Former principal loses battle with cancer
By Stephen Hensman
Innovative and charming, Mike Kilty was Taradale High School principal from 1985-2003.
On Tuesday morning, February 13, he succumbed to a long battle with cancer at age 73, surrounded by his family.
In his early years as principal, he put into practice the learning he had done while studying his Master of Educational Administration at Massey University.
He introduced a radical way of running the school called “collegial management”, setting up a range of committees to oversee administrative and curriculum functions.
In this way, he collected and harnessed the wisdom and foresight of all teachers in order to move the school forward. John Pitts, who worked alongside Mr Kilty as deputy principal, describes how collegial management “refreshed the whole school and reinvigorated the staff”.
By modernising systems and introducing the practices of collegial management, Mr Kilty “left his mark on Taradale High School”, says Mr Pitts, who became the fourth principal of the school after Mr Kilty retired.
The programme was considered so successful by the Department of Education that new principals were sent to Taradale High School to learn from it. Consensus decision-making became the norm, and the school went ahead in leaps and bounds as a result.
Mr Kilty was a prolific contributor. During his years at Taradale High School he contributed to the rugby community as an executive member of the HB Referees’ Association for many years, and on the executive of the NZ Rugby Referees’ Association, although his days behind the whistle had ended when he moved to Hawke’s Bay from Canterbury.
He was a chief examiner in University Bursaries geography and played a lead role locally and nationally in principals’ associations.
In recognition of his contribution to education, he was awarded the prestigious Woolf Fisher Scholarship.
Perhaps Mr Kilty’s greatest legacy was his insatiably positive personality.
George McCawe, who worked alongside Mr Kilty in the senior leadership team, describes him as “continuously overcome with joy”.
Gary Peterson, who was appointed by Mr Kilty as a biology teacher 20 years ago, remembers him as a people’s person. Others say he was the most positive person they had ever met. It is said that when you walked out of Mr Kilty’s office you felt valued.
Scott Kersley worked at Taradale High School throughout Mr Kilty’s time and remembers him as the most positive person he had ever met, continuously encouraging and supportive, and with a love for humanity.
Being a people’s person, it is not surprisingly he was very good at remembering students’ names. He watched sports teams throughout the week and on the weekends, supporting players and chatting amiably with parents.
Always humble, Mr Kilty was adamant at the end of his 17 years as principal that his success was mostly due to his beloved family and fellow staff. Family was a major focus for the former geography teacher, who had endless praise for the way they had supported him. In typical fashion, his final assembly at Taradale High School included his own children and grandchildren.
This concept of family extended to staff and students. He saw the school as a community, where everyone shared together, motivated by the best interests of students.
Students and staff fondly associate Mr Kilty with his oft-repeated phrase, “Life is like a bucket; you only get out what you put in.” Indeed, Mr Kilty led by example, putting his all into the important role of principal.
Stephen Hensman is Taradale Hight [High] School principal.