the school's profile in Palmerston North.

"One of the things that Barry has been guilty of is not probably blowing his own trumpet. I think that Barry has done some really amazing things and he is probably not known for it, and there are the qualities of the school that we perhaps need to make known either to attract new families or to just have a higher profile."

In the meantime she has to learn about 340 pupils' names - but she has chosen not to take advantage of Milson's first name basis allowance yet.

"I'm a Mrs Pitt. I have been at a school where I was ‘Vanessa' and I prefer Mrs Pitt. It's probably a personal preference. I didn't find any difference to say that first name means any less respect - it's just a comfort-level thing."

The problem is that for the smaller pupils, it hasn't quite caught on, she laughs. "They call me Mrs Pip - but they haven't called me Mr Eccles, yet."

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