Principal ends 40 year career
When term one finished up on Friday, so did a 40-year career in education. For Dan Murphy, who was principal at Palmerston North’s Winchester School for the last two decades, Friday was his last school break-up.
‘‘I always planned to retire before 65,’’ the 62-year-old confessed, ‘‘I think its time for someone new to come in and build on the momentum.’’
Dan took up the principal’s role in 1996, coming to Palmerston North from teaching at primary schools in Taranaki and Waikato.
When he arrived at Winchester it had a role of between 150 – 180 pupils with demolition planned for the fourclassroom senior block at the back of the school. Instead, the block was refurbished, with another classroom and two prefabs added to cope with a burgeoning role, which is now more than double what it was 20 years ago.
Three of those pupils are Dan’s own grandchildren, so he has a vested interest in seeing the school continue to progress.
He says the school has ‘‘a happy caring family environment that nutures creativity in children’’.
On his watch there’s been a new library, gas-heated swimming pool, children’s playground, all-weather sports turf, fitness track and fitness stations, and the latest addition, an all-weather cricket pitch which was installed over summer.
‘‘So, the school is well equipped with lovely facilities for the children.’’
Another accomplishment from the former Massey University maths advisor to schools, is the maths programme he has been instigating since 2011.
‘‘It’s making a difference for children and we’ve seen a huge lift in achievement.’’
His education philosophy is based around big picture holistic contextual learning rather than what he terms a minute objective ‘‘jigsaw puzzle’’ approach that sees many children unable to make connections between the pieces.
‘‘We focus on wider teaching and learning rather than on assessment. With assessment, the tail wags the dog.’’
It’s a philosophy expressed in another of his legacies to the school – throughout the admin offices and along the corridors, two decades of beautifully framed artworks by each years’ top school artists, decorate the walls.
Dan’s wife Kathleen, who he met while teacher-training in Palmerston North, retired a couple of years ago from Riverdale School.
It’s been 20 years, but Dan Murphy, centre, surrounded by his ‘class mates’, finally graduates from Winchester School.