A Northland kura with a predominantly Māori roll has for the first time in its 115-year history appointed a wāhine Māori principal.
This week, Mangakahia Area School students and whānau officially welcomed their new principal Maria Dunn (Ngāti Kahungunu ki Wairoa) in a stirring pōwhiri, heralding a new direction for the kura.
"It is a privilege to have been selected to serve the Mangakahia community," Dunn said.
"Each time I have returned to the kura it has felt right - the whenua, identity and the tauira - I want to bring back the heart and soul…the matauranga Māori is missing and I want to bring that back."
The school with 85 tamariki has been governed by a commissioner since 2019, Vivien Knowles, Commissioner Mangakahia Area School, said.
Knowles said Dunn's appointment was an exciting step towards the school coming out of statutory management.
''This is a critical step in the process of the path towards self-governance and an exciting time for the school,'' she said.
Dunn comes straight from the role of deputy principal at Kamo High School and brings with her a strong educational and leadership background, Knowles said.
Before that, she was deputy principal at Hamilton Girls' High School where she helped oversee the school of 1700 students and led many key initiatives to raise student achievement, and even earlier was assistant principal at Fairfield College.
Dunn's work life has seen her qualify as a nurse and serve the country in the New Zealand Airforce and there's no sign of slowing down as she is currently completing a PhD.
Knowles worked closely with an appointment panel to ensure community input was prioritised.
She was excited about the new direction the kura will take under Dunn's incoming leadership.
"Maria brings extensive knowledge, commitment, passion and innovation to her leadership - with a particular focus on successful outcomes for Māori learners - we are very pleased that she will lead the kura and community on this journey of change.
"We see her appointment as a critical step in the rebuilding of our kura into a vibrant centre of learning, providing pathways to empower all students to experience successful life outcomes. The powhiri showed the wide support Maria will have in her role,'' she said.