Our new Principal is Karen Stewart
It is with great pleasure that the Advisory Group and I announce the appointment of Ms Karen Stewart as Principal for Rangiora High School. Ms Stewart was welcomed to our school in the first week of Term 3.
Until she joined us, Ms Stewart was co-lead Principal for the first Kahui Ako Community of Learning (COL) in the country with 6,500 students, consisting of 21 schools and six kindergartens in Marlborough. Ms Stewart is also Principal of Marlborough Girls’ College where she is released for three days a week to lead the Community of Learning. She has been Principal of Marlborough Girls’ College since 2006, having worked her way up through Assistant Principal and Deputy Principal roles at the school.
During the appointment process we were impressed by Ms Stewart’s extensive educational and leadership experience, her results in raising achievement, embracing educational innovation, her ability to build and maintain strong links with the community, and her absolute focus on students. We are very confident she will make a significant contribution to our students, to the school and the wider Rangiora community.
Ms Stewart has been involved in National Curriculum Design teams for the Ministry of Education (MOE), MOE Reference Groups for the Review of Curriculum and most recently the MOE Community of Learning Reference Group. Her professional learning has included sabbaticals on transition to tertiary learning environments and secondary-tertiary partnerships, and future directions for eLearning. Ms Stewart currently serves as a Council Member for the Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology.
The experienced recruitment agent from Sheffield conducted thorough and independent referee checks and then members of the Advisory Group visited each of the candidates’ schools. At the end of the process, it was unanimous that Ms Stewart was the right person for the role. Advisory Group members found her very warm, welcoming and personable. One of our students on the Advisory Group summed up Ms Stewart’s application by saying “This person has everything we asked for and more”.
Each referee had to rate the candidate on a large number of key aspects that the Community and Advisory Group considered were ideal or essential for the role. All of Ms Stewart’s referees spoke extremely highly of her professionalism, capability and passion for students and their learning and achievement. Some of the many positive statements about Ms Stewart included:
"She is future focussed, with a strong connection to what has been, with an absolute laser like focus on students, what is best for them and prepared to explore every avenue to ensure student achievement success."
"Karen is a high quality individual – she is a good listener, works to understand her school, her community and maintains the utmost level of integrity."
"I have observed Karen working with students in a variety of settings. Students enjoy talking with their Principal and know that she is interested in who they are and what they are doing. Karen is very much about her school and staff and students appreciate this. Karen also is present in her contributing schools, making contact with parents/whanau, talking with Year 8 students and beginning the process of transition at Principal/student level."
As part of the process we looked at a range of data driven indicators such as NCEA Level 2 and NCEA Level 3 pass rates, Maori achievement, progression to tertiary, retention to 17 years, and engagement levels. We then compared these to the national data for similar schools across the country. Ms Stewart’s school was ‘Above’ or ‘Significantly Above’ in all these important indicators.
In addition her school is on the 4-5 year return schedule (rather than the standard 3 year cycle) for Education Review Office (ERO) reviews, which is an indicator of ERO’s confidence that high standards are able to be sustained over the longer period of 4-5 years. Comments from ERO’s latest report for the school include:
"Marlborough Girls’ College continues to be a high-performing school. Girls are proud of the college’s history, traditions and the school-wide theme of mana wahine. Progressive and strong leadership is contributing to a range of significant school developments. A rich school curriculum, very effective pastoral care and a sustained focus on knowing the strengths and needs of every student are contributing very positively to the learning and wellbeing of the girls at the college."
Ms Stewart has family and farming links in North Canterbury.
I would like to thank the Advisory Group for the countless hours they committed to this important process, which began with the consultation phase to ensure that the job advertisement and person specification matched our staff, student and community’s aspirations. It was great to be part of such a collaborative and rigorous appointment process, which ensured any potential conflicts of interest were declared and well managed, and ended with a unanimous decision. The group took their role very seriously and I am extremely appreciative of their professionalism, their input, and their analysis and questioning, as this has led to a very robust and comprehensive process with strong community input.
I will update you during the coming months on progress that is being made towards Board of Trustees' elections and my transition out of the school.