IT HAS been five weeks since he resigned, but it’s difficult for Ken McKay, the former
principal of Our Lady Star of the Sea School in Howick, to get a break.
It’s obvious that he’s left a deep imprint on the minds of the students and staff, as he gets lots of hugs the minute he steps into the school for an interview with the Times.
“This is the first day I’ve come to school on a working day after I resigned and it’s hard to let go,” he admits, trying to come to terms with starting a new life.
“It’s more difficult since I had to resign due to ill health and it wasn’t a natural retirement,” says the 61-year-old, radiating warmth as he interacts with pupils and the faculty.
Having been a principal for the past 34 years, Mr McKay believes the most important part of the job is to build trust and confidence.
“One of the things I learnt in the third year of being a principal is that you leave your professional at school and personal at home.
“It’s the hardest thing to do.
“If you want to build trust, you cannot discuss the problems of a child, teacher or parent with anyone,” he says.
“It’s only when you carry it on your shoulders that you can build loyalty with the staff.
“While a principal’s job is a lonely one, because of the many decisions and judgements you have the responsibility for making on your own, I’ve had the privilege of being supported by loyal leadership teams and school governance.
“It’s also filled with so many beautiful relationships with everyone.
“The key to the role of a principal is that everyone should feel valued,” says the highly regarded educator, who first sat in the hot seat of a principal at the age of 27.
The schools Mr McKay’s been at the helm of prior to taking over at Our Lady Star of the Sea are St Mary’s Catholic School, Otorohanga; St Joseph’s, Pukekohe; and St Francis Xavier, Whangarei.
It was while he was principal of St Joseph’s that he first introduced a four-term year in 1990.
His vision became a nationwide concept in 1993.
He also introduced a portfolio system instead of a report card way before it became popular in other schools.
The common denominator in his career has been the creation of successful communities, wherever he went.
“If you are able to talk with kiddies and mum and dad on a first name basis, you build a good rapport with them,” says Mr McKay.
Apart from the parents, he’s always welcomed the parish community to have one-to-one sessions with children who need help with reading.
“It’s like spending time with grandparents and learning good values.”
All the communities he has built are coming together to bid farewell at a special thanksgiving mass led by Catholic Bishop of Auckland Patrick Dunn and other priests he’s worked with, tomorrow at 1pm in the school hall.
About 700 people are expected to attend the ceremony, after which there will be a big afternoon tea.
Members of the Ministry of Education and Education Review Office will also be present to honour the former principal known for enriching lives while serving the school for 15 years.
“I’m humbled that the bishop is going to conduct the mass,” says Mr McKay.
“The Catholic system has given me a career and I hope I’ve been able to do justice and touch people’s lives, adding value to them.”