For Massey High School associate principal Dr Samantha Smith, it would be hugely disappointing if she were to retire eventually, without seeing several, if not many, of the Massey staff become leaders.   

Fortunately, recent changes at Massey High School, instigated by principal Glen Denham, are paving the way for many great leaders to emerge.  

Having worked at the 2000-pupil West Auckland high school for 14 years, the doctor of education has seen plenty of change, but over the past two years, senior leadership has undergone a big transformation. 

Massey has always had adjunct senior leaders where staff could sit in for senior leadership staff members in some capacity, Smith says. 

“Then Glen came along with a lot of experience from his 15 years in the United Kingdom and he wanted to expand the leadership team,” she adds. 

Denham extended the adjunct role last year, and made six staff members acting assistant principals, all of which held similar responsibilities.  

This year, however, there are seven assistant principals, who have been split into two distinct teams: teaching and learning, which Smith is in charge of, and behaviour and attendance. 

Previously, Smith was in charge of various areas including student achievement, academic counselling and behaviour in one fifth of the school. 

Denham has made it explicitly clear, the school’s focus is to be on teaching and learning, which is at the core of what Massey does, Smith says. 

Last year, Smith and several of the acting assistant principals travelled to the UK to look at different teaching ideas at schools there. 

Smith also travelled to China and Finland, where she gained many ideas on teaching and learning, with the emphasis on literacy and school climate. 

Ideas from this trip have been the catalyst for many new ideas that have been integrated into Massey High School around school climate, the school culture and learning. 

While it is only in its infancy, Smith has found the new leadership system very interesting in that it has forced other staff members to lift their game. 

“Because the assistant principal positions were created, it has meant that other staff members have had to step up to fill in the roles that those assistant principals used to have. 

“Many more teachers are experiencing middle management roles in teaching and learning, and in pastoral aspects of school, which is very positive for their future career progression,” Smith continues.

Massey’s leadership changes have not affected the way Smith works personally however, she has acquired a young, dynamic and energetic team which makes her job a lot more interesting and exciting. 

Good and strong leadership is critical at any school, to accomplish the number one priority of raising student achievement. 

“Your vision has to be made explicit and clear to staff … good communication is also a key aspect of good leadership everyone needs to be on the same page.” 

There are many different styles of leadership, including directive and consultative – and being able to dip into various styles is a good skill to have, Smith says. 

“I try to do that. Leading is a constant learning curve and being reflective as a leader is important, being able to look at something you have done and admit that you could have done it another way to achieve a better result.”