Elizabeth Ann Forgie
Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to education
On Queen's Birthday Weekend in 1993 Elizabeth Forgie was made principal of Kerikeri High School.
Today, on Queen's Birthday Weekend 29 years later, Forgie — who still heads the biggest school in Northland — has been made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to education.
"It's wonderful recognition, I'm thrilled to bits."
She had accepted the "out of the blue" honour on behalf of many, as expressed in the whakataukī (proverb) Ehara taku toa i te toa takitahi, ēngari he toa takitini (My success is not my own, but the success of us all).
In particular she was grateful for the unwavering support of her wider family, especially her late husband Alan Forgie — a former principal of Ōkaihau College — and the late Te Puawaitanga "Blossom" Silich, Kerikeri High's kuia and a long-time friend and colleague.
"They were the pou standing on either side of me," Forgie said.
The school's partnership with local hapū Ngāti Rēhia had made the school "proudly bicultural" and helped build connections to people and place.
Forgie also acknowledged associate principal Mike Clent, whose support and ability to lead the school had allowed her to contribute to the Secondary Principals Association of New Zealand (SPANZ).
She had served on the organisation's executive since 1994 and had been a conference convenor for many years.
In her almost three decades as principal Forgie said she was most proud of Te Kotahitanga (a professional development programme helping teachers lift Māori achievement) because it had "changed the stars for our Māori students".
By improving NCEA results across the board it had proved what was good for Māori was good for all, she said.
Forgie's citation stated that she had built strong relationships with Ngāti Rēhia and overseen a more than doubling of the school roll.
Since the introduction of Te Kotahitanga in 2004, Māori NCEA achievement had jumped from 28.6 per cent to 87.5 per cent in 2020.
She had led several multi-million-dollar building projects to expand the school, pioneered the Kerikeri High School Sailing Academy, and established an international department that took almost a third of all overseas students coming to Northland.
Previous awards include the Woolf Fisher Fellowship (twice) and the inaugural Prime Minister's Education Excellence Award for Teaching and Learning.
Forgie said she was now seeing children of children who started school when she was first made principal.
"I can put my hand on my heart and promise them the school is much better than the one they went to, especially for Māori students."