Date: 05 November 2019
Tena koutou katoa
Malo e lelei
Fakaalofa lahi atu
Every year brings changes, new learnings and approaches, as we strive to do the best for the students of Onehunga High School. Of course, we are also involved with national education changes, and are excited at the opportunities through:
Last year, we made a change in the awarding of our most prestigious academic awards. Instead of naming the Dux Litterarum and Proxime Accessit at the Senior Awards ceremony, we acknowledged students whose achievement to date made them the top potential candidates for these awards, and then awarded these once results were confirmed, at our Scholarship Assembly this year. Despite the delay, students wholeheartedly supported this move, because it ensures fairness. For the same reason, we will not be announcing the top scholars for Year 11 or 12 at today’s ceremony. We will announce these at next year’s Scholarship Assembly, together with our Dux and Proxime Accessit. Today we will acknowledge students for their confirmed outstanding successes.
2019 has seen the master plans for Stage One of our rebuild confirmed. We are enjoying progressing this with our architects Ignite, project managers BECA, and the Ministry of Education, and invite you to follow the redevelopment project on the OHS website https://my.ohs.school.nz/ohs-redevelopment-project/. Over the summer break, we are moving the prefabs on the hill that currently house English classes, to the back of the astro turf. Next year, construction on our new gym and our new block housing Art, Food and Hospitality, Science and Technology, will begin.
This year, the school has become mature – we are 60 years old (a wonderful age!) We celebrated earlier this year, with hundreds of former students, staff and parents attending. It was an opportunity to reflect on some of the changes that have occurred over the decades, with many people who were students in the early years of the school, returning for this jubilee. The maturity and skill demonstrated by current students was the most common comment, together with the breadth of opportunity students now have. Everyone enjoyed the kapa haka, dance and music performances, as well as 2000 canapés prepared by our Food and Hospitality students.
It would be inappropriate to talk about this year without pausing to reflect on the tragedy of March 15. I want to acknowledge our community for responding in the best ways possible; by embracing inclusivity, and appreciation and understanding of diversity.
Students whose Polyfest experiences were challenged by delays and cancellations as a result of this tragedy, understood this. Congratulations to everyone involved in Polyfest this year. Our Kapa Haka, Cook Islands, K-Pop, Niuean, Samoan and Tongan groups all performed. Because of the cancellation of the last day of Polyfest, only the Kapa Haka group had finals. They achieved at an unprecedented level, winning five awards. We entered students in more speech competitions than ever before, and for the first time, an Onehunga High student won the Samoan competition. Congratulations to Devontay Tema.
Other highlights include:
Again, the breadth of gifts and talent and involvement of our students, current and former, is evident. Our students continue to motivate and inspire. Thank you, to all of you for supporting students to experience these opportunities, and to shine in so many ways. Whether your support is through parenting, caring, teaching, coaching, mentoring, providing work opportunities, and/or scholarships.
I’d especially like to acknowledge those people who support or provide awards and scholarships. These make a difference. Awards and scholarships often make the difference. There has been ongoing public debate about first year fees free tertiary study or training, because the numbers don’t necessarily make a compelling argument. Now, as a Maths teacher, I know that numbers are important, but they are only part of the story. With fees free opportunities, it means that the major barrier of being able to go on to tertiary study or training, is removed, or at the very least, significantly reduced. For some students, it means that they can actually consider tertiary studies. If the first year wasn’t free, these students would not even get on the starting blocks, and their voices are not loud; others do not necessarily know when - or if - this is their situation. This not only impacts on a personal level, it continues to increase inequity and lessen diversity across our communities and across New Zealand. Which makes us all the poorer, in every way. Next time you find yourself hearing someone debating the fees free policy, and making what appears to be a logical numerical argument, I urge you to personalize it; think about some stunning young people who might not be able to pursue tertiary study, if this barrier to getting on the ladder was returned. The young people you are thinking about, matter. He aha te mea nui o te ao? He tāngata, he tāngata, he tāngata. What is the most important thing in the world? It is people.
Indeed, it is people. This year, we have the unique occasion of five long serving and senior staff members choosing to retire. All at once! Each of these amazing people has contributed so much to Onehunga High School:
Together, 112 years of outstanding service to our students, our school and our wider community.
And as always, thank you to our students for your wonderful contribution. Work hard and continue to develop your gifts and talents; in the short term, make the most of the external exam period to achieve as well as you are able; then know that you move to next steps with huge support around you.
Students I acknowledge, in particular, are all of our Year 13 students. Of the many reasons we afford you accolades, is the way you are leaving. A former principal used to say that you can tell a lot about a person by the way they leave. You have demonstrated your loyalty and courage, by leaving Onehunga High School with your heads high. A very personal and sincere thank you. You are leaders; you have mana. We will plant beautiful roses in our garden, in acknowledgement of you, Year 13 students of 2019. The roses are “Top Shelf” and “Iceberg” – and are respectively red and white, and of course they have green leaves. Just to add a little something extra, this year we also have an apricot coloured rose to complement the other two, and to reflect the individuality of the 2019 cohort. Please come back and check your roses in future! It is a privilege to acknowledge you all and to wish you joy and fulfillment in your lives ahead.
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