FROM ZERO TO HERO – THAT’S HOW DAVID MCDONALD FROM
HATO PETERA DESCRIBES THE GROWTH OF THIS SCHOOL IN THIS ARTICLE
PRINTED IN THE AUCKLANDER EARLIER THIS YEAR.
Last year the 15 seniors at Northcote's Hato Petera College
claimed four of the country's top scholarships and principal
Brother David McDonald says he was "quietly pleased''.
And well he might be. It wasn't long ago that the decile-two
school was best known for its high level of suspensions and
suspected drug use, which prompted a sweep of the school by
Now with 80 per cent of graduates heading to university, Hato
Petera has well and truly turned the corner. And these days
the boarding school has set its sights on expansion - in every
sense of the word.
"It has always been our dream to become a community college
– a Māori campus of learning," says Br David. And
already Hato Petera is on the way, with courses in Māori
and computing where pupils earn college credits which then allow
them to take up varsity studies mid-way through.
"We are doing it to help students avoid going into huge
debt," explains deputy principal Timoti Maru. "At the
moment the Ministry of Education is paying and we use video
conferencing, which allows us to get the best possible teacher
we can source.''
Technology has opened up all kinds of possibilities at Hato
Petera, which for years has operated on a shoestring.
Teachers are receiving laptops, so they can access information
on the web and pass it on to pupils, saving them the expense
of buying books. And thanks to video conferencing, the school
can lay on a new course for just one pupil when in the past
a whole class was necessary to justify employing a teacher.
By the year's end, the school hopes to offer third-level courses
in carving, video editing and media studies.
Br David says he wants to see Hato Petera grow. Currently
there are just 140 students - 100 boarders and 40 day pupils.
There are just 12 teachers, who have horrendous workloads,
so more will need to be recruited.
Br David feels people may not be aware the school has changed
and he says some may not know that day pupils are now welcome.
He became principal in 1997 and instituted a tough policy that
has seen the once-notorious school clean up its act.
Explaining, he says: ``The school got complacent and lost its
focus on the students. But we now have a community that accepts
learning is the major priority.'' And getting back on track
took a lot of goodwill on the part of students and staff.
Pupils make a donation, usually $125, and the rest is taken
care of by a grant from the Ministry of Education. Boarders
live 12 to a house in eight whanau. They are looked after by
a married couple and everyone pulls their weight with household
And Br David believes the whanau experience is perhaps the most
important thing students take away from Hato Petera.
*This article is reprinted with permission from the Aucklander