End of an era for Jungersen
When she was appointed principal of Porirua College in 1997, Susanne Jungersen freely admits she had no idea what she was doing.
She was assistant principal for six months when the principal, and the rest of the senior management team, ‘‘disappeared’’.
‘‘It was a bit of a shock, actually,’’ she said last week as she stepped down after nearly 20 years at the helm of the Welling- ton region’s only secondary school.
‘‘I had to turn around and find or promote a deputy principal and assistant principal.
‘‘It was pretty amazing. We knew absolutely nothing, and that was one of our greatest strengths.’’
Community meetings got under way, and Jungersen recalled families being asked what they wanted to change, and how things could be done better.
‘‘I remember one of the decile 1 researchers saying to the families, ‘Porirua, we are calling your children home’.
‘‘It was a call to arms to make something good out something that was not good at the time.’’
Last year the college achieved its highest NCEA results, and more students than ever are going on to tertiary education.
‘‘The reputation of the school got better and better, bit by bit, and so it attracted good teachers, and the teachers we have now are really quite superb.’’
The process of change took a long time, and Jungersen – Wellingtonian of the Year winner in 2008 – said it was not instant, but organic.
New buildings, an ‘‘obsession’’ with student achievement, and listening to the children’s parents all played a part.
‘‘I’ve never met a collection of parents and children who have so deserved a good deal.
‘‘It’s hard to understand if you don’t know or work out here. These kids stand out for their love for their parents, love of their community and the respect they give so freely.
Government policies, such as putting in place a health clinic, social workers in schools, and a mentoring programme had also helped.
Despite clearly loving the school, Jungersen is not sad to leave, saying it is the right time.
She ‘‘forgot’’ to make plans for what she would do next, other than travel, but expected to remain in the sector.
Susanne Jungersen says she’s proud of what she has achieved at Porirua College, but feels it is the right time to leave.