Michael Mercer, enjoying his farewell gift on Monday. PHOTO/ANNA KINVIG

ELISA VORSTER
elisa.vorster@age.co.nz

Hadlow School pupils, teachers and parents came together last week to farewell their principal of 22 years, Michael Mercer.

There were plenty of smiles coming from the well-respected principal during the assembly, saying the pupils’ special farewell was “lovely”.

“I’m prepared, I’m ready to go,” he said.

Mercer announced his intention to retire last year and had plenty of time to prepare for his farewell, joking on Monday that his handkerchief was for his runny nose and not his tears.

The assembly was a mixture of amusing anecdotes and poems about Mercer’s online spending, his love of fine wine, his arguably-fat cat named Pinot, and his incredibly large collection of shirts and shoes.

There were several musical acts from the pupils as well as his former secretary, Yvonne Rhodes, writing her own rhyme about Mercer called ‘the ancient educator’.

In it, she joked about Mercer’s side jobs of unblocking drains and climbing up ladders to retrieve stray balls from trees.

He was also referred to by one of the pupils as “a little quirky at times”, as she spoke of the row of motion-activated toys in the window of his office – a challenge for pupils, who tried regularly set them all off.

Mercer joined the school when someone told him in passing they thought the school would close within two years – he could not resist the challenge.

He stepped into the role of deputy headmaster in 1987 and would later become principal in 1996.

He took the school through the integration process and catapulted it into the limelight when it shifted to modern learning practices in 2009.

In 2014, Hadlow opened its future-focused classrooms, which had teachers from around the country visiting to get a look at the modern, retrofitted spaces.

Hadlow board member Kim Register said Hadlow was seen as a leading school in New Zealand, thanks to Mercer’s initiatives over the years.

“He has moved Hadlow forward in terms of classrooms – Hadlow are way ahead of the game,” she said.

Mercer had lived on the school grounds throughout his career at the school, although it wasn’t required, and would be retiring to his first home which he built in Masterton.

Register referred to Mercer as “dedicated and passionate”, and was always involved with the pupils’ activities, even on his days off.

“He attends all the kids sports at the weekend and goes down to Clareville and Colombo to watch them.”

To commemorate his time at the school, a brick wall with a plaque was unveiled at the school sports field.

The school’s new principal, Andrew Osmond, will begin at the start of next term.