The term sea change isn't a foreign concept for Melville High School's new executive principal.
From growing up in the Western Suburbs of Sydney, to teaching on the South Coast then further honing his craft at Bourke and now calling the Mid North Coast home - Andrew Ryder has been here, there and everywhere.
The move to the Far West town of Bourke was only intended as a short stay but there was opportunities aplenty.
"Before here I'd been out in Bourke for eight years, started out there in 2014 as a deputy principal and then became a principal," he told the Argus.
"I went out there for one year and that became eight pretty quickly.
"I had no inclination to head West at all, I had a mate trying to convince me to develop my career, I thought why would I ever leave my wife came out from Canada to go to university at Wollongong and we'd met down there.
"I had an opportunity go out for one week, I went out to Wilcannia and Menindee, had a look and that opened my eyes and said I'd be willing to do it and the opportunity came up at Bourke for one year.
"I stayed out there and loved it, it was a great place to raise my kids at that stage of our lives.
"My wife and two kids came out, one being 18 months and the other three and a half, but now they're older it was time for a change."
His career began at home in Campbelltown before teaching at Illawarra Sports High School.
As he said, the move to Bourke was an eye-opener to the comparisons between metro and regional systems.
"That first visit, I got an appreciation for the size of the Department of Education in New South Wales, the whole scope of it, the huge range of opportunities, different students and different circumstances," he recounted.
"Probably also the inequities that exist within it.
"The opportunities that students would get in a Wollongong school is far different at Wilcannia, Bourke and Menindee.
"That was glaring and I saw an opportunity for myself to make that a bit more consistent.
"I wasn't just a university graduate, I was already an executive teacher and I could see what I could add out there."
With the population of Bourke just below 2,000 as of the last census, compared to Kempsey's 15,000+, Mr Ryder is aware of the differences he'll encounter.
"This is my eighth year as a senior executive member, this is a larger school so I'm ready for the challenge of that," he said.
"You get an understanding of those parts of the education system where you can be flexible and creative and that comes from experience and having the right people around you but also the areas of education where you have to be uncompromising and the non-negotiables of what's expected from the department, NESA and what we want too.
"Melville High School has just become a connected community school, Bourke was the same, that's a different strategy the department has and you have a license to be creative in meeting student needs and improving student outcomes.
"I've got an understanding of that strategy and the areas where you can be flexible."
The connected communities was a strategy that started in 2012 with 15 schools identified across that state where something needed to be done differently.
Bourke High School was one of those original schools with more work done at the end of last year with data conducted in terms of education, health, police, crime and socio-economics.
Kempsey was a community identified to benefit from the strategy with Kempsey South Public School, Melville High, Kempsey West and Kempsey High School all now under that umbrella.
"There's extra supports that can come in being a connected community school - it's an exciting time for Melville High with a bit of a change and looking how we can improve what already exists," Mr Ryder said.
Along with the differences in schools, he's excited by the experiences of a new area.
"It's very different parts of the world [Bourke and Kempsey], my kids were raised in red dirt, muddy river and I was the only member of my family that didn't own an Akubra hat before we left," he added.
"Then I had it pointed out to me when I got here that the Akubra factory is in Kempsey.
"We explored, travelled and camped a whole heap out there so we saw lots of outback Queensland and New South Wales.
"Kempsey is still a country town, just a big country town by the beach, there's lots of outdoors things to do that we're really keen to get into.
"We just bought a house in the area and are looking forward to getting our kids involved in sports teams and surf clubs and throwing ourselves into the community."
From growing up in what's known as the fibro area of the rugby league world, Mr Ryder has considerable experience with the sport and knows the rich history it has in Kempsey.
"The reading and research I did on Melville before I came here, it's got a proud sporting history so there's always a place for sport in high schools," he said.
"It's obviously different from when I coached and taught down at Wollongong, that was a selective sports school and I coached some of the junior rep teams on the weekend for the Illawarra Steelers and am always keen to get into that.
"It's a different way to engage young people and if that's what they're passionate about then we need to meet them somewhere.
"I love children's sport, my daughter plays football and son plays rugby league, they both enjoy swimming and are keen to get into a surf club."
Overall, Mr Ryder knows students are the priority and has been impressed with what he's seen so far.
"From my first day out when I was really nervous at Sarah Redfern High School in Minto right through to now the focus still needs to be on all students," Mr Ryder explained.
"As a whole system we've got to live by our own mantra that every student is known, valued and cared for and that's regardless of circumstance and context.
"We need to make sure we know every one of our students and we're striving to improve outcomes for every one of them.
"We as a system, as a school, every teacher and every student need to make sure we're improving every year - if we keep doing that we're on the right path.
"I was really impressed with the amount of students that came in, knocked on my door, shook my hand and introduced themselves from our Year 12 captains and leaders right down to our Year 7 students.
"There's a really nice bunch of kids here and a really hard working bunch of teachers.
"We've got an opportunity to do some great things, it's a good school to start with and I think we can continue that journey and improvement for Melville."
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