Long term principal steps down

LAST SPEECH: Peter Simpson addressing the Belfast School assembly for the last time.

Retiring after 23 years as principal of Belfast School could be summed up in one sentence says Peter Simpson: “It was hard.”

“Leaving the kids and families that have been part of my life for so long, it was difficult from that perspective,” he said.

But now he’s taking on a new challenge and passing some of the knowledge he’s picked up during his time at Belfast to new principals as a leadership advisor.

“It’s a chance to give something back,” he said. Although it’ll never replace being around school community.

He said he had to go back to visit shortly after leaving because he missed the kids so much.

On his “very emotional” last day, the school planted a Mr Simpson tree and sang To Sir, with Love.

That brought a tear to my eye, he said. It was a bittersweet moment.

“But I couldn’t have done any of it without the people around me. It’s not a job that you can do on your own,” Mr Simpson said.

It was that sense of community that grew in Belfast over the 23 years that he said was the highlight.

“Probably one of the best things is the acceptance by the wider community that Belfast is a good school,” he said.

When Mr Simpson started, the school was 80 per cent New Zealand European, he said.

But when he left, there were more than 15 different ethnic groups.

“I think that just represents New Zealand as a whole,” he said.

“The school motto is ‘care, share, learn, grow’ and seeing that acted out through the kids and tolerance of difference was great. They accept the kids as they were and wrapped their arms around them like a family.”

He said the fact that new classes and school blocks had to be built, alongside a change in school culture and growing rolls, proved his time at the school was a success.

“I absolutely loved my time at Belfast,” Mr Simpson said.

On July 24, the school will hold its first mihi whakatau to welcome new principal Sue Elley.

Mrs Elley joined the school after being the assistant principal at Hornby High School.