Walking paths, coffee shops and making a great school even better

New Tenterfield High School principal Stephanie Scott is taking over in trying times, but is keen to stay connected with the community.
New Tenterfield High School principal Stephanie Scott is taking over in trying times, but is keen to stay connected with the community.

Moving to a new town and taking on the role of principal of the local high school would be challenging under any circumstances, but Tenterfield High School's Stephanie Scott has to do it in the middle of a pandemic.

Ms Scott said it is a pity she hasn't been able to meet a lot of parents face-to-face due to COVID-19 restrictions at the school, but she has had the opportunity to witness the resilience and adaptability of students and staff, and she's impressed.

While her most recent posting was relieving principal at Denison College Kelso High in Bathurst, a much larger undertaking, she said she's a country girl at heart, growing up on a farm near Blayney that produced fat lambs and some cattle.

"So I'm used to the cold," she said.

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While she loved Bathurst Ms Scott has spent most of her life living and working in small towns and schools, and enjoys the sense of community that comes with them.

"I want that for my children," she said.

Ms Scott and her daughter are the advance guard, arriving in town a fortnight ago. While the duo have slipped into their high school roles -- principal and year 8 student respectively -- her husband and two sons will be arriving shortly with the household contents.

The boys will be going to The Sir Henry Parkes Memorial Public School, in year 2 and kindergarten. Ms Scott said her husband will be job-hunting after settling in the family.

Down the road she'd like to move onto some acreage, but in the meantime is getting comfortable in her rented accommodation, thanks to great support from her real estate agent Lisa Curry and other community members.

"We've been made to feel very welcome, by both the town and the school," she said, "and had lots of offers of help and furniture.

"People just can't be helpful enough, and I'm enjoying the great walking paths and becoming well-known in the coffee shops."

Back at work, she's been popping in to lots of classes and said she's seeing some great teaching and learning, and great opportunities for students.

She said one of the advantages of a smaller school is the pastoral care and the individual support offered to students.

And the children appear to benefit from the attention.

"They've been welcoming and respectful, good country kids," she said.

"It's obvious that this is a well-run, well-managed school.

"The staff are so positive about the kids and the school."

Ms Scott said her first order of business is to get to know the school better and continue to build on its success. She's keen to promote the great opportunities the school offers, and to ensure her students get access to the same advantages as metropolitan schools, despite Tenterfield's relative remoteness.

With a second wave of COVID-19 infections encroaching from the south, Tenterfield High School and NSW schools in general are adopting a wait-and-see attitude towards another potential lockdown. Ms Scott feels the Tenterfield school is particularly well-placed to handle such an eventuality, more-so than for the first lockdown over Easter with short notice.

A significant portion of Tenterfield households are without adequate internet access for online home learning, but teachers adapted quickly with a range of learning materials, including lots of handouts and phone contact.

Attendance numbers are now back to normal with only students with a medical reason exempted. In fact most students were keen to return to school, perhaps getting a wake-up call on how valuable the institution is to them, both educationally and socially.

Of course school these days has an emphasis on hand sanitation and finding alternatives to large gatherings and excursions. Ms Scott said there's more emphasis on online resources, including for teacher development.

She said she's excited to be here, and welcomes phone calls from parents and school community members while hoping it won't be too much longer before they can again be welcomed back into the school.

Meanwhile she's keen for the school to stay connected with the community, by whatever means.