"You are the heart of OPS Vicki Knell" were the words on a large canvas with thumbprints of all the students inside a heart, to farewell the Omokoroa Point School principal after more than 22 years.

The much-loved principal had more than one farewell during her last week including a whole-school assembly, where tears were shed.

Vicki says she will miss the children most of all.

"This week I have been showered with love - lots of hugs and lots of tears. It has been humbling. We grow awesome children at Omokoroa - curious, caring and collaborative learners - I will miss them all very much."

Advertisement

Vicki will also miss an outstanding teaching team and an incredible support staff team at the school.

Staff paid tribute to Vicki on her last day at Omokoroa Point School.
Staff paid tribute to Vicki on her last day at Omokoroa Point School.

Coming from Matua to take on the role as teaching principal in 1998, and moving to the peninsula soon after, Vicki says Omokoroa has been an incredible part of her life for the last 22 and a half years.

"I am very proud of my small contribution to the 'Best little school in the Bay' and also to the community of Omokoroa."

Associate principal Dallas Townsend says Vicki's key attributes are her dedication to teaching, her compassion and determination to encourage everyone to achieve and be the best they can be.

Dallas has been a teacher at OPS for 17 years and says Vicki has always loved working with pupils of all ages.

"As a principal, she has been an excellent leader, who has inspired other staff members to grow with their confidence and take on leadership roles.

"I will miss Vicki's strength, her determination to get things done and always being involved in every aspect of school life, whether it's fundraising, sports events, kapahaka groups, school productions, school camps, PTA meetings, gardening, to mention just a few."

When informing fellow staff of her resignation Vicki says there were tears and a little bit of shock, but mostly people had said "good on you".

Advertisement

"They said they were sad for the school, but happy for me."

School office administrator Heather Allport has worked with Vicki for the past decade.

"This has been the hardest farewell I've experienced," she says.

"It has been an absolute pleasure working alongside Vicki and being part of OPS. She has poured her heart and soul into her job as principal for the past seven years and deputy principal previous to that.

"I've worked in several other locations and schools, but this school stands out for me."

Saying goodbye was also tough for Cushla Stephens who has been at the school for 21 years working in administration, library and IT.

Advertisement

"Vicki is a passionate, creative, caring, hardworking teacher and principal."

Among many fond memories Cushla says one springs to mind and that is of Vicki walking into her classroom and the children were busy making chocolates.

"The classroom had been turned into a chocolate-making factory. Children were in groups and each had a role, eg, engineer, marketing. They had to create a new flavour of chocolate and market it. The kids loved it."

Dallas too will remember Vicki's involvement and hands-on approach when taking part in every camp, "often attending four camps every year".

"Her expertise and knowledge of the outdoors were invaluable and every pupil loved having adventures with Mrs Knell."

Vicki, who started her years at Omokoroa as deputy principal teaching Year 5 and 6, work through the class levels, becoming principal in 2013.

Advertisement

Her main highlight has been the students.

In 2018 Principal Vicki Knell shares a moment with Georgie Farrell and her new school companion, assistance dog Lobo.
In 2018 Principal Vicki Knell shares a moment with Georgie Farrell and her new school companion, assistance dog Lobo.

"I've taught some amazing students who have gone on to do some pretty amazing things with their lives."

Teaching Year 7 and 8s was also a highlight, as well as being involved in community initiatives like the skatepath and the new sports pavilion at Western Ave which is well under way.

"Another highlight has been working with some pretty amazing teachers, teacher aides and board of trustee members."

She has also enjoyed working alongside the other schools in their area.

Vicki has seen many changes at the school over the past 22 years.
"The obvious change has been the size of the school, as well as just the growth of Omokoroa itself."

Advertisement

When Vicki arrived, OPS had a roll of 120 students, which rose to 135 by the end of that year. Last year the roll was 272 and it climbed to 309 by the end of the year. This year the roll started at 280 and is already over 300.

The Ministry of Education and the local council and community have spent hundreds of thousands resurfacing the school's courts, building the covered outdoor theatre structure, and relining the swimming pool. Perhaps the highlight for Vicki was the new senior teaching block.

Vicki Knell with students at the site of their new classroom block in May last year..
Vicki Knell with students at the site of their new classroom block in May last year..

She says there had also been incredible support from PTAs over the years.

Vicki leaves the 'Best little school in the Bay' in good stead after a succession of progress. She says the view from the principal's office is one of the best in NZ.

"I will miss those amazing sunsets over the Kaimai Ranges."

She plans to take a complete break before having some adventures of her own: tramping, skiing and boating.

Advertisement

Vicki will take many precious memories with her, although she found it hard to single out one.

"I have very fond memories of all the camps I have taken, especially bivouacking overnight with children who had never slept out in the bush overnight before."

Heather says Vicki has a huge bucket list planned.

"Her life sounds like it's going to be filled doing things she loves; the outdoors being her biggest love."

New principal Sandra Portegys takes up her role at OPS at the start of Term 3.