Kotara High celebrates golden anniversary marking 50 years of education

Looking back: Principal Mark Snedden at front with Kira Threadgate, Dan Garner, Jo Newton, Kerrie O'Heir and Sharon Campbell (left to right). Picture: Max Mason-Hubers
Looking back: Principal Mark Snedden at front with Kira Threadgate, Dan Garner, Jo Newton, Kerrie O'Heir and Sharon Campbell (left to right). Picture: Max Mason-Hubers

JO Newton never expected to be a teacher.

When the budding artist received scholarships to attend university as well as art school, she turned down the latter, thinking if she pursued art she wouldn’t ever find the time to return to university.

“I thought ‘Well I can always do art’,” Ms Newton said.

“I pursued English and History instead and was having too much fun at university, so I stuck with it.”

Ms Newton has also been loyal to Kotara High, where she has been a valued teacher for 43 years.

“I didn’t think I’d still be here, but it’s a good school, the students are generally excellent and the parents are supportive,” she said.

“Why shuffle the deckchairs on the Titanic?

“I’m very happy in the classroom – once students ‘get’ language and develop skills they can question things, they don’t accept at face value what they see and hear.

“I’ve taught children of former students as well as my own son – when he was very late with an assessment I sent him home with a note asking for an interview with his parents.” 

The school – which will celebrate its 50th anniversary with an assembly on Friday, dinner at Wests New Lambton on Saturday and open day on Sunday – seems to be one students and staff don’t want to leave.

Administration officer Sharron Campbell joined the school on April 2, 1975, and has held a variety of roles.

“I’ve always been proud to work at this school – it’s been a pleasure,” she said.

“It’s great to see former students and parents, they recognise me but I don’t always recognise them.

“They must think I’m 100!”

Current physical education teacher, sports organiser and year 12 advisor Kira Threadgate and head of mathematics Dan Garner were in the same grade at the school – the class of 2001.

Deputy principal of Narara Valley High Kerrie O’Heir completed her Higher School Certificate at Kotara in 1978 and said she relished her enthusiastic and positive teachers, peer friendships and school film nights.

Ms O’Heir learned ancient history from “dynamic and intelligent” Ms Newton and in turn, taught the subject to Kotara High principal Mark Snedden, who said Ms O’Heir was an inspiration.

“This community values education and understands the importance of the partnership parents need to have with the school for their students to succeed,” he said.

“Teachers help students feel confident, safe and valued – it’s all about equality and inclusivity. Students here look after each other and are very nurturing.”

Parents started agitating in 1963 for a new high school to meet population growth. Kotara High opened on February 1, 1968, with 212 students and 10 teachers.

It now has almost 1100 students including its support unit and around 100 staff members.