Stacey Honeywill is focusing on the positives rather than the negatives.
The Te Pakihi o Maru principal was over the moon to be leading the school, formerly known as Oamaru North School, a week after the name change.
Following last Friday’s announcement, some people had taken to social media to voice their opposition to the change, but Mrs Honeywill stood by the decision.
“I think it’s incredibly sad that we have people who feel like that in this country. Personally, I think we have a vocal minority of ill-informed individuals,” Mrs Honeywill said.
The response from the school community had been incredibly supportive, and she received messages from former staff members, whom she had never met, congratulating the school on its new name.
“It’s those things that we are focusing on. We’re focusing on the positives, rather than the negatives.”
Te Pakihi o Maru had a rich history, and she was incredibly proud to be given the name by Te Runanga O Moeraki upoko David Higgins and chairman Justin Tipa.
The name was unveiled in a ceremony last Friday by Mr Tipa, in front of the school’s pupils, staff and community.
“I just have an amazing sense of pride in our tamariki for the respect they gave the process and their own personal mana that they upheld. I just love them for it.”
Discussions regarding a name change began when the school was under limited statutory management – lifted in December last year – and Mrs Honeywill was asked if she would consider changing the school name.
The board of trustees and statutory manager Cleave Hay saw it as a positive change, and undertook community consultation last year.
About 67% said they would support a name change, and she felt it was important to have a Maori name to represent the multicultural school.
“It was important, and we talked about it as staff. New Zealand is bicultural and to have a name that was unique we felt that it had to be a Maori name to give it the uniqueness that we wanted.”
Mr Tipa said the runanga spent several months creating the name. Maru represented the deity of the sea for the Oamaru coastline, and Pakihi referred to the flat land in the town.
“It’s a nod to the place, to the area and a continuation of the traditional naming of the area,” Mr Tipa said.
While it was a Maori name, it was not exclusive – it was for everyone in the community.
“We’re really pleased with the engagement from the school leadership, and the way they are championing the whole kaupapa.
“For anyone that has concerns about the emergence of Maori language … it’s really about our bicultural foundation for our multicultural society.”