Acting and gang prevention on CV of new Taita College, Lower Hutt, principal Karen Morgan
New Taita College principal Karen Morgan has a CV that includes acting on Shortland Street and working as a gang prevention officer in America.
The 45 year old is also the first female principal of Taita College in Lower Hutt. The school opened in 1957.
Being the first, she said, was special and she hoped it would inspire students to see they can achieve anything if they believe in themselves.
Taita is a decile two school with a roll of 460 students.
In appointing Morgan the school had set a vision for her to make Taita the first choice school for those living in Taita and nearby Stokes Valley.
That will be a challenge in an area that has seen "white flight" reduce the rolls of a number of the contributing schools.
The roll is about 40 per cent Maori and 35 per cent Pasifika.
A strong believer in state schools, Morgan was the head girl at Opunake in Taranaki where teachers encouraged her to try teaching.
Her subsequent jobs included assistant principal at Otaki College, being a dean at Avondale College and teaching at Freyberg High School.
Before joining Taita, she was deputy principal at Wellington Girls' College. A Lower Hutt resident she has always had her eye on Taita College.
Its strong community and multi-cultural mix appealed and she saw her job as an opportunity to make a real difference.
"My vision is to make Taita College the school of choice, where our curriculum meets the needs of all students and encourages both achievement and success on all levels."
One of her first tasks will be to talk to the contributing schools.
"I will say to them, 'how can we all work together with everyone in the community'."
For a school like Taita to succeed it had to have community support.
So how does she feel about being the first female principal?
"I think that it is fantastic, absolutely brilliant. It is such an honour to be the principal but to be the first woman is very special. I just hope I can be a role model for boys and for girls, to show them I can do the job."
Morgan has a strong interest in drama and sees it as a good way of raising social awareness.
As well as Shortland Street, where she had small roles as a reporter, lawyer and mother, she appeared on Xena: Warrior Princess.
Board of Trustees chairman Gil McKenna said the board consulted widely with staff and the community on the future of the school.
That resulted in the "vision" of making Taita the first choice school for everyone in the community.
He believed Morgan would take the school to a new level. The loss of Housing New Zealand properties had reduced the roll by 100 and lifting the roll would be a priority for her, he said.
She replaced John Murdoch who had moved to Mana College.