In 2009 Eric and Julie Hollis sold their family home in Auckland to raise enough money to buy an old broken-down daycare centre in Rotorua.
“All our Auckland friends thought we were crazy. During our first few months in the centre, my wife and I sometimes thought that they might have been right as we began our journey to make the centre the best it could be,” Eric says.
Everything about the centre and its philosophy seemed wrong to them at the time – but the old house had some charm; they were convinced that they could achieve their dream centre in this place.
We began to hatch our first three-year strategy plan.”
This set out our long-term vision for governance, curriculum, staffing, whanau partnerships, premises and equipment, and financial objectives.
At that time, Eric says, they had no thought for the obstacles and frustrations that were waiting for them – they just immersed themselves in the literature and their dreams.
“We built an aspiration out of everything we knew about children. We learned that to set out your ideals in a structured plan gives you the best chance to achieve them.”
It seemed to them that the centre was run entirely for the convenience of the adults!
So, the thing that came first on their ‘to do’ list was to transform the culture of the place.
“We needed to put the children at the centre of all decision making,” Eric says.
This involved creating an expectation that their team would be reflective, values-centred, and give importance to the dialogues potential within their community.
Eric and Julie created a new frame of viewing human interaction in their settings.
“However, shifting from old to new paradigms often creates dissonance. Some staff left to make way for people who enjoyed being part of a more diverse team, each with a part to play in shared governance.”
Being in Rotorua provides a very interesting context, Eric says.
“Our families come from hugely diverse backgrounds - socially and culturally. This floods our centre with a richness and diversity that we value.”
It also fitted well with their commitment to inclusion, equity and social justice.
"We actively promote the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. We strive to embed these principles into our culture and our practice.”
For this reason the couple was thrilled to see the new The Rights of Children in ECE and the ECE Code of Ethical Conduct made available for all on My ECE's website.
“It has given us renewed courage to pursue our ideals.”
The centre now provides support through the Ministry of Education’s SELO programme to other ECE services in the Bay of Plenty region.
"We enjoy both sharing our experience and learning from others.”
Eric and Julie feel very proud to be included in the ECE Academy of Excellence.
Eric and Julie feel very proud to see the Ole Schoolhouse admitted into the My ECE Hall of Excellence for 2015.
This news came at the same time as they received their latest ERO report which endorsed The Ole Schoolhouse as very well placed to promote positive learning outcomes for children.
“All this is great, but while we work hard to do well we still have a way to go to be the very best we can be.”