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.

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