Three weeks in and Katherine High School's new principal Sharon Oldfield can't understand how teachers could ever leave.
"The kids are great, the teachers are great and there are opportunities to make an enormous difference," she said.
Moving up from Western Australia with her husband David and indoor tortoiseshell cat Tilly, Mrs Oldfield has ambitious plans to increase attendance rates and instill the school's values: effort, inclusion, respect and resilience.
The new role will be her first as a principal, following a career built on working closely with teachers in the classroom to deliver English and math curriculums and close the educational gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous students.
Growing up in Kwinana in Western Australia, for the past five years she has worked as an assistant principal at Dongara District High School and Millen Primary School.
But it was the lure of a school with similar values to her own coupled with the idea of exploring a culturally rich part of Australia which drew her north.
"What attracted me most was the school improvement plan on the website. The clear goals and strategies as well as working to explicitly teach values align with what I believe," she said.
"I saw that the strategies could be implemented to improve student outcomes and the school is working to improve attendance and improve writing outcomes.
"They are key for me because that is where we can make a difference."
We're looking at building future engaged citizens.Katherine High School principal, Sharon Oldfield
The school has entered the new decade with some teachers still feeling the sting of last year's cuts to housing subsidies.
Almost 50 teachers did not return to Katherine classrooms at the beginning of the school year, many from Katherine High School. Two positions remain vacant today.
Mrs Oldfield said a focus on building an expert teaching team and fostering a sense of belonging to the school are part of a long-term plan to retain staff into the future.
"The reality is a staff that works well together is much more likely to stay," she said.
"When you have successful outcomes and teachers have a sense of achievement with student progress, they are much more likely to stay.
"The teachers at the school have voiced they want whole school learning, and we plan on building a workplace culture that enables teachers to develop."
While a concrete plan is still in the works to end the ongoing teacher churn, the school is already looking at ways to build engagement with students.
"We are surveying students about their interests and career pathways, and reviewing timetables to make them more flexible and targeted to what students want to achieve.
"We are developing a strong student voice, and offering programs to high achieving students, while building on the social and emotional support structures."
At a school which struggles to get students walking through the gate, Mrs Oldfield said her major focus for the year is improving attendance rates and embedding values.
The Northern Territory Government's Department of Education data shows an average 62.6 per cent attendance rate for 2018, and 67.2 per cent for 2017.
But according to the school's website, which caught the eye of Mrs Oldfield in the first place, a "focus on quality teaching, extracurricular activities linked to attendance, active discouragement of truancy through a range of re-engagement programs, and an active presence by staff in the school yard during class breaks", Katherine High is making steady progress in improving student attendance.
"We have seen an increase in attendance in the first three weeks already," Mrs Oldfield said.
"The support structures in the school - Clontarf, Stars, Pathways, the Home Liaison Officer and Aboriginal and Islander Education Worker, the school based police officer, the KFLEC team and the dedicated staff are beyond anything I've ever seen in any school I've worked at.
"I've come here and I don't understand why teachers would leave, my first thought when I arrived was 'I know a tonne of teachers from WA who would love to work here and make a difference'.
"We just have to promote that."
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