Schools mediator 'understands the anger'

NEW CHALLENGES: Christchurch Boys' High School principal Trevor McIntyre.
NEW CHALLENGES: Christchurch Boys' High School principal Trevor McIntyre.

Christchurch Boys' High School headmaster Trevor McIntyre tells reporter Tina Law he is not afraid to do some "pushing and shoving" to ensure schools' voices are heard in the city's controversial education overhaul.

Trevor McIntyre is about to take on the unenviable task of mediating between angry schools and an Education Ministry proposing to close them.

Helping two sides find middle ground is something McIntyre says he is good at.

He believes he can make a difference in his new role to help schools and the ministry to reach a successful outcome.

On November 30, McIntyre's nine years of leading Boys' High will end and, just two days later, he will begin a 12-month contract as executive adviser to the ministry's Greater Christchurch Education Renewal Programme.

The way the Government announced proposals to close and merge 39 Christchurch schools, and how it has acted since, has drawn a lot of anger from schools.

McIntyre, 60, understands that anger and said he would be angry too if his school was one slated to close or merge.

He said both sides must work together to find a compromise.

If schools remained angry and were unwilling to engage in the process, the proposals would probably happen.

"Successful outcomes never eventuate by both people holding the line. The solution is in the middle. Both parties have got to shift."

He said part of his new role would be to sit alongside ministry staff to make sure they seriously considered the schools' counter-proposals.

When asked if he thought he would be listened to, McIntyre said: "I like to think I can push and shove."

He would be surprised if all the existing proposals went through.

He was excited about his new job, but he would miss his job at Boys' High.

Sitting in the wood-panelled office yesterday, McIntyre said: "Being headmaster here is fun. We've got great kids, great staff. We have great community support and great history."

He is affectionately known to his students as T Mac, and they often talk to him as he walks around the school.

"I would never have spoken to my headmaster, not in a million Sundays. That ease to communicate with adults is a strength of this generation," he said.

Seeing young men excel academically, in sport and in music has been a highlight for McIntyre. It saddened him that they often got a bad rap.

"Ninety-five per cent of the young men here are way better than I ever was. They are more worldly, more literate and more numerate."

One frustration of his time at the school was failing "to get to" some of the boys who were struggling, but he was proud of being able to turn around 19 out of the 20 boys who had been excluded from other schools.

McIntyre might be sad to leave but he saw the move as an opportunity to positively influence a greater number of students.

When he started teaching in 1977, after graduating with a degree in agricultural science from Lincoln University and a teaching diploma from the College of Education in Christchurch, he wanted to make a difference in the classroom and now had the chance to make a difference to a wider group of pupils.

His first teaching job was at Waimate High School but, after three years, he left teaching and returned to the family business of farming. He was a shepherd then became a sheep and deer farmer after buying on the northern side of the Hokonui Hills in Southland.

When the removal of government subsidies led to many farmers struggling, McIntyre took a government support package encouraging young farmers to get out of the industry, and returned to teaching.

After his 10 years away from education, McIntyre went back to Waimate High for a couple of terms and got a job at Wakatipu High before returning to Waimate High as deputy principal. After five years, he moved to Timaru Boys' High as deputy principal.

McIntyre was following his career plan and the next step was to become a principal of a small school before moving to a big school close to the end of his career.

But he missed that second-to-last step. He was unsuccessful in applying for principal jobs in Temuka, Geraldine and Cromwell and did not consider applying for the Christchurch Boys' High job until his boss at Timaru Boys' High urged him to.

After a gruelling interview process, he was appointed and became the first headmaster at Boys' High to have never held a principal's job before.

He was also the first that could shear a sheep.

"I still remember the day I was told. I was stunned."

The Press