Matariki celebrations at Tapora will be tinged with sadness this year, as the community bonfire and potluck dinner on June 28 coincides with the departure of school principal Keryl Lee and relief teacher Jill Jackson. After 25 years heading small rural schools, and nearly 10 years at Tapora, Lee is moving south to Masterton to be closer to her youngest daughter and a growing brood of grandchildren. She says she is not quite ready for full-time retirement yet, however.

“I will continue to teach in a relieving capacity where I can,” she says. “It will be much more enjoyable without the responsibility and huge workload of being a teaching principal.” She says there have been many changes in and around Tapora since she arrived from Tararua a decade ago, with extensive avocado orchards overtaking the traditional sheep, beef and dairy farms on the peninsula.

“Our school roll has dropped and consists of fewer students within the catchment area and more from Wellsford and the road out to Tapora,” she says. However, she hopes a new 12-section subdivision opposite the school will provide a boost to numbers. “It would be great to see those filled up with families supplying the school with more students,” she says.

The school itself is in good shape, having had nearly $400,000 spent on capital works five years ago and a current project to modernise the front of the main school building, with new windows and doors opening out onto a deck. Lee added that Jill Jackson’s de.

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