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February 22, 2016

posted 19 Feb 2016, 18:39 by Julie Shawcross   [ updated 27 Feb 2016, 16:55 ]

“Thank you,” to everyone in the community

Kia ora koutou,

After the fire in the school I have been amazed at how everyone in the community has stepped up and helped out. In particular, getting school up and running on eight different sites around town has been an incredible achievement and I would like to thank all of our staff, the students and all of the whanau for making this happen.

The vast majority of our students have been positive and are really getting down to some excellent work. It is great that they are demonstrating that the trust that we are giving them is well deserved.

It now looks like we may need a further two weeks before we are able to re-open the school and it could be longer. We are doing everything we can to get the school safe and fully functioning, but I am sure that you can appreciate that this presents lots of challenges. Your patience and kindness has been very comforting during this process.

On Saturday I attended the funeral of Mitchell Heward, which was attended by a large part of the community. It was a deeply moving event and his family and close friends are obviously deeply distressed. On behalf of Westland High School I give my deepest sympathy to the family and offer any support that we can give to all of them. His father, Ron asked me to pass on a message to the community. Firstly, he asked that we support the many young people who have been affected by this tragedy and make sure that we watch carefully for signs of stress and anxiety and that we are there to support them when needed. He also asked that we all learn from this event and as a community we do everything possible to ensure that it does not happen again. This is something that we should give serious thought to. Finally, Ron asked that people carefully consider any comments being made on social media particularly those that appear to be attributing blame. I hope that we can all listen to these requests and respond positively to them.

Going back to the school situation we have two important visits this week. Firstly, the Governor-General will be visiting the school on Tuesday. On Wednesday we will be visited by Damien O’Connor and two other Members of Parliament. Different students will represent the school at each of these events, I would like to have all of our students there because I am so proud of them all but obviously this would not be practical. We have had great support from the government, ministry of education and the council and their support will help us to return to normality very quickly.

Finally, I would like to draw your attention to the West Coast police review that is taking place at the moment. I feel that the reduction in the number of the community police and loss of the Youth Aid Officers will be very destructive for our community. My personal view (I am not representing the school or BOT here.) is that having local police in these positions is critical in the fight to keep our young people out of the world of crime. A centralised system with police from Greymouth having to cover the entire West Coast will be destructive to the relationships and local knowledge that our current local police officers have developed. In the proposal it seems to me that we will lose very effective community police who work with our youngsters to be replaced by traffic police on the highway. I do not feel that this is the right approach to help the vulnerable young people in our community. If you agree with these views it is very important that you express them as part of this review process.

You can find out more information at this web page http://www.police.govt.nz/news/release/west-coast-police-numbers-retained-review

You can find out more information and how to make a submission at this link http://bullerdc.govt.nz/west-coast-police-review-submission-process/

Nga mihi nui,

Trevor Jones, Principal

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