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Juliette Hayes, principal of Geraldine High School, will succeed Elizabeth Wilson, who retires at the end of this year, the Columba College board of trustees and board of governors announced yesterday.
Mrs Hayes, who was previously the deputy principal at Waikato Diocesan School for Girls, will move to Dunedin with her husband and two children in time to start the 2015 school year.
Mrs Hayes said she did not have any immediate plans for the school.
She had a ''collaborative leadership style'' and believed connection and collaboration with the school community was important.
''The board has signalled there is an appetite to explore with the community what the next steps will be,'' she said.
Once that consultation had been completed, plans for the school would become clearer.
''I'm very much looking forward to what we've got ahead.''
Mrs Hayes, who declined to give her age, was raised in the high country of the South Island and boarded at Nelson College for Girls.
She studied at the University of Canterbury and completed a master's degree at Waikato University.
She has been teaching for 20 years, the past 10 of them in senior leadership roles.
Columba College board of trustees chairman Steve Addison said it had been looking for a person who would uphold the traditions and values of the school while continuing the development of a leading 21st-century education.
Miss Wilson is one of New Zealand's longest-serving school principals, having been Columba principal since 1980.
''Thirty-five years is an outstanding contribution to any organisation, and the way in which the school has grown and prospered in that time is an absolute credit to Miss Wilson,'' Mr Addison said.