Tuesday, 17 May 2022

    Principal wept on appointment

    By the time he turned 24, Andrew FitzSimons had almost died twice, ABC News reports.

    He was 15 years old the first time, and playing front row in a team of older boys for his boarding school, Knox Grammar. His brother, future rugby international Peter, was five. The scrum collapsed and “I knew I’d hurt myself”, FitzSimons, now 69, remembers.

    After an uncomfortable night, he was driven to Hornsby hospital as the principal held pillows around his head. X-rays showed FitzSimons had broken his neck and narrowly escaped spinal damage or worse.

    In 1975, when he was 23, FitzSimons was driving back to his Glebe terrace on a motorcycle after his first teaching practicum. He was near the old Harold Park Raceway, when a driver failed to look as she turned. She punctured the petrol tank. “It sparked and suddenly it went up,” FitzSimons remembers.

    FitzSimons pulls back his sleeve to show the faded burn scars. FitzSimons, a tall, thin, gentlemanly fellow, spends his days at Dapto High, a sprawling school near Wollongong, where he has been principal for 17 years.

    FitzSimons’ teaching career took him around the state and to some of its most challenging schools. He taught a special needs class at Greystanes Girls High (he is still passionate about teaching children with disabilities). He was a curriculum specialist, an acting director of Bradfield College and a deputy principal. But he kept missing out on a principal’s position, the role he wanted most.

    “I went 14 years between my first interview for principal, and my only successful interview. I thought I didn’t quite fit into system leadership, or something.” When he received the call that he had been appointed head of Dapto, he wept. “It’s a magnificent job,” he says.

    “It’s a confident school,” says FitzSimons. “Last year got the best academic result ever – top ATARs of 99.6 and 99.4. I am not sure we knew that we could do that.”


    Knocked back endlessly for principals’ jobs, when he got Dapto he wept (The Sydney Morning Herald)


    The FitzSimons family at Christmas, 1976. From left, Peter FitzSimons snr, David (born 1948), Andrew (born 1952), Peter jnr (1961) and James (1956).CREDIT:CATHY FITZSIMONS