School honours its favourite star

By Jacqueline Smith

New Zealand singer and performer Tina Cross is happy that the school she says helped her launch her career has named a new music studio after her.

She says Penrose High School, which will re-open as One Tree Hill College next Friday, is hardly recognisable as the school she knew as a teenager.

Cross, who made her television debut while a pupil of the school in the late 1970s and will star in the stage show Cats in June, said she was pleased to see it still placed an emphasis on the performing arts.

She grew up in Otara but was sent to Penrose because of the school's musical reputation.

It was through singing in school bands that she gained the courage to embark on a professional career.

The Government has pledged more than $15 million towards the refurbishment and rebuilding of the college, which now has new administration, technology and performing arts buildings, as well as a new gymnasium and marae.

"It's a very different school to the one I went to in the early 70s," Cross said. "I will always consider I went to Penrose High."

The facelift is helping the school to attract students from its immediate catchment zones of One Tree Hill, Greenlane and Ellerslie.

When principal Iva Ropati started at the college seven years ago, it was not the first choice of secondary school for parents in the area around it.

Most of the students were from East or South Auckland, and a high proportion of local children went to grammar or private schools.

Ellerslie Primary School, which is within several hundred metres of the college, is a decile 7 school, but One Tree Hill College is a decile 3.

Mr Ropati says that he, the board of trustees and the students have worked hard to rebuild and rebrand the school to place it more in line with the expectations of its community.

Its NCEA success rates have risen and achievement is now equal to other schools.

It has attracted 100 new students in the past year, many from local suburbs, and a report from the Education Review Office, due next month, is expected to praise the school for an "inspirational transformation", Mr Ropati says.

Tina Cross will sing at the revamped college next Friday, when Prime Minister John Key will officially reopen the school, which will later hold a cocktail evening to celebrate its impressive art collection.

- NZ Herald

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