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Heart of Hadlow to step down

Hadlow Preparatory School principal Michael Mercer is retiring at the end of term two next year. PHOTO/CHELSEA BOYLE 


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It was a career that started with the spark of inspiration inside the classroom, with one really good teacher passing on a love of education.

Once Michael Mercer had his heart set on being a teacher he never really left the schooling system, but that will change when he steps down as principal of Hadlow Preparatory School at the end of term two next year.

“I started school when I was five, I’m leaving at 65,” he said.

He credits his mother for being determined to see her children into lifelong careers and encouraging his interest.

“She made sure I followed through.”

Mr Mercer taught in various South Island schools, before jumping at the chance to teach at Hadlow.

Somebody had told him in passing they thought the school would close within two years and he could not resist the challenge.

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

Apart from two years of flatting, Mr Mercer said he had always lived on a school site.

“I live onsite which I really love, it’s 65 steps from my office to my front door.

Michael Mercer with his cat Pinot Noir. PHOTO/CHELSEA BOYLE
Michael Mercer with his cat Pinot Noir. PHOTO/CHELSEA BOYLE

“It’s just far enough, I never take work home.”

Traditionally, living onsite was an expectation for boarding house teachers and it proved easier on the wallet.

It also meant the children of Hadlow have had the company of Mr Mercer’s cat Pinot Noir.

Mr Mercer saw the school through a period of great change with the boarding house closing in 1993 and the single year group, single classroom setup being overtaken by open floor plan learning hubs.

He also took the school through the integration process, something he saw as a step towards an increased level of professionalism at the school.

“We have had a full roll since integration,” he said.

There was a lot Mr Mercer loved about the school.

“Because it’s still a relatively small school you know everyone,” he said.

“You know their personalities and quirks, and you try to nurture those.

“They are the real person. You don’t want a set of clones.

“It’s about letting them be themselves.”

His next big adventure is building his dream home in Masterton, and he will be taking Pinot Noir with him.

“My first house will be my last house.”


  1. Thank you Mr Mercer for making my tenure at Hadlow a tolerable one. You were one of my favorite teachers and I’m happy to see you’ve had a long, illustrious and fruitful career doing what you love. All the best for retirement.

  2. Michael, I do hope that your retirement goes well for you and I wish you all the best. If anyone deserves a great retirement it would be you. I have not forgotten how good you were to Thom. Best wishes for your future years in your new home when it is built, regards from Deidre

  3. Enjoy a well earned break Michael, all the best from the Jacobson’s. There is always a flute shaped Pinot Noir at our home for you??

  4. Perhaps the greatest attraction of Masterton is the quality of its schools. Hadlow tops the list quite easily thanks to Michael’s leadership, dedication and continued renewal of educational learning standards. I wish you well in your retirement although it seems a bit selfish to force Pinot Noir also in this new endeavour. Thanks & Enjoy!

  5. All the best Micheal in your retirement. I know my children are better adults thanks to Hadlow an a school is only as good as its leader.

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