Principal learns a lesson in being made welcome

By Lin Ferguson

When he was acting principal at Upokongaro School for three days a week, Warren Brown always hoped that one day he would walk through the gates as principal.

A week ago he did.

And what a happy day that was, he says.

"It's so me, this school. I love this place. The kids are great and the community is fantastic. I'm very happy."

As a rural school specialist, Mr Brown loves the small class sizes and teaching small fry through to the older students.

Since being announced as principal, he said, he has been overcome by the welcome from the Upokongaro community.

"They have welcomed me with open arms. They can't do enough for me. It's just been wonderful" - especially as he believes that one of the essentials for heading a rural school is to be totally connected to its community.

"You need to really work on that connection to the local people. It is what's most important."

His roll at present is 24 but with the huge support he gets from the community it feels more like a school of hundreds, he says with a laugh.

"They just come in and do amazing things for the school.

Last Friday night the community put down a hangi for 400 people for the school's twilight gala.

"It all started when I said we should have a bonfire because we had pile of old dry wood from trees that had been trimmed around the place.

"Suddenly the sign was up at the gate, the hangi was planned, stalls were organised, and activities from old movies to arts and crafts were happening ... and the whole of Wanganui had been invited."

This is a happening place, I tell you," he said.

"And I'm very proud to be principal."


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