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Waihī principal Briar Carden-Scott is stepping down from Waihī East Primary School at the end of this term, to take on the new challenge of running Waihī College. Photo: ALICE PARMINTER

A community-centric approach to education

The end of this year marks the beginning of a new era for Briar Carden-Scott. 

The educator will be leaving her current role as principal at Waihī East Primary School to become Waihī College’s first female principal. 

And there will be some familiar faces there to greet her, as her inaugural class of new entrant students, whom she taught in 2011, become next year’s college graduating class. 

“It’s full circle for me, and for them,” she said. 

“I’m really excited to see my babies as year 13s and finishing that journey with them. Who gets to do that?”

For Briar, the move is also a chance to further develop her holistic, whole-community approach to education and provide a space where youths can find their place in the world. 

“Education’s not just academics, it is 100 per cent a partnership [with whānau]. They are the experts on their children, and we expect them to champion them and walk alongside us when we do that,” she said. 

“You can see those [kids] who are grounded in that and they have a confidence to walk tall in who they are.”

Briar hopes to develop the campus into a community hub of sorts. 

“We have a lot of skilled people in our community. I’m really open to using the experts who are already there because that just makes sense,” she said. 

“There’s lots of work to be done. For me that looks like cohesiveness and a culture shift, creating a community liaison pathway so that everyone feels that they are informed. 

“I think it’s going to be a challenge, wrapping my head around how systems work because it’s a much bigger machine than where I’m currently at. [But] planning is kind of my jam, I do love a good rubric in a girly geek moment.”

First though, she’ll be saying goodbye to her current family, the children and staff at Waihī East Primary School. 

Briar has been at the primary school since 2007, first as a parent and then on the staff. While working her way from new entrant teacher to principal, she’s developed the school into an environment she’s proud to call her baby. 

“I’ve been really fortunate to be a part of the direction and the changes and the growth here,” Briar said. 

“I’m super thankful to have been a part of the journey [but] I’m really keen to leave Waihī East while it’s in a great space, for whoever takes it on next. I know that I’m leaving it in exceptional hands.” 

Farewelling her primary school kids is going to be tough for Briar. 

“They’re just so gorgeous and they’re so thrilled to see you,” she said. 

“I often have children sitting under my desk [and] my floor is usually messy with lego and drawing. That instant responsiveness, I’m really going to miss.”

But she’s also looking forward to developing relationships with the older kids at the college. 

“That buzzy energetic youth vibe that’s in the air, it makes the air electric,” she said.

“Part of the reason I was employed was through the kids’ voice… they wanted someone who would be relatable, approachable. 

“It’s about the kids at the end of the day, and it’s about whatever works for them in a way that makes sense to them.”

By ALICE PARMINTER, Public Interest Journalism funded by NZ on Air