Waitaki Boys’ High was regarded as one of the country’s best schools under the leadership of legendary rector Frank Milner.
Its fortunes have varied in the decades since then, but under the current rector, Dr Paul Baker, Waitaki has regained its reputation as a leading educator of young men.
It is sad for the school and him that the onset of Parkinson’s disease has forced his early retirement.
I haven’t had a close association with Waitaki recently but have noticed the improvement in the performance of its pupils during Dr Baker’s tenure.
The school always had a good reputation for sport, thanks to his leadership academic and cultural pursuits now have equal prominence.
Change is nothing new for Dr Baker, who has overseen a period of rapid transformation at Waitaki Boys’, and in the education sector, since he took over the helm in 1999.
“I’ve always been a big believer in starting things off to see how they will develop. Planting seeds and seeing how they grow, adapting, amending as time goes on,” he said.
“I’ve never been a big believer in five-year plans, or three-year plans and knowing exactly where and how something is going to develop. You can’t predict that because you’re working with human nature.”
He said boys’ schools had essentially reinvented themselves, with spectacular success, as places “where a whole variety of different models of masculinity are promoted”.
The model student is now academic, cultural and a sportsman, “but the hope always is that they are one and the same person”.
Dr Baker is passionate about education and an advocate for boys’ schools.