Wairoa College's first female principal Jo Vennell says her new role and its goals are wide-ranging. She chats to Mark Story.

What's the best thing about working in Wairoa?
The opportunity to experience the wonderful outdoors. Surfing, diving, fishing, hunting and tramping are all so close to the township. I would recommend anyone looking for a new place to live and work to come to Wairoa. As a family we are enjoying our surrounds and making the most of our environment.

What have you learnt about the town and its people?
I believe this town is buzzing. This is a place where there are opportunities for families to come and really enjoy what this community has to offer.

Name the college's primary strengths.
The relationships between staff and students. Our staff really cares about the students and developing them as life-long learners. The whanau and house system creates a sense of belonging for students and the opportunity to participate in house events. The seniors are able to develop their leadership skills and mentoring in whanau class and house events.

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What surprised you the most in the move from Napier Girls' to Wairoa College?
I was not really surprised, but the community support has been overwhelming. This community really cares about the young people of Wairoa. There are many forward-thinking programmes in place to support students and their families.
The time and effort that is put in by staff and parents to ensure students are able to participate in sport outside Wairoa is fantastic. A lot of support is in place to ensure students can get to games. The students enjoy going elsewhere to play sport even if it means a two-hour drive every week to get there and then again back home. We have many codes played by students which means there is something for everyone.
We have a breakfast club in place which is well used as some students are up very early in order to travel in each day to school. These students have the added pressure of just getting to school and during winter may not even be able to get into school some days.

What are your top three priorities in your first year as principal?
Improve academic achievement, engagement and the wellbeing of the students of Wairoa College. My goal is to inspire students to be the best they can be in all areas of school and life. We will be monitoring students' progress closely to ensure they reach their personal excellence. Personal excellence is our theme for the year.
"The consequences of today are determined by the actions of the past. To change your future, alter your decisions today" - unknown source.
It is about making good choices and each student taking ownership of their learning. My student leader group are enthusiastic and ready to lead the school this year with new initiatives. They will focus on academic, sport, community and culture.