Prin­ci­pal ends 40 year ca­reer

The Tribune (NZ) - - NEWS - RICHARD MAYS

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.

Photo MUR­RAY WIL­SON/FAIRFAX NZ

It’s been 20 years, but Dan Mur­phy, cen­tre, sur­rounded by his ‘class mates’, fi­nally grad­u­ates from Winch­ester School.

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