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Couple have made their mark in and out of school

They love the Raglan lifestyle – and having helped develop educational, sporting and cultural opportunities in the district – but teachers Jo Reiri and Jason Tatana have decided it’s time to return to their home in Palmerston North.

Aging parents in the Manawatu now need their support, they explain of their departure after four years here, but their experiences at Waitetuna School where Jo has been principal and Raglan Area School where Jason has taught since getting his teaching degree in 2013 have been “fantastic”.

The couple leave behind a thriving netball club they’ve helped to grow in the community – plus twilight netball for adults – while Jo has also seen big growth in her small country school, from a roll of 50 to 70-odd students.

The netball push started with the Waitetuna School team, says Jo, because they wanted then eight-year-old daughter Ella – who was at the school – to remain involved in the sport after having played at high levels in the Manawatu.

That meant opening up the opportunity to play netball to the much wider western cluster of schools, which includes the likes of Waingaro and Te Akau. And that in turn led inevitably to the rejuvenation of Raglan Netball Sports Club from just one secondary school team a few years ago to eight teams which now include primary school-aged girls.

Getting sponsorship to support them has been a big challenge, Jo admits. “To kit out that many teams costs a lot of money,” she adds of the effort.
As president of the netball club, Jason has been busy organising managers and coaches but is confident now that others will take over. Twilight netball too has grown from six to 12 teams, he says, providing friendships and connections within the community.

Jason – who’s from a rugby background – has also been coaching junior rugby, and volunteered too to coach the area school’s secondary team when it needed reviving. His time as a new teacher at the school, he says, has been invaluable and he’s grateful for the opportunity to have begun his career in Raglan.
“Being both male and Maori has its advantages,” he quips of teaching and role modelling at intermediate-age level.

Outside of sport Jo’s especially pleased to have achieved for her school “a high level of cultural practices”, which did not go unnoticed during its latest ERO review.
“I wanted my kids in kapa haka,” she explains. So after developing connections with the local marae and introducing waiata as part of the curriculum, she was particularly proud to see last year her entire school perform as a group at the kapa haka festival hosted by Raglan Area School.

It was “very cool”, she says, because even though Waitetuna has a low percentage of Maori on its roll everyone – parents, children, teachers – supported kapa haka and are now looking forward to being part of the next festival in term four.

“It’s a beautiful little school,” Jo enthuses. During her four years as principal a new classroom and toilet block have been built to accommodate roll growth, leaving the “multi-purpose” room free for other activities including the local playgroup.

Jo will miss seeing other current renovations through to completion and they’ll be overseen instead by deputy-cum-acting principal Margery O’Connell.
From the start of next term Jo will take up the principal’s job at North Street School in Feilding while Jason will teach years seven and eight at Roslyn School in Palmerston North, and also look after its sports academy.

Their children Ella, now 13, and Neitana, 6, say they’re “excited” to be seeing more of their grandparents again.

Edith Symes

Jo and Jason are looking forward to farewell drinks at Raglan Club tomorrow (Friday) from 5pm.

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