STAFF and pupils at King’s Park Primary School are preparing to say a fond farewell to Principal Len Johnston.
After 16 years as Headmaster at the King’s Drive school, Mr Johnston has decided to take early retirement this summer.
Appointed Principal at King’s Park in the late 1990s, Mr Johnston’s connections with the school go back much further. As a young boy growing up in the Fernagh area of Whiteabbey, he was one of the first P1s enrolled at the school when it opened its doors in August 1959.
“Of course when you’re going through your career you apply for a lot of posts, but it just so happens that this is the one that had my name on it,” he told the Times.
Mr Johnston’s teaching career began at Dunlambert Boys in 1976 before he moved into primary education, taking up a post at Earlview Primary School in New Mossley in 1979. Six years later he moved to Crumlin Primary School as Vice-Principal, before his return to King’s Park as Headmaster in 1996.
The 58-year-old says he has thoroughly enjoyed his time at King’s Park Primary, describing it as “an enjoyable place to work.”
He has witnessed many changes at the school over the years, in terms of the staff who’ve come and gone, and the development of information technology and the related skills of the children. He’s also overseen major changes to the school facilities and grounds, and hopes his successor will continue the programme of improvements with the addition of an adventure playground.
Mr Johnston puts the continuing success of the school down to the “great kids”, hard working and enthusiastic staff and the support of parents, governors, the NEELB and the local community.
“It’s a unique sort of place because the staff that I’ve worked with have been so supportive and there’s great harmony and a great atmosphere within the school and that’s remarked on by visitors who can see that immediately when they come in,” he commented.
Although events to mark his retirement have been “cloaked in secrecy”, Mr Johnston has been told that a special reception involving current staff, former staff and governors will take place at the school on Thursday (June 28).
Following his retirement, he is looking forward to spending more time playing golf, cycling and going travelling with his wife, Beryl. And while he’s very much looking forward to that new chapter in his life, he admits that he will miss the daily interaction with staff and pupils.
“It was a big decision, but now that I’ve made the decision I’m 120 per cent certain that it’s the correct one and I’m really looking forward to it,” he explained. “Even though there will be a lot of things I’ll desperately miss about the school, I know it’s the right time to retire and the right time to move on. In a sense it’s like a new chapter that I’m moving on to and I’ll be very active.”
Mr Johnston, whose seat will be filled by Vice-Principal Jamie Harris until a new Headteacher is appointed later this year, is glad to be leaving the school in such a strong position - one of stability in key areas such as enrolment and finances.
With the school having achieved a ‘very good’ inspection report in May, and pupil numbers increasing year on year, the outgoing Principal hopes his successor will lead the school from strength to strength in the years ahead
“The hope is to continue with the standards we have achieved and develop them even further,” he added.