Principal retires after 28 years

2015-08-05 06:00
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ATHLONE Park Primary School Principal, Geoff Grenfell retired on Friday, 31 July, having served 40 years as a teacher, and 28 years as principal of the school.

He was offered the position as principal, while serving as deputy at Penzance Primary School, Durban and took up the post on 1 July 1987.

“I got into teaching for very different reasons than most of my colleagues. I was a B student with certain challenges such as being colourblind, left-handed and tone deaf,” Grenfell said.

In those days children were still forced to write with their right-hands, he explains. “I only realised I was colour blind when they did a test for military service. Then I suddenly realised with relief why I battled with maps in geography,” he said. Despite these challenges Grenfell was identified for having leadership qualities and he was made prefect in his final year.

“I wanted to become principal as quickly as possible to establish a school in which all children would receive a positive, balanced, holistic education regardless of their backgrounds,” Grenfell said.

At age 34 he became principal and with the support of committed parents and staff, the school grew from 176 pupils in 1987 to 490 today.

There have been many proud moments over the years. Under his leadership and that of the board, R3,5 million was raised to build eight classrooms to accommodate the growing number of pupils.

A highlight in Grenfell’s career was when the department, anticipating the release of Nelson Mandela, gave the whites-only school the option to open up to all races. 95,7% of the parents voted in favour. Another highlight of his career include being the first white chairman of the Umbumbulu Principals’ Association.

Today Athlone Park Primary­ is recognised by the Department of Education as academically being one of the top five percent of schools in the province.

“My decision to retire three years early is that my wife and I want to spend more time with our grandchildren and have the opportunity to travel our country and overseas while we are still fit and healthy,” Grenfell said.

Geoff and his wife Felicity, also a retired teacher, have been married for 40 years. They have a son and a daughter who both follow careers in the education field and three grandchildren. The couple is planning to move to their second home in Fish Hoek.


I got into teaching for very different reasons than most of my colleagues. I was a B student with certain challenges such as being colour-blind, left-handed and tone deaf

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