Blue Mountains Grammar School’s new headmaster, Ian Maynard, 53, thrives on a challenge.
When he started as headmaster at his previous Independent Christian school in Rouse Hill, he managed to boost enrolment numbers from 360 students in 2007 to 900 by 2018.
And this year he faces the challenge of changing community opinion, and possibly stemming a drop in enrolment numbers, after a difficult end to the Grammar school’s centenary year in 2018.
Last year the 600-student school was rocked when two acting deputy heads signed a controversial letter by Anglican schools to all federal MPs, supporting the preservation of powers that would let them discriminate against gay staff.
“I watched from the outside and thought ‘how did that happen’? Mr Maynard said.
“I thought as a whole it was sad ... an enormous misunderstanding. I know there are LGBTI staff, students and parents here at the school, all of whom feel included and valued and I only hope to enhance that.
“I was worried that so much damage had been done to the school’s internal reputation that it was going to make it harder to unite the school, but since I’ve been here I’ve felt only unity. I imagine the lessons we’ve learnt is ‘don’t say things that you don’t mean’.”
Mr Maynard said “over coming months and years” he hoped “to demonstrate by our actions”.
“My plan is to grow the school, so as many people as possible benefit from what I see is a fabulous educational institution.”
And he hopes to continue to develop “kids who are flexible, resilient ... creative kids … who love to make a difference in the world … kids equipped for a really complex century when they might have 10 different careers”.
Mr Maynard said when he started as a teacher the “last job” he wanted was the principal’s.
“It was too far away from teaching kids. But throughout my career I've realised the difference you can make by sitting in this chair.”
The former Norwest Christian College principal said he has always had an affinity with the Mountains.
As a teenager growing up “on the flats not far from Penrith” he spent many years bushwalking in Glenbrook Gorge, then later he would camp with other teenagers overnight in the Upper Mountains – walking to Mt Solitary and the Ruined Castle. He also enjoyed cycling up and down the highway and Bells Line of Road and abseiling and canyoning.
Living in the Mountains means he can now start his days with a bushwalk and push himself to the limit again with tough valley and cliff walks on weekends, like the deep descent into the Devils Hole at Katoomba.
“I feel really alive at the end of that when I’ve had a really difficult experience,” he said smiling.