Bell to ring on principal’s career

From a lanky and likeable pupil in shorts at Kaikorai Valley High School in the 1970s, to a lanky and likeable principal (still often in shorts) at Kaikorai Valley College, Rick Geerlofs has come a long way.

The 64-year-old said he never envisaged being principal at the school, let alone holding the position for the past 12 years.

It makes him the college’s longest-serving head.

Previously, he was deputy principal at Menzies College, in Southland, before becoming principal at East Otago High School, in Palmerston.

Now he officially has his "licence to chill" — be retired — and will finish his term at the end of this year.

Rather than sitting in his office all day, he is known as a school principal who likes to work at the pit face and get his hands dirty.

"I think most teachers come into the vocation because they love working with young people.

"And it is a job that keeps you young, so I like getting alongside the kids and being involved in school camps and sports and those sorts of things.

"I think it’s important for students to see that you’re prepared to roll your sleeves up and do what they do."

In a bid to remain youthful for as long as possible, Mr Geerlofs vowed not to become a couch potato in his retirement.

"I’m very aware that some people just go cold turkey.

"That’s not good for their futures — they really do grow old quickly."

Kaikorai Valley College principal Rick Geerlofs is retiring after 12 years at the Dunedin school....
Kaikorai Valley College principal Rick Geerlofs is retiring after 12 years at the Dunedin school. PHOTO: PETER MCINTOSH
Rather than being busy at school, he would now be busy doing different things.

"I’ve got four children and eight grandchildren. My bike is warmed up and ready to go, the tramping boots are at the door and I’ve got about three houses to paint — my kids' houses."

Looking back on his career, especially the past decade, he said there had been many trials and tribulations (including Covid), and the thing he would miss most was working with his leadership team.

"It is a family, a big family. It has to be, because this has been kind of like my second home."

Asked what he hoped his legacy for the school would be, he said it was "not a big thing for me".

"It’s not about leaving a legacy. I’d like to think I’ve left the school in good shape ... better than when I arrived.

"But different people will have different opinions about that."

Jatin Bali, a deputy principal from a North Island secondary school, has been appointed to take over as principal at the start of next year.