Former headmaster passes away

Vernon Wood died last week.

It was with profound shock and deep sadness that the school and Wynberg Old Boys’ Union learnt of the sudden passing of Old Boy, Vernon Wood, former principal of both Bergvliet High School and Bishops. Our deepest condolences to the Wood family.

I well remember Vernon Wood as a schoolboy at Wynberg. He threw himself with enthusiasm into all he did, had a cheery smile and made friends easily.

He finished off his Wynberg career in 1977 as prop for the first rugby team as well as serving as school prefect.

It came as no surprise when, together with classmates Greg Brown and Chris Luman, also future principals, he decided to attend UCT and become a teacher. He started off his teaching career at Queens College before moving up the ranks, returning to Cape Town as a HOD at Muizenberg High School.

From the beginning of his career, he impressed all with his enthusiasm for the teaching profession and his ability to relate to everyone, from parents, to school management, to pupils at the school.

His next move was to Bergvliet High School as a deputy principal in 1997, a position he handled with such accomplishment that he was an obvious candidate for the principalship when it came up in 2005. He soon established Bergvliet as a school of choice in the area.

His leadership success and enviable reputation, led him to be appointed as headmaster of Bishops in 2008 – reporting to the principal. Hardly had he opened his office door before he found himself handling a number of contentious issues with quiet dignity – always willing to listen respectfully to both sides before coming to a carefully thought through response.

Even though confrontation was not his style, staff and boys at the school soon realised that this new man had a backbone of steel.

Latterly, he served as head of the Quality Assurance at IQAA – where his talents as a mediator and honest broker soon came to the fore and he was destined, yet again, to make a huge impact on another sphere of education.

Alas, this was not to be and we were shocked to hear of his fatal heart attack while cycling last Saturday morning.

Wynberg Boys’ High salutes this fine educationalist and passes on sincere and heartfelt condolences to Betty-Ann and his children, Belinda, Nicholas and Heather. In time, may it be a source of comfort to them to know that their father and husband was a giant amongst teachers who added value to the lives of so many thousands of young people.

* Stephen Price, principal of Bergvliet High School, wrote to the school community: “For the second time in recent weeks I am the bearer of sad news.

“Earlier today I was informed that our former principal, my immediate predecessor “Vernon Wood, passed away after suffering a massive heart attack. He was out cycling with his wife, Betty-Ann, in preparation for the Argus Cycle Tour.

Vernon was deputy principal between 1997 and 2004 at Bergvliet before taking over from Mr Robertson as principal in 2005. He left Bergvliet High at the end of 2008 to become the principal of Bishops.

“A passionate educator, a leader who connected with his staff and a family man through and through, he is survived by his wife, Betty-Ann and three children, Belinda, Nicholas and Heather, all three past pupils of Bergvliet High.

“On behalf of the SGB, staff, parents, past pupils and current learners, I extend our deep sadness and heartfelt condolences to Betty-Ann and the children.

His passing is a tragic loss to education and I know it must be unimaginable to his family and friends. God grant you all His Peace, Grace and Mercy at this devastating time.”

* Keith Richardson, is a former Wynberg Boys’ High School educator and headmaster.