Thursday, 24 October 2013

Megan Stewart: When a School Closes

Karyn’s Introduction:

Megan again shares her experience of change- change that can be threatening and stressful and overpowering at times, but change that can also lead to exhilarating experiences. 

We’ve all been on a huge journey of change for the last three years, but none more than our staff who were in the schools that were closed in order for ours to be opened.

Megan shares her story as one of the those teachers.

When a School Closes

Once more I’d like to talk about change.  It’s not easy when a school closes.  There’s a huge difference between resigning and being told you’re losing your job.  In small communities, schools are often the centre and sometimes the biggest employer.  

Four years ago, there were two schools in our community, a college for years 7-13 and a primary school for years 1-7.  The college had for quite a few years and for various reasons, received some unfavourable Education Review Office reviews.  

The primary school where I had worked, decided to back one of the ministries options of becoming an area school.  

I suppose the six months of consultation and the year before we closed were amongst the hardest.  

For a time it divided the community, was awkward occasionally amongst colleagues, and occupied our minds and lives for a year and a half.  

Some of us decided to apply for jobs at the new school, some felt it was time to move on and some chose other options. 

Schools are such emotional and passionate places, I’d be concerned it they weren’t. 

My message to anyone in this position is, its not easy, it can be mentally and physically stressful, but try and stand back and look at what is the best for the students and families of your community.  

It can be a time to take stock and reinvent yourself, get refreshed and excited about the challenge; do some research about whatever the ministry is trying to put in place. 

Visit schools that have been through it and are now thriving.  

I’m very fortunate that I work with an amazingly dedicated and diverse team.  

From our first notification of closure, to now, it’s been tumultuous at times and its been exhilarating at times, but whatever it is…I’m so glad I decided to go on the journey, what an adventure its been!


  1. Amen to that Megan. I find the resistance to change ends up coming from a romantic notion that the old way was better. People tend to look at the past with rose tinted glasses. Just like when we were kids, summer was longer, more vibrant and plentiful in every way! The reality was realistically, very different!

  2. Thanks for sharing your story. It is impressive that you think we are so noble as to "stand back and look at what is the best for the students and families of our community."

    This is perhaps a tad harder when one's head is on the chopping block and when one is providing for one's own family. I have been in this situation before. The school followed the LIFO policy (Last In, First Out).

    I cannot pretend to have had such noble, selfless thoughts or feelings. I felt rejected, embarrassed, humiliated. I felt alone. It wasn't as if the whole school was closing down and everyone was in the same boat. Only I was dismissed. It felt personal, despite the use of an "objective" policy.

    I once consulted a friend in South Africa who shared her story. She too was "declared in excess". She felt as I did.

    That same year the principal of her school retired. She applied for the job and was successful. Since then she has had to let staff go. She spoke of how traumatic that was. How she was now able to see the situation from both points of view. That it really is not personal.

    When I look back, I did go on to a better job. I think Ralph Waldo Emerson said it best with: " what lies behind us and what lies before us, are tiny matters compared with what lies within us."

    I look at all that I have overcome and know that "this too shall pass".

    I extend my empathy to everyone else in the same position as me. And I empathise with the Leadership team making the decisions.

  3. Your commitment to the process of change through your personal vision and purpose for your school community has inspired and encouraged me greatly, you've done it with passion and excitement for the future, and have given it all willingly, you've put your hand to the plough,,, you have sown, you will reap...