School opts for continuity

On the ball: Incoming Wakatipu High principal and basketball fanatic Oded Nathan

Wakatipu High’s newly-appointed incoming principal, Oded Nathan, who takes over from Steve Hall next year, won’t have a steep learning curve.

The 46-year-old’s had 12-and-a-half years at the school, and became deputy head in 2013, just three months into Hall’s reign.

He’s been in the leadership team ever since, even serving as acting principal, and was promoted to associate principal last year.

Board chair Charlie Phillips, announcing his appointment this week, says the job attracted strong interest from around New Zealand and abroad, however Nathan was ‘‘the standout candidate’’.

He’d ‘‘successfully led many of our most critical projects and is deeply committed to the school’s ongoing success’’.

Nathan says he feels ‘‘really humbled to be given this opportunity’’.

‘‘The process the board went through, including having an external consultancy, was very rigorous and actually, in a sick way, I guess I enjoyed it.

‘‘It really kind of clarified what I’m doing and my passion for the school and the community.’’

As to why he went for the top job, he boils it down to: ‘‘Passionate about education, passionate about Wakatipu High School, passionate about the community.’’

He says his passion for education — and the belief it can make ‘‘a significant difference’’ for individuals, families and communities — springs from his upbringing in California, in the United States.

‘‘Both my parents were in education, it’s something my grand parents instilled in me, and so I fundamentally believe in supporting everybody to get the best possible qualification and a great education.’’

While he didn’t start formally teaching till ’98, he quips ‘‘I was teaching my friends when I was at high school’’.

After moving to NZ at the end of ’99, ironically, flying into Queenstown, he spent nine years at Christchurch’s Cashmere High, including stints as head of maths and statistics and acting deputy head.

He joined Wakatipu High, initially as assistant head of maths, as his daughter was then living in Queenstown.

Nathan says he feels ‘‘very fortunate’’ to have worked with Hall for 10 years — ‘‘he’s done an amazing job for the school and the community’’.

Out of ‘‘numerous’’ highlights, he nominates the ‘‘relatively smooth’’ transition to the school’s new campus.

As for his leadership style, he says ‘‘whilst I’m not afraid to make the tough decisions, my preference is to be more collaborative, more team-oriented’’.

‘‘The other thing is you need to be true to yourself.

‘‘I believe everybody wants to learn, wants to be successful — I certainly believe in people, and that’s where I start with my leadership, that people are good and people want to do well.’’

Nathan, whose wife Laura is the school’s director of sport, is also a basketball fanatic, coaching both junior and senior school teams.

‘‘I had basketball practice [on Monday] after the board meeting, and the first question the kids asked was, ‘are you still going to be involved with basketball?’ and I said, ‘absolutely’.’’

However, he confesses he hasn’t got Hall’s expertise in meteorology, exemplified by his weekend weather forecasts in his weekly ‘principal’s message’.

‘‘It is going to be a significant loss,’’ says Nathan, who jokes he’ll ask if Hall can continue on a consultancy basis.

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