Shotover Primary School principal Ben Witheford is looking
forward to the challenge of starting a new school. Photo
The first principal of the newest state primary school in
Otago says he wants to build ''a culture focused on children's
needs from day one''.
The establishment board of trustees announced last week Ben
Witheford had accepted the position of principal of Shotover
Primary School, Queenstown.
His appointment was announced on Saturday at the dawn
blessing of the site where the $17 million school will be
built in stages; it is scheduled to open in 2015, catering
for 460 pupils in the first stage and eventually growing to
Mr Witheford said he talked about ''the power of technology
in the hands of fantastic teachers'' when he was interviewed
by the board.
He anticipated technology would be a ''large part'' of the
learning environment at the new school.
''You don't often get a chance to be part of a school from
day one, or even before it opens for the kids, and the chance
to build physical space in the classrooms and then put
together the team of people who are going to be charged with
teaching these kids is a stunning opportunity,'' he said.
''Technology adds a whole other dimension to society because
these kids' lives are changing so dramatically in what they
will meet when they leave school and move on to high school;
that's the challenge for us, but it's exciting.''
Board chairwoman Sally Mingaye-Hall said the trustees were
impressed by Mr Witheford's ''experience, vision and
''We believe Ben will bring a solid depth of experience,
enthusiasm and strong evidence of leading 21st-century
learning - in other words getting kids ready to approach the
world with confidence and preparedness.''
Mr Witheford's family has a long association with Queenstown.
He and his wife and two children will move to the resort from
Otautau, where he is finishing as principal of its primary
school of more than 160 pupils.
Ms Mingaye-Hall said the principal had been instrumental in
leading Otautau School through ''positive change'', after
taking on the challenge seven years ago to revamp it
following a poor Education Review Office report.
She said his experience and attitude showed commitment,
ability to take on new challenges and to take staff through
''We had a high calibre of respondents, but Ben stood out due
to his strategic skills, but also very real examples of
engaging with staff, students and the wider community.''
The 41-year-old has a bachelor of education degree, diploma
of teaching and postgraduate diploma. He is also president of
the Southland Primary Principals' Association and convener of
the New Zealand Principals' Federation 2014 Conference to be
held in Invercargill.
He is a member of the Poppycock Trust and New Zealand
Educational and Administration Leadership Society.
Mr Witheford will take up his new position in May, leading
curriculum planning for Shotover Primary School and work
alongside the board to appoint other staff members.
''The bigger picture for me is to build community around the
site of the school through a range of strategies and it means
being quite active on social media,'' he said.
''There'll be a webpage up and running within a few weeks ...
so it gives potential families and everyone the chance to
engage with how we're going.''