Queenstown school’s foundation boost

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A new charitable trust aims to turn Queenstown’s Wakatipu High into one of New Zealand’s best secondary schools in five years.

The Wakatipu High School Foundation will launch on October 31 and aims to establish a multi-million dollar endowment fund.

The fund – supporting learning, cultural and sports activity – is to supplement Ministry of Education funding. The school is rated decile 10, the highest socio-economic rating a school can get, meaning lower Government funding.

Wakatipu High board of trustees chairman Alistair Nicholson hails the foundation as a “game changer”.

“It significantly enhances our capacity to reach our student achievement goals and move forward with professional development for our staff.

“As a decile 10 school we have been underfunded for a very long time which ties the hands of the board of trustees in being able to advance strategic issues.

“The establishment of this foundation goes a very long way to enabling us to move forward.”

The foundation’s initial goal is to raise $200,000 for the 2013/14 year, or about $300 per student.

Trustee Wayne Foley says in years to come the aim is to secure an endowment fund of $3 million-$4m-plus: “Many schools around NZ have trusts or foundations to provide additional funding over and above what comes from the Ministry of Education.

“It’s all about creating a foundation that provides the framework for integrating the school with its business and local community.”

Foley adds it’ll provide the school community with a more robust platform to deliver education and grow Wakatipu High into an NZ ‘school of choice’.

“We have an outstanding principal [Steve Hall], and in the knowledge that we’ll be moving to new buildings [at Remarkables Park] in 2017, it’s now critical to engage with our community about how we can support our school, starting from 2014.”

An alumni of past students who will be tapped for endowment funds will also be established.

The foundation’s chairman is Mark Taylor, an accountant and former chairman of Queenstown Airport Corporation while Foley’s fellow trustees are Craig Robins, Jonathan Gurnsey, Michelle Trapski, Nicholson and Hall.

Two further trustees will be appointed by March.

Queenstowner Jane Todd is general manager.

Annual contributions will be agreed between the school, the board of trustees and foundation.

Initial funding is likely to go towards extra learning resources, professional development for teachers and student scholarships.

Foley says as Queenstown’s only secondary school, Wakatipu High’s wellbeing is inextricably tied to that of the community – “whether you look at that from a business point of view, as an employer wanting to attract talented people, or as a community that wants to grow”.

Despite the exciting prospect of shifting premises, a brand-new school doesn’t deliver great education, Foley warns.

“It doesn’t matter how great the buildings look, at the end of the day if we don’t have the best of staff and the best of teaching resources, we cannot expect to improve on educational outcomes for our kids.” 

The foundation will be launched at a function, at 5.30pm, October 31, in the school’s new music and drama building.

“We are proactively looking for partners within our business community who share our vision for Wakatipu High,” Foley says.

“Details on how they can be involved will be shared at our launch.”

The launch comes two years after Wakatipu High was in a state of crisis. An Education Review Office report criticised senior management, former principal Lyn Cooper was fired, rehired and then resigned and a Government-appointed official was called in to overhaul the management structure.

Hall joined as principal in the third term last year.