Principal to set school on new path

JODY O'CALLAGHAN
Last updated 05:00 10/02/2014

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Pauline Duthie is definitely the "new girl" at Christchurch Girls' High School.

In her opening speech to the school's 1044 pupils, the incoming principal spoke about the difficulties of being a newcomer at any age.

" If all the new girls are made to feel as welcome as I have been made to feel, then that is a massive compliment to the school," she said.

Christchurch felt like home and becoming the school's leader was the "fulfilment of my personal dream".

Duthie, 50, was born in Invercargill, educated in Christchurch and Ashburton, and studied for a bachelor of arts and masters in English at the University of Canterbury.

After completing teachers' college about 30 years ago, she began teaching at Burnside High. It was a great school to "learn my craft", Duthie said.

One of her pupils told her that her father used to flat with Duthie at university. She also went through high school and university with two of the school's teachers.

"I have that history here [at Christchurch Girls' High]."

Duthie was previously principal at 300-pupil Iona College, which had 60 per cent boarders and a similar sense of tradition to Christchurch Girls' High.

With Duthie came a "very proactive principal", and in the next five years the school would see a new vision to "embrace excellence through tradition and innovation" initiated.

She was aware of the school's 137-year history but also "conscious that we're not educating young women for my past, but for their future".

Duthie was keen to seen the earthquake-damaged school fixed. About 15 per cent of its buildings were still a "no-go zone".

"It is sad that a whole cycle of girls will go through the school not knowing an undamaged school."

Going through a school that had no auditorium, locker bays in containers, prefabs on playing fields, the orchestra having to practise in the staffroom, and holes in the walls was "so wrong", Duthie said. "It's just not conducive really to learning.

"I think from a distance, while you read about that, it's actually being here that makes you realise how difficult it is and just how resilient the staff and students at schools in Christchurch have had to be."

Looking at the constantly degrading auditorium that backed on to Hagley Park and acted as the face of the school, she shook her head.

"How long have you been looking at that? It's shameful."

In its 10-year plan, the Ministry of Education indicated a 2018 start date to carry out $20 million to $30m redevelopment plans.

Duthie was hoping for a go-ahead to make a start on the auditorium "very soon".

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"I feel a terrible obligation, and great honour and privilege to be asked to lead that and to get it right for them. For the school to see some progress will be really great for our school spirit."

She planned a "refreshing" new start for the school after its difficult past.

Former principal Prue Taylor was dismissed by its previous school board citing "issues and tensions", then reinstated after the Employment Relations Authority found the sacking was unjustified. After being principal for nearly 13 years, she then resigned last April.

"We're starting a new chapter and we're moving forward. I acknowledge it, but we're here to move forward. I think the staff and students are really excited about that," Duthie said.

- The Press

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