Skydiving principal makes leap of commitment

Hawea Flat School principal Sue Heath is getting set to feel the wind on her face while raising funds for a new community hall. PHOTO: SIMON HENDERSON
Hawea Flat School principal Sue Heath is getting set to feel the wind on her face while raising funds for a new community hall. PHOTO: SIMON HENDERSON

A wise person once said if at first you don’t succeed, skydiving is not for you.

But once will be enough for Hawea Flat School principal Sue Heath, who despite having second thoughts, is going to put her fear aside and jump out of a plane.

Before she retires at the end of the year she is making a final contribution to the school by taking part in a tandem skydive as a fundraiser for the Grandview Hall project, a new community hall that will cost between $1.8 million and $2.2 million.

Her plan for a skydiving fundraiser began as a joke — ‘‘I didn’t think it would happen’’.

It began with ‘‘one of those moments’’ when you say something ‘‘and afterwards wish you hadn’t said it’’, Mrs Heath said.

An ex-parent got in touch to offer the tandem sky dive, and Mrs Heath said ‘‘in a joking fashion’’ that maybe she could jump out of the plane if people would pay for that to happen.

Others thought that was an ‘‘excellent idea’’ and asked what would it take for her to go ahead with the jump.

‘‘I said at least $10,000 because this is not something on my bucket list, it is not something I had ever thought I would want to do.’’

An online fundraising page has been set up and Mrs Heath is feeling a little nervous because pledges have already passed $2000.

The sky dive ‘‘could actually be a reality’’, she said.

Mrs Heath moved from Dunedin to Hawea Flat in 1998, taking on the role of principal when there were only two classrooms at the school.

At the time Mrs Heath did not expect the job would last as long as it did, initially coming up to simply cover a fixed-term position while the principal was on maternity leave.

There were even suggestions at the time that the school might not survive because at that stage the government was closing smaller schools.

Some of her colleagues were saying she was ‘‘mad’’ to come to Hawea Flat.

‘‘They were saying, ‘you could find that the school closes’.’’

However she decided to make the move and was charmed the beauty of the region.

‘‘The setting is just absolutely gorgeous’’. The school ‘‘had such a lovely feel to it.’’

‘‘It had beautiful grounds with big established trees,’’ Mrs Heath said.

The fixed-term position instead turned into more than 21 ‘‘fabulous years’’ at the school.

Finishing her time at the school with a skydive was a way for her to embrace lessons she had taught many children over the years.

‘‘So many times we ask our children to be brave, to step into the unknown, or to take a risk.’’

‘‘I need to walk the talk, and this is my way of doing that.’’

To give visit https://givealittle.co.nz/cause/the-sue-heath-i-believe-i-can-fly-fund

SIMON.HENDERSON@thenews.co.nz 

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