Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Principal determined to raise expectations

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Dale Burden began his new role as Howick College principal in the first term of 2023. Times photo Wayne Martin

Dale Burden brings a desire to lift the expectations of his students, parents and teachers to his new role as Howick College’s principal.

He replaced Iva Ropati in the first term of 2023 when Ropati departed for a position in the Bay of Plenty.

Burden previously worked with Rivercrest and Hillcrest Colleges in Melbourne, Australia, as establishment director of their senior secondary campus.

His role before that was as executive principal at St Peter’s Cambridge in Waikato.

Burden describes the ending of his tenure at the secondary school as disappointing but he enjoyed his time there and still has “really good relationships” with many of its families and staff.

He loved the job in Melbourne and views it as one of the best he’s had in his 33 years in the sector.

“It got to the point that either I was going to come back or my family was going to come over,” he says.

“My daughter had her last year at school last year and she was loving it. She wasn’t keen to do year 13 in Melbourne.”

That was the impetus for Burden to return to New Zealand.

“This one came up and what I knew about Howick College was it was a well-run school.

“I know quite a few people who have passed through it over the years and they all spoke highly of it.

“It’s a great community with a lot of potential and it seemed like a good move.”

Burden says when he arrived at the school he found nothing that needed to be fixed straight away.

“I’ve gone into places previously where [you’d think] ‘well, that needs to be done immediately’, and there were lots of fires to put out, whereas here that wasn’t the case.”

He says it’s important for him to learn how the school runs and he’s worked to get to know its pupils, staff, the board of trustees and the local community.

“That’s probably been the most important thing I’ve done, and then once you get to know them you get to know the college.”

Burden believes if people in the education sector are standing still, “effectively you’re going backward, because every year there’s another 30 per cent of students coming into your school”.

That means he wants to maintain and strengthen the things Howick College is doing well.

“You’ve got to continue to make the education you’re providing the students with meaningful and relevant.

“We, along with the board and the staff, having consulted with the community and students, have formed a new strategic plan for the next three years.

“It’s not radically different, but what we’re doing is building on what we’re currently doing well, and I think the overall theme of it is lifting expectations.

“We can expect more from our students, our teachers, and parents and they can expect more from us.

“What I’ve found with teenagers is if you put the bar high, they’ll try and get over it, and even those who don’t get over it at the first attempt might at the second attempt.

“Even if they don’t get over it, at least by trying they’re improving from where they are currently.”

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