Time is right to say goodbye

Ray Linabury (left) and Richard Heazlewood-Ross, deputy principals of Mullum- bimby High School, both retiring after many years of service.
Ray Linabury (left) and Richard Heazlewood-Ross, deputy principals of Mullum- bimby High School, both retiring after many years of service.
January 2009 was the start of another school year, and Ray Linabury, deputy principal at Mullumbimby High School for the past 18 years, had the ‘it’s time’ feeling, a feeling he wanted to share with fellow deputy Richard Heazlewood-Ross.

“I walked in to Richard one day and said I’m going to retire,” recalled Ray, “and he came back a bit later and said if you’re going, I’m going.”

It makes for a good story, but Richard, with his characteristic good humour, denied its veracity.
“I always thought this would be my last year,” he said. “I knew it was my time.”

But whatever tricks the passing of time were playing upon memory, both felt passionately about their time at the school, and both admitted to feeling a bit emotional on a morning following their ‘To sirs with love’ farewell at the Brunswick Surf Club the night before.

“It was just a magnificent night – we couldn’t have wished for anything better,” said Richard.

Ray Linabury was the first of the two to arrive as deputy at the school, at the age of 41 in 1992 – ‘one of the youngest members on the staff’ – and now that he has clocked up 18 years he has found there are only two other longer-serving deputies in the state.

Those 18 years have been for Ray ‘just great times’, and there was from time to time a tear in the eye as he talked about those great times.

On top of his duties as deputy, Ray taught senior science and was a passionate tennis coach, twice escorting junior Davis Cup teams overseas.

“I had never taught in a school with such a variety of talent,” he said, “and what stands out about the school is that it is a gentle, caring place, despite what happened this year.”

Both men spoke at length about the terrible tragedy of the death of Jai Morcom in term three, of their ongoing sorrow, and of their distress at the distortion and misrepresentation of what happened by the national media.

“What was happening in the media was not what was happening in our school,” said Ray, “and I found that very hard.”

He reflected on the caring nature of the community at that sad time, which rallied round and provided lunches day after day, at a time of 12, 14-hour days when nobody had time to think of anything like food.

Ray is proud of the good community, the good school that ‘pushed the boundaries in a whole lot of areas’ and his input into it; he is grateful for the opportunity to have been a positive role model, a mentor and a teacher for the next generation, and he’s proud to be going at the time of his choosing.

For Richard Heazlewood-Ross, his time of leaving is a time of reinvention rather than retirement, and appropriately for an English/history teacher he has a quote from the Bard to express it: “The readiness is all.”

Richard is not so far behind Ray, with 13 years clocked up in the school that reflects the ‘very articulate, feisty community’ in which it is situated, where he has revelled in the creativity and the sense of tolerance in ‘a fascinatingly diverse place’.

He is particularly proud to have been part of the establishment of the Byron Community Campus, a project that provides another chance for an education for students who don’t fit into the mainstream.

“We see families and kids who through no fault of their own really struggle,” he explained, “and if we don’t look after them they are destined to a life of poverty and distress.”

He cites too the close association with the Indigenous community and its role in the life of the school, from the Reconciliation Walk when in the words of one of the teachers “we touched the soul of the school on that day” to the role of the Deadly Dancers in giving indigenous students a voice and teaching the school about culture, to the enormous help and support provided at time of Jai’s death.

“The local indigenous community realised we were traumatised, and struggling,” said Richard, “and Uncle Lewis Walker came in to the school to perform a healing ceremony – it was unbelievably moving.”

It is all part of Richard’s philosophy that ‘in teaching I’ll be taught’ and he leaves the school with wonderful memories and the satisfaction of ‘the well-lived life’.

“It’s an absolute privilege to watch young students leave in Year 12 as really gracious young men and women,” he said.

A raft of other things is on the agenda for both men, with tennis, swimming and water polo on the list for Ray, as well as travel, continuing Lions Club work and putting in a veggie garden, while for Richard it will be improving his cooking skills, revelling in being a first-time grandpa, travel and community work.

They’re both delighted to be leaving the school in the good hands of Donna Pearson and Linda Price, and feel blessed to have formed such a strong ‘two halves of a coconut’ complementary team.

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