More than two decades after leaving hometown Whangārei to pursue her tertiary education, Natasha Hemara is returning to her turangawaewae as head of perhaps the most troubled school in Northland.
In July, she takes charge of Kamo High School as its third principal since 2015 and is confident of turning its fortunes around with the skills and capabilities she's acquired as an educator in Auckland and Waikato over the years.
Her appointment was announced by the school commissioner Tunney McFadyen in a newsletter to parents on Thursday.
Hemara - currently principal of Rototuna Senior High School in Hamilton - replaces Jo Hutt, who resigned in April to pursue other career options.
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Educated at Whangārei Girls High School, Hemara is of Ngāti Hau (Kamo/Whakapara) and Te Mahurehure (Hokianga/Waima) descent.
Her parents hail from Hikurangi and she's the only member of her close family who has never had an opportunity to work in Northland. She left the region to study Māori and physical education at Otago University in 1996.
"It's about giving back to the community I have connection with. I am known to achieve outcomes for students and what's best for them to make that leap in life, whether it's going to university, trade, or going to a job.
"For me coming to Kamo, knowing it has had difficult challenges but I know I have the skills and capabilities to ensure positive outcomes and to grow staff. All teachers want to be amazing and it's about putting in place structures and support to enable that to happen."
Hemara said listening was a vital component of developing healthy relationships with staff, students, and parents.
After graduating from the University of Otago, she left for London where she worked as a teacher for two years. Returning to New Zealand, she has had stints at Orewa College, St Mary's College in Ponsonby, the University of Auckland, Lynfield College, and now as the foundation principal at Rototuna Senior High School.
Commissioner McFadyen is working towards appointing a new board of trustees by the middle of term 3 before he concludes his work as commissioner.
The board of trustees resigned en masse over differences with Hutt, before the Ministry of Education appointed McFadyen as commissioner in October last year.
He said he would normally run governance and training to identify suitable persons to act as trustees but that could not happen due to Covid-19 restrictions.
The school has had issues around leadership, management and falling student numbers in past years.
McFadyen said the appointment committee had a strong field of shortlisted applicants with extensive experience, talent and expertise to choose from.
He said Hemara understood contemporary curricula and that her work was at the cutting edge of developments in teaching and learning.
Allister Gilbert will continue as acting principal at Kamo High School until Hemara takes over.