Southern principal overcomes 2020 challenges


In early 2020, Tara Quinney became principal of St Peter’s College Gore. That first term began with the worst flooding in Eastern Southland for many years. St Peter’s, along with other schools in the region, was closed for several days — and this was just after it had opened for a new year.

Mrs Quinney came from Chanel College in Masterton where she was deputy principal.

However she has strong connections with Southland, where, as member of the well-known Langford family, she was brought up and educated in Winton, Central Southland.

It rained so hard on February 4, 2020, just after Mrs Quinney had been formally welcomed to the college, that the Mataura River burst its banks and the new principal found herself leading a school that could not function because of flooding.

Then, shortly after this, came Covid-19, and the turmoil that caused all over New Zealand — especially for people trying to regulate education at all levels.

Nevertheless, Mrs Quinney said that she and her staff had prepared for this possibility — and were ready for the “lockdown” and its associated problems.

St Peter’s College has had a large number of international students in recent years, and it had organised its own “isolation” unit, which operates successfully.

Despite the problems of her first year as principal of St Peter’s, Mrs Quinney is delighted with the college and its 440 students. She said she is impressed with the good manner and positive attitude of the students.

While St Peter’s is now totally staffed by lay people, she said she feels that the charism of the Rosminian Fathers is still a strong influence in the college. She is also delighted to have encountered the St Peter’s Eisteddfod, a traditional event embedded by the Sisters of Mercy, who once were involved in the conduct of the college as well.

The students, in turn, say they are proud of their principal and her leadership. One senior student, who did not wish to be named, praised Mrs Quinney by saying, “She is a Southlander. While understanding us, she also expects us to not only be Catholic leaders, but also to always do our best.”

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