11 Feb 2024 Whānau Update

Kia ora e te whānau,

We had a really lovely first week at kura last week. The mihi whakatau was a wonderful way to welcome new whānau, and having new students in HBs for the first few hours was a great way for them to begin their transition to Ao Tawhiti. Thanks to Jess Dewhurst for organising activities and letting students know about going to the balcony on level 2 if they were feeling lost. 

Here is the whakataukī I use in my mihi, which sums up Ao Tawhiti and everything we stand for: Ko te ahurei o te tamaiti arahia o tātou mahi – let the uniqueness of the child guide our work.

The atmosphere on all floors last week was calm and there was a gentle buzz of participation and learning happening.

I have kept some notices in from the last whānau update as reminders, and added a few new ones. As always, please do not hesitate to get in touch if you need to know anything.


One of the great gifts our school offers is for Y7-13 students to choose their own timetables. Every term, some classes are more popular than others and every term we need to juggle a few things around. If your child was not successful in gaining a place on a course they desperately wanted to do, they will have been balloted and will definitely make it onto that course in term 2.

There were a few late changes last week which took a few classes over cap. This week we will be tidying these up and making sure that class sizes are manageable for everyone involved and within Health and Safety guidelines. 

We have developed a process whereby you will be included if your child wishes to make a class change. Look out for a form coming home which will need your signature before a student will be able to change a class. Timetables are curated during the IEMs with you present – it makes sense to us to include you in potential changes, and support your child through the ‘why’ of wanting to change.

Student emails

Last week some ex-students emailed the ‘students’ email address which led to a chain including some sensitive topics. We have been in touch with the current students and the  whānau of ex-students involved in the chain, and all is well. Steps have been taken to close down all ex-students email addresses. This week, HBLAs will talk to their HBs about the purpose of emails, and remind everyone to be mindful if they use the students@aotawhiti.school.nz email address. If you/ your child have any concerns about this, please contact me.

Phone calls during the day

Last week there were several incidents of students’ phones ringing during classes. Please do not phone your child during class times as this disruption sits outside our core values and can be embarrassing for the student being called. We are working on a policy in line with the government’s new ‘Phones away for the day’ mandate and will send home a draft policy once we have completed consultation with students and staff. If you need to get a message to your student please message them between 11-11:20/ 12:20-1:00 OR call the office on 03 377 7773 and the staff will make sure the message gets to your child.


It is cool that so many students travel to school by bike. There are bike racks at the entrance to school. Students need to bring a bike lock with them. If your child cycles to kura, please send a bike lock with them. If your child forgets to bring a lock, please send them to reception and we can help them.

Drop off and pick up

Unfortunately, we have received a complaint from a member of the public who has a contract with the Wilsons car park next to Ao Tawhiti about our parents using the car park to drop students off in the mornings. There is frustration that paying members are unable to access the parks while they wait for parents to drop students off and return to their cars. The particular complainant stated that the wait time is beginning to affect their work.

I realise that the drop off and pick up situation is not ideal, nor do I have any amazing answers to the issue. However, I think you will all agree that school impacting on others’ ability to work sits outside of our values and guiding principles, and we do not want  a negative reputation among businesses in the CBD, particularly as we approach so many of these for experiences for our students. Please be mindful at drop off and pick up; we understand if finding a suitable place means your child will be slightly late to class, and can accommodate this more than receiving complaints from our neighbours.

Athletics Day this Friday

A gentle reminder of our annual Athletics Day at Hansen Park in Ōpawa this Friday, 16 February. Whānau are welcome to come and support all of the students. Make a day of it, bring a chair and a picnic. The school building will be closed and all students are expected at Hansen Park or to have an OSL plan that has been agreed with HBLAs.

Community Colours for Sports Day
Nicole’s CommunityGreenCraig’s CommunityOrange
Kay’s CommunityPurpleRob’s CommunityRed
Steve’s CommunityPinkRichard’s CommunityBlue
Sarah’s CommunityYellow

Communities 2024

Here are the communities for 2024 and where they are based:

Floor One

SLT Niki Stephenson

Years 1 – 3 CL Nicole Cunningham
Bonnie DaltonMel FiskCharis Huhta-SweeneyJennifer Ward
Years 4 – 6 CL Nicole Cunningham
Lindsay GreeneMelva GillMary LeeSuze Keys
Release: Nicole Cunningham

Floor Two

SLT Director

Richard McCance Y7-13 CL
Kate ArmourBrent SilbyMegan WoodsMarlene Te’evale HuntVicki Parker
Rob Miceli Y7-13 CL
Anne-Marie HamptonJess DewhurstKirsty McMillanDean Crawford 

Floor Three

SLT Megan Taylor

Sarah Marshall Y7-13 CL
Greg O’NeillMichelle VerkaaikDerek ThatcherEmma KnellerMegan Taylor
Craig Perry Y7-13 CL
Matt DavisRichard PittsBeth MandersGeorge MacKenzie and Jo BennettMatt Parkes

Floor Four

SLT Ian Hayes

Kay Hayes Y7-9 CL
Evan KiddeyLibby Boyd
Steve Hunt Y7-9 CL
Alex McKenzie Ian HayesSuze Lamont 


We have a limited number of devices at school to loan out to students for periods of one hour at a time. If your child needs access to one of the schools’ devices, please fill out this form.

Safety in our Kura- Signing in

Please remember to sign in and wear a Visitor’s lanyard if you are remaining at kura for any length of time.

RAMs training dates 

Training for parents who wish to support student learning at Ao Tawhiti happens twice a term, led by Senior Leader, Megan Taylor. This term, sessions will take place on Thursday 15 February 8.30-9am and Wednesday  20 March at 2.30-3pm. Please RSVP to megan.taylor@aotawhiti.school.nz if you would like to attend one of these sessions. If you wish to take students out without the support of an LA, or transport students to a learning opportunity, you need to complete this course first.

Cando Cards

We are not doing Cando Cards this year. Ecan is changing its bus payment systems, and Cando cards will be redundant in a couple of months.  

Updated School Calendar for the beginning of 2024

Below are the dates for Public Holidays, Term Dates, IEMs and Staff Only Days for the remainder of term 1 2024.

Date 2024Event
Friday 16 February Athletics Day Hansen Park
Friday 29 MarchGood Friday, school is closed
Monday 1 AprilEaster Monday, school is closed
Tuesday 2 AprilEaster Tuesday, school is closed
Thursday 11 AprilLast day of Term 1
Friday 12 AprilIEMs
Term 2 Monday 29 April IEMs
Tuesday 30 AprilFirst day of term 2 classes

Ngā mihi nui