Three popes, 12,000 students...

By Viv Logie

Marjorie Kiely has seen three popes, five bishops and eight parish priests in her 31 years as principal’s assistant at John Paul II High School.
She has also seen 119 staff come and go, been to the Post Office 6740 times, watched 12,000 students undertake their secondary education at the West Coast’s only Catholic secondary school, and worked for seven principals, starting with Sister Anne Fennell and finishing with the current principal, Keiran Stone.
Mrs Kiely took up the position in 1983, the same year John Paul II High School was integrated, and three years after St Mary’s High School and the Marist Brothers’ School amalgamated.
She has watched many students succeed in their careers: “So many have done so well over the years, there are too many to list.”
For three decades Mrs Kiely has been the first port of call for every student who walks through the doors of John Paul II.
“I’m known as the school grandmother, the uniform police and the witch,” she smiled.
The special character of the school -- its Catholic faith -- had played a special part in the development of the students, both academically and personally, but she had also made some “wonderful” collegial contacts at Greymouth High School and Tai Poutini Polytechnic — “liaising with other schools has been great”.
After re-marrying two years ago, Mrs Kiely said she began thinking about moving on.
After packing up her desk yesterday, she said she was going to relax, buy a bike, take walks and catch up with friends and relatives she had not seen for a while.