Popular principal calling time

Departing Hampstead School principal Peter Melrose with his school leaders.

The popular school leader at after 21 years in the principal’s role.

Principal Peter Melrose, 64, will finish up at Hampstead School at the end of the year; retiring after a 41 year teaching career.

He has spent much of that time at schools in Mid Canterbury.

“I have been privileged to have the role at Hampstead for the last 21 years and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my time in education.”

Mr Melrose said his story at Hampstead was not about him, but rather about the people he had worked alongside and who had shared the same common purpose of benefitting the children.

“To be a teacher or a principal you have to love being around kids. You get to see life from their point of view and you’re also tasked with educating them and taking them forward.”

Mr Melrose was raised in Christchurch and taught in the garden city after graduating from teachers college.

He taught at St Joseph’s School in Ashburton for four years before taking on the sole teacher role at 13-pupil Lake Coleridge School.

His first full principal job was at Fairton School, where he stayed for nine years, before a year in North Canterbury at Waikari school.

Mid Canterbury lured him back and he became principal at Hampstead in Term 4 ,1999.

“I still remember my interview at the school – there was an interview panel of 13 and it was somewhat daunting,” he said.

There had been challenges in the early years including a looming school debt from a system called Banked Staffing, which had been worked through and resolved; the school was now in a healthy financial position.

The hallmark of life at Hampstead School was being able to focus on what was good for the children as the bottom line, he said.

“I recognise all those on the boards and PTA, who have come forth and taken up roles and have worked for the benefit of all students and the school as a whole.”

In 1999 the school roll was 250 and today it was approaching 400, with more growth expected.

“The roll today features children from various cultures and the school is richer for it.” While numbers had grown, the look of the school had not changed too much during his time.

“As you walk through the main doors you get the impact of the school fields and the facilities and that is a very positive impression.”

Mr Melrose said it had been a real pleasure to see past pupils move through education and pursue careers and relationships.

It was important that pupils be the best they can and were happy and contributed to society.

Covid lockdowns over the past 18 months had shown him he could keep busy in retirement and now was the right time for him to bow out, he said.

It will give him will be more time for gardening, walking, reading and travel around New Zealand.

Mr Melrose will continue his association with Community House Mid Canterbury and the White Ribbon campaign, and will explore art and craft opportunities, as well as spending more time with family.

Hampstead School assistant principal Claudine Campbell will take on the role of acting principal in Term 1 2022, while the board of trustees looks for a new principal.

Popular Peter will be a hard act to follow.

-By Mick Jensen