Back in 2008 a small, passionate group of parents came to me as Principal of the school asking if the school Board would explore the possibility of opening a Montessori Adolescent Program. This was not the first time this request had been put forward nor the first time the Board had discussed this idea. However, in 2008, there were the ‘right’ people in place to turn this request and dream into a reality. We had a group of passionate parents and staff who worked tirelessly investigating all of the aspects required to open a middle school.
Committees were established investigating interest from current families, curriculum, staffing needs, marketing to internal and external families, financial structures, fundraising, possible sites, resources required and school registration requirements. It was a mammoth task and took 3 years to make the vision a reality.
One of the major hurdles was to find an appropriate site for our Adolescent Program which also addressed Maria Montessori’s specific criteria and where young people could thrive. When a small group of us first visited the site in the beautiful grounds of Wairoa, we knew instantly that it 'felt right' and it spurred us on to make the Middle School happen! Wairoa was the ideal situation and place for our young people to work, learn & develop.
In Maria Montessori’s writings about the Adolescent Program she talks about providing an environment where adolescents can enjoy “life in the open air and in the sunshine”, “living on a diet high in nutritional content from produce they have grown”. She writes about “adolescents working amongst calm surroundings where the wonder of nature can satisfy the adolescent’s need for reflection & meditation”.
We knew we had found a place at Wairoa where both manual and intellectual work could be undertaken by the adolescents fulfilling the requirements of Dr Maria Montessori’s Adolescent Program.
Having found the perfect site for our Adolescent Program the next major challenge was to raise enough money to purchase the site. We were extremely fortunate at the time to have Paul Thomas on our school Board who thought ‘outside the square’ and presented the idea of a Unit Trust to the Board. After considerable investigation and financial modelling the Unit Trust was established in 2009. The Trust would reduce the amount of initial capital required by the School for the purchase of the new site by enabling other individuals and organisations to make an equity investment in the purchase.
The dedicated ‘Middle School committee’ then set about finding investors to purchase units so we could raise the funds to purchase the Wairoa site. We proudly opened Wairoa campus at the start of the 2011 school year with nineteen students and three staff. The rest is history!
Over the past 12 years the school has re-purchased units as they have increased in value, from the various unit holders. The school has leased the Wairoa property from the unit holders at a commercial rate providing an annual dividend to investors.
I am pleased to inform the school community that just recently the school purchased the last remaining units and now officially owns the Wairoa property outright. The current school Board has recently made the decision to wind up the Unit Trust and so we are working through the legal steps to finalise this process. Two weeks ago we held the last ever Unit Trust annual meeting.
I would like to thank the investors and pioneering people who provided the financial support and believed in, and supported our vision of a Montessori Adolescent Program.
The Unit Trust has been a completely separate entity from the school and subsequently had its own Constitution and rules, bank account, structure and operations. Since the inception of the Unit Trust, Paul Thomas (who proposed the original idea) has been one of the Directors and has managed and administered the Trust voluntarily. Paul Daly, former School Board president has been the other Unit Trust Director who has generously given his time and expertise for many years to oversee the operations of the Trust.
On behalf of the school, I would sincerely like to thank both Paul Thomas and Paul Daly for their input, contributions and support of Wairoa and the Unit Trust over the years. The school is very much indebted to you both.