From establishing a school to watching it grow into its teenage years, has been a huge learning journey for Mary Wilson. Now it’s time to leave her “baby” after 14 years and coach 32 other school principals in New Zealand.
As the founding principal of Baverstock Oaks School, established from a derelict farmhouse in Flat Bush, the educationist, who is internationally known for coaching teachers and principals from Norway and Denmark, will be handing over the baton at the end of term one to someone who believes in the deep-rooted values of the school.
Values like servant leadership, parental partnership, shared ownership, enhancing the power of thinking and reflection have all contributed towards a high quality learning environment.
When the Board of Trustees first asked about Mrs Wilson for a vision of a still-to-be-established school in an area that would cater to a multi-cultural diaspora, she said she imagined the school to be a well in a village and hoped that everyone would come to the well.
Later, when the school was established in 2005, she stepped aside and asked the students, parents, teachers and staff about their vision for the school.
“I have been a teacher since I was 20 and been a life-long learner. I broke the practice and set up a shared vision process because I wanted every voice to be heard,” says the former founding deputy principal of Somerville Intermediate.
“It’s not about me but about us. It’s “we go” and not ego. I believe in servant leadership with the leader being here to serve the community. It’s about drawing from everyone’s strength so that they feel valued. Our multicultural learning has been huge and we’ve had parents add value by their active participation.”
The school encourages parents teaching children about their cultural beliefs that students then share with their teachers and class mates.
The principal who believes children are the centre of our universe proudly says that the students of Baverstock Oaks are from 57 different nationalities.
In 2005 the primary school was first established with a roll of just 59 students.
“By the end of 2008 we had 862 students from Year 1-Year 8. In 2009, we cut back to Year 1-6 since Mission Heights Junior College was established and our roll went to 530. Now it is 680 and goes up to 780 by Christmas,” she says.
The 58- year-old grandmother of six who set up a strong foundation of ‘feedback and feed-forward’ culture is now moving on to support other communities of schools in New Zealand.
She says that much as she is going to miss the school this is but a “change of space”.
The Ministry of Education has offered the highly regarded educationist an opportunity to coach a community of 19 schools up North along with five iwi. She will also be facilitating 13 school principals in leading and managing change in the South Island, along with the police and health sector.
Passionate about developing shared visioning programmes, Mrs Wilson has been running Bats, an institute for learning with her husband Lab for several years.
“We motivate and lead the development of strategies to enable people and organisations to take ownership of their own journey of learning and change. But before that it is important to be crystal clear on why we are doing it, and in that every voice must be heard.”