JENNY WAJSENBERG, PRINCIPAL of GLEN WAVERLEY CAMPUS,
(June, 2003, speech at the Glen
Waverley Campus Farewell Function for Jenny Wajsenberg)
memory of Jenny, just after she arrived at Glen Waverley, was her rather brusque
“I can give you only four minutes” as I trailed her into her office, having
made an appointment to discuss something or other with her.
had tipped her off … “Watch out for Martyn Smith!” they’d warned her.
“He goes on and on, and on!”
later, silly thing, she offered to give me a lift from Glen Waverley to St Kilda
Road to hear a lecture by, I think, Morris West … I think that’s who it was.
in the car with me for thirty minutes! Oh
the crowning moment of this sequence, let me take you to a chilly central
Victorian afternoon in mid June 1998 - Queen’s Birthday weekend, is my guess -
thirteen months after Jenny had started at Wesley … in Leggatt Avenue
Daylesford, overlooking the lake.
Helen and I had been following up some family history in the somewhat
higgledy-piggledy but intriguing Daylesford Museum and, on the recommendation of
one of the Museum’s voluntary curators, had made a late booking at what turned
out to be a lovely Bed and Breakfast named ‘Ambleside’.
pulled into the two-space car park alongside the house, I half glimpsed the rear
outline of a female hairstyle in the passenger side of a car already in the
carpark, the occupants of which were about to get out and enter the B & B.
and I fossicked for various bits and pieces in the glove box, on the floor and
elsewhere in our car - you know what you do as you prepare to be out of the car
for a period - I thought to myself, very fleetingly, “That looked like Jenny
Wajsenberg” and, just as fleetingly, dismissed the idea as being too remote a
possibility … holiday weekend ... the whole of Victoria … no, … no chance
... couldn’t be. Didn’t even
mention it to Helen.
when Helen and I, in our turn, arrived at the front door … well, what do you
know!? It was Jenny, and her
husband Mark. Amazing!
lucky, lucky Jenny!! A whole
evening around the fire with me, and, no doubt, breakfast to follow - trapped
again! Yak, yak, yak! Wesley,
Wesley, Wesley! Blah, blah, blah!
turned out, Mark and Jenny went out to dinner to their chosen spot, as did Helen
and I to ours.
chat a little, later, when we returned and, yes, we did all breakfast together.
But as I recall there was no ear bashing.
trouble was that Jenny and I both could ‘ear bash’, particularly when
to many perturbed interventions from a longish line, it can be said, of
Jenny’s personal assistants, as Jenny and I thrashed out an issue, or
expounded theories, in her office, well beyond the appointed time.
admit some guilt as a protagonist in this, I do believe that, on occasion,
Jenny, too, was not averse to prolonging the dialectic.
work in the CCP and then later at Clunes meant that I was removed for long
periods from the daily life of the Campus until late in the year 2000.
This meant that the occasions on which Jenny and I would talk as I have
described were spasmodic and sometimes disjointed.
vigor and candor were characteristics of our discussions, characteristics valued
by each of us.
say that, on a number of occasions, Jenny and I had to simply agree to disagree.
glad to say that these disagreements always were clearly defined and it was easy
for each of us to know where the other stood.
Certainly we were not mutual sycophants!
course, there were many occasions when we agreed.
conversations were not always issues-based, though mostly, I think, they
sought strongly to understand the heritage of the College in the latter half to
two-thirds of her tenure and honored me by developing this understanding through
me - not only in straight-forward information-seeking but also, again, as it
applied to issues about which she, or I, felt very strongly.
will be other evidences of Jenny’s deepening empathy with the College’s
story, but it struck me that this year’s Founders’ Day Assembly may have
consolidated them manifestly insofar as Jenny conceived and motivated that most
enjoyable and very meaningful celebration a month or so ago.
that there can be no doubt that Jenny maintained the courage of her convictions.
that she should set an example for Campus self-analysis, Jenny bravely submitted
herself to the scrutiny of her staff when she laid bare the findings, regarding
herself personally and professionally, of the Organizational Health Surveys
conducted at the Campus in the very late 1990’s.
from this courageous example, Jenny sought to provide a blueprint for the
flattening and dispersal of the Campus’s leadership structures so that broader
participation in decision-making was available to teachers.
participation, of course, is constantly sought by teachers but often, when the
opportunity comes, it is all a bit too hard and teachers “just want to get on
with the teaching”! It’s not
easy to achieve this involvement quickly and harmoniously. Ambitions can predominate, envies arise, role confusion sets
in, time disappears, and communication falters and even ceases … all that sort
there is the appropriate balance in this dilemma.
absence from the Campus for a year now makes it hard for me to know, but
hopefully there does currently exist, at the Campus, evidence of the healthy
outcome of this professional and personal development process, a process bravely
commenced by Jenny in 1998.
that it is for you, who have been here, to judge this for yourselves.
me there is one clearly identifiable hallmark of Jenny’s Principalship of this
Campus it is the renewal and enlargement of the Middle School buildings that, of
course, we are occupying at this moment.
was the essential prime mover of the suite of spaces that now comprise the
Middle School here at Glen Waverley. And
I reckon she got it right!
won’t detail the specific reasons why I think this just now, suffice to say
that this facility turned a 1960s chicken coop, with some late ‘80s additions
- and all its structural constraints - into a superbly appropriate place where
adolescents can “laze and blaze”, to use Tony Conabere’s words of twenty
or so years ago when he was describing the nature of the Middle School challenge
as the Campus was about to expand to include the middle teenagers.
Jenny’s design philosophy, in my opinion, complemented perfectly the rationale
of the pre-existing City Curriculum and neatly foreshadowed the principles of
the Clunes experience.
at Glen Waverley, there exists a philosophical, educational and architectural
unity within which the Middle School students may begin to discover for
themselves what it means to be an educated suburban, urban and rural Australian.
a tangible result of Jenny’s vision.
and on a personal note, I want to thank Jenny for her care of and thoughtfulness
for my family and me.
is the highest priority for Jenny. Early
in her time at Wesley, she lost her beloved father and has since cared for her
mother and, of course, for her daughter and her husband.
2001, Helen and I needed some support from the College, Jenny gave it and gave
it unreservedly. Helen and I were
deeply appreciative of Jenny’s compassion then, and remain so to this day.
thank you for that, and thank you for the philosophical jousts and the mutual
learning that we have shared.
best for the future and I suspect that your family, now, will enjoy,
unencumbered, their place at the centre of your heart.