Surprise farewell for passionate principal

Summerdale High School principal Fay Heather Daniels retires.

Recently established Summerdale High School, formerly known as Aloe Junior High School bid farewell to their principal, who served the Lentegeur community for 40 years.

Fay Heather Daniels, 61, had a final school assembly with the Grade 8 to 10 pupils on Friday June 24.

In a surprise farewell ceremony Ms Daniels rang the bell for the last time, at the school where she started teaching when Aloe Primary School opened its doors in 1982.

After 24 years it became Aloe Junior High School, a middle school for Grade 7 to Grade 9 pupils and is now a fully-fledged high school (“Not enough school capacity for growing community”, February 9, 2022).

Aloe Junior High School became Summerdale High School, to accommodate pupils Grades 8 to 10, to eventually have a matric class in 2024.

The Western Cape Education Department approached Ms Daniels in April last year to accommodate more high school pupils.

During the ceremony teachers and pupils shared how Ms Daniels, while in the proverbial hot seat, had put out fires and remained determined to make things work.

School governing body chairwoman Sophia Willemse said Ms Daniels had taught them to be leaders and ensured ethical teaching, which they would like to continue.

Teacher Imaan Miller had pupils stand with posters spelling “principal”, each letter representing a characteristic of Ms Daniels.

Philanthropic, resourceful, inspirational, natural, caring, integrity, passionate, authentic and leader were just a few of the qualities Ms Miller could list to describe Ms Daniels.

Ms Daniels, who taught in the same building for 40 years, referred to herself as a rolling stone who did not gather any moss.

She attributed her success to having been guided by great leaders, principals and colleagues, with whom she had garnered great friendships, and said that saying good-bye was one of the saddest moments in her career.

“I have served (this community) most of my life,” she said, recalling how, when she had started at the school, she looked like she was one of the pupils.

“We’ve made history. Aloe Junior High School was the first junior high school in the Western Cape and many had said that we would not survive. We proved them wrong,” she said.

She encouraged the pupils, and told them that they have the best teachers. “Start believing me (that) you have the best teachers and you are going to be the best school,” she said. She also challenged them to ensure that their first matric class of 2024 would have a 100 percent pass rate.

Ms Daniels said she would continue to be part of the school. “I will be keeping an eye on you. You are my family,” she said, assuring the pupils that when she reprimanded them it was “with all of the love in my heart”.

Ms Daniels likened the school community, including pupils, parents, teachers, department officials to, and gifted guests with a succulent. These plants, she said, were resilient and beautiful survivors in the desert, could withstand heat with little water and was able to bloom.

She paid tribute to Walking Bus volunteers who, she said, put their lives in danger to ensure the safety of pupils as they made their way to and from school as well as during intervals.

During her tenure at the school Ms Daniels accompanied pupils on tours to Oudtshoorn, Knysna, Johannesburg and Sutherland and also visited the site when Cape Town Stadium was being built ahead of the Soccer World Cup in 2010.

As deputy principal she witnessed the school become the first middle school in the Western Cape and ushered it into becoming a high school as principal.

Ms Daniels is proud of the school’s achievements including Jehovahnissi Muvumbu, Grade 10 pupil, being selected into the Western Cape volleyball team, participating in the SA national school’s championships and former pupil Miche Minnies, becoming striker for Mamelodi Sundowns.

Over the years the school faced many challenges, including the impact of the community’s bad socio-economic conditions; teenage pregnancies, pupils leaving school, lack of interest in education and gang related activities.

She was saddened by the loss of a pupil, who committed suicide last year and death of walking bus members.

During her retirement, Ms Daniels plans to “relax, rest and repeat” before going to visit her grandson in Thailand.

She would like to tour the country and spend quality time with her husband, sons and grandsons.

“The school is so dear and near to my heart that I will continue to plough back into the school and the community to enhance the growth of Summerdale High,” she said.

Fay Heather Daniels rings the school bell one last time.