With Te Aratai College being rebuilt following the Christchurch earthquakes, the impact of Covid was disruptive but did not alter their vision, says principal Dick Edmundsen.
Dick Edmundsen, Principal of Te Aratai College, was fully immersed in the process of rebuilding and transforming the former Linwood College and creating Te Aratai College, when Covid arrived two years ago.
The pandemic didn’t just impact the school as a learning community but also the redevelopment process. When urgent decisions had to be made with the building development, he talks about relying on his “leadership instinct, which is based on your many years of experience . . . of course, you hope that any mistakes that you will make by going with your gut instinct, will be the $2000 ones and not the $100,000 ones!”. He adds that if “you can’t live with yourself doing that, then you are not going to last unfortunately”.
Throughout the pandemic, the process of leadership has been elevated and likened to “being on steroids”, says Dick. It has provided an opportunity for leaders to step up and lead with moral purpose and respond to real needs within the community. He acknowledges the strength demonstrated by his Senior Leadership Team and commends them for their unity as they have navigated the ongoing post-earthquake issues, the effects of child poverty, a housing crisis in the community, the pandemic, multiple school relocations, and the rebuilding programme. However, it has been a difficult and intense period for the school and their community.
As the leader of his school and community, Dick is cognisant of the need to demonstrate pono – a sense of self belief which helps to remain motivated and lead with integrity and conviction during difficult times. This must also be tempered with humility and an openness to admit when mistakes have been made and when improvement needs to occur. “If something doesn’t work, then you need to front up and admit that I made a mistake.”
To further support school principals Dick believes that the system wide recommendations that resulted from the Education Conversation Kōrero Mātauranga and specifically the macro levers that directly impact leaders, need to be progressed as a priority. This includes actions that increase equity across all schools and develops principal leadership capability.
He strongly believes that “all principals would benefit from a New Zealand focused bi-culturalised leadership development programme that would be run by recent school principals”.
Dick and his team (and others before them) have been on a long and complex journey of transformation that really started with the Christchurch earthquakes in 2010. Being faced with a damaged school campus that was not fit for learning and having to work through the process of creating and building a completely new school, when Covid arrived, the impact was disruptive, but did not alter their vision. The name Te Aratai - Pathway to the Sea, was gifted to the school by Te Ngāi Tūāhuriri Rūnanga iwi and links the school and its relationship to the major waterways that flow into Te Ihutai (the estuary) - a place renowned for its abundance of kai and a gateway to beyond. There is much excitement and optimism that despite the challenges that have been overcome and the journey that has been experienced, Te Aratai College will continue to guide learners on their own learning pathways to the sea.
About the school
Te Aratai College
Year 7-13 Co-educational State Secondary School