Principal bids primary school farewell

Principal Neill Kinkead-Weekes was Fish Hoek Primary’s principal for seven years and deputy principal for 10.

Fish Hoek Primary School principal Neill Kinkead-Weekes, 63, has retired and he plans to take a “gap-year’’ to put his feet up and get some sun on the catwalk before tackling his bucket list.

He has been in education for 42 years and says while he loved what he did, he is looking forward to spending time with his wife, Felicity, visiting his son, Andrew, and grandson, Alijah, in East London and his son, Ryan, and grandson, Brayden, in Gordon’s Bay.

And if all goes well, he would like to tour New Zealand in a camper van and visit the Drakensberg in peak season.

He attended Fish Hoek Primary School – not knowing when he started there in 1963 – that he would one day be the principal of the school.

It was at Rondebosch Boys’ High School where his English teacher, Neil Veitch, and a guidance counsellor convinced him to become a teacher.

With a BA in English and history from UCT, he started his career at Gregory Randall High School in East London.

In 1984, he accepted a position at Cape Town High School, teaching English and history until 2004 when he became deputy principal of Fish Hoek Primary School and then principal in 2014.

In 2008, the school moved from Kommetjie Road to where it is now in Upper Recreation Road.

Under his watch, the school beefed up its physical education department, which now has six teachers coaching various sports, including swimming and athletics.

The school also offers squash at the Fish Hoek Squash Club and cricket through the All Rounder Cricket Academy.

Mr Kinkead-Weekes said the pandemic had proved to be the biggest challenge of his career.

“It was the not knowing where we are going and the lack of direction from the powers that be that was the most frustrating for me,” he said.

It had been challenging trying to keep in contact with all the parents and teachers and to come up with solutions for the various grades, such as Grade 1s who could not work online, he said.

A weekly newsletter was sent out to keep parents informed.

The school had been a very different place in the first week back after lockdown, with masked pupils avoiding conversation and eye contact, he said.

“It was very eerie as you would make your way down the corridor and not hear a sound.”

However, he said, despite all the challenges, the school had survived and he was amazed at how “resilient” the pupils were.

Currently, every grade is back at school for three-hour sessions at various times of the school day.

“We tried to stay positive at all times and tried to make things as normal as possible.”

Stefanie MacDonald, the school’s deputy principal, who takes over from Mr KinkeadWeekes, said she had “huge shoes to fill” but was up for the challenge.

“I am proud and honoured to be the new principal of Fish Hoek Primary School. I really enjoyed working with Mr Kinkead-Weekes, and I’m excited to continue building on the excellence of a well-built school,” she said.