Romahapa principal ‘refocusing’

End of an era . . . Romahapa Primary School principal Mark Preddy sits with some of his pupils as he wraps up his final year as leader of the school. PHOTO: EVELYN THORN

A South Otago principal wants to let people know he’s ‘‘refocusing’’, not retiring.

Local stalwart Mark Preddy made his decision to step down as principal of Romahapa Primary School earlier this year, and as he wraps up his final moments with the school he has known for 30 years he looks back with a proud smile.

Mr Preddy and his wife, Shona, first stepped into Romahapa School in 1992 when the roll was just 11 pupils.

‘‘We were sure we were going to be here for two or so years only, as we’d originally thought the school would shut down because we didn’t have enough kids,’’ he said.

The school now has 75 pupils, but the roll peaked at 86 during Mr Preddy’s time.

‘‘It had always been for the kids,’’ he said.

‘‘They’ve kept us going throughout the years. Between the kids and their parents and the overall community we’re in, it’s been a great place to live and work over the time we’ve been here.’’

There had been many ups and downs over the years but Mr Preddy said he had ‘‘enjoyed every minute’’.

‘‘I’ve definitely loved the outdoor education trips we’ve gone on as a school, including camps and skiing. Dressing up for travelling to the Highlanders rugby games in Dunedin was a great highlight over the years,’’ he said.

‘‘It’s been a lifestyle, for sure, but it’s been a great one here.

‘‘Teaching kids, and then kids of those I once taught has been an experience, and if I carry on long enough it’ll be soon enough where I’d be teaching grandchildren of those kids too,’’ he joked.

Mr Preddy was adamant he was just ‘‘refocusing’’ instead of retiring and still had plenty of work to do, including relief driving for the RD mail run, farming, relief teaching and working the morning shift baking breads at Subway with his daughter, Alanna.

‘‘We’re absolutely going to miss the kids and we’re extremely thankful for the community we’ve been in for so many years,’’ Mrs Preddy said.

Mrs Preddy managed the bus route from 1994 and has been driving pupils to and from school ever since.

‘‘There have been plenty of heartening and funny moments on the bus over the years, and although it’s an end of an era, it’s been an absolute pleasure driving parents, children and even roosters and pets on the bus,’’ she said.

‘‘It’s been a good life.’’

‘We’re absolutely going to miss the kids and we’re extremely thankful for the community we’ve been in for so many years.’