After 24 years as principal of Kaitao Middle School, Rory O'Rourke will miss the students the most when he retires at the end of this term.

He has been in education for 45 years and worked at seven schools.

His first education job was at Oakura School just out of New Plymouth. He chose it because it was a beach school and he surfed a lot.

But the school he has been at the longest is Kaitao Middle School, where he took up the top job in 1992.


"I've stayed here because I love this school and community, and I love intermediate kids."

Mr O'Rourke said he believed intermediate school was good for developing children in a lot of areas, not just academically, and at Kaitao Middle School they had leadership, cultural, arts and sporting programmes.

Standout moments for him at the school included writing and producing a school production every year, and the school moving to an academy-structured programme in 2007.

This programme provided a structure catering to children's learning styles and students were able to select an academy, he said.

These academies include the Accelerate Academy, Discovery Academy, Expressive Academy, Te Puna Reo, Wero Matauranga and Adventure Academy.

But now it's time to step aside and retire.

"It was a hard decision to make but it comes to us all eventually. I'm 67 years old so it's now time to move on."

He said he had seven grandchildren who would be taking up his time, and he was looking forward to watching them grow and develop into "fine young citizens".

Mr O'Rourke also hoped to get a part-time job because he felt he still had a lot to offer, as well as doing a bit of travel and speaking at conferences.

He would stay in Rotorua.

In the time he had been in charge the school's Maori population had gone from 45 per cent to 79 per cent.

The use of technology had also been a big change. In 2000 Kaitao Middle School was a lead school for Rotorua in ICT, he said.

Mr O'Rourke said they had the responsibility of training 24 local schools' staff in upskilling for ICT, but that eventually had to stop because of lack of funding.

The school started "bring your own devices" in 2010 and provided a way for parents to pay for tablets cheaply, he said.

There had also been many physical changes and facility upgrades.

These included a new admin, new library, astro turf and cover, new adventure playground, new hall and new classrooms which would be completed in December.