"It's been an absolute privilege," says departing Tauhara College principal Keith Buntting of his first role as school principal.
Mr Buntting handed in his notice last week to take up a management role at Waikato University in the new year.
"It will be a step up. It's a stretch-position to capture new opportunities," he says.
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Mr Buntting says he feels a deep sense of honour to have led the college for the past four and a half years.
"This has been an amazing school to be a part of, and a school is a reflection of its community."
Tauhara College board of trustees chairperson Julie Yeoman says the University of Waikato is fortunate to gain Mr Buntting.
"What is our loss is their gain. I am sure he will take his leadership qualities and add value to the university. He is so well respected within our school, I can see him gaining that respect in this new position."
Mr Buntting says he has been incredibly fortunate to have worked with a great staff and a courageous and proactive board.
"Whatever happens, Tauhara College is well placed for the future.".
Formerly, as deputy principal at Morrinsville College, he was inspired by previous Tauhara College principal Peter Gould when he spoke about the school's deep sense of Whānau Waiora (spiritual well being). A keen proponent of relationship pedagogy Kia Eke Panuku, Mr Buntting says that a core part of Tauhara College is the student wellbeing, student identity and personalised learning.
"I knew this was a school that worked hard in this area."
Speaking of the whānau waiora, board chair Julie says that throughout his time at Tauhara College, Mr Buntting has "nurtured it, honoured it, and treasured it".
Arriving at Tauhara College, Mr Buntting says he had a lot of learning to do around finance and property. His years there have been busy and he says the current overall financial position of the school is positive.
As for school property, one year into the role it became obvious to him that the entire school needed pulling down and rebuilding. A hallmark of his tenure was preparing the rebuilding application to the Ministry of Education, a three-and-a-half year project. The Ministry will make a decision before Christmas.
Julie says last week's announcement from Education Minister Chris Hipkins of extra funding for school property improvements is extremely well-timed for the college, with a possible $400,000 capital investment being made available.
Mr Buntting says he hopes the ultimate decision is a full school rebuild.
"To align the aggressive, innovative teaching with a reflective physical environment."
In the big picture of Taupō education, Mr Buntting says the district is lucky in having principals who are willing to work together to deal with future challenges and create opportunities.
Mr Buntting says his wife Cathy and children Carrie, Jayden and Matthew have loved their time in Taupō and being part of such a great community.
"What a wonderful place to live for this chapter of our lives. We have really appreciated getting to know all the people who have been a part of our journey here and it is one of the many things that we will greatly miss."
His new job will be to focus on student wellbeing and retention by ensuring the success of existing teams within the university. He is hopeful the role will include working with the students as something he really enjoyed working with the student voice for change.
"It's a step up for me. I will apply my rich experiences from Tauhara College and apply them in a different context at the university."