THERE were mixed emotions at King’s Ely this week as the excitement of the start of the new school year was coupled with the poignant departure of the school’s long-serving Chairman of the Board of Governors, Richard Slogrove.

The Board has appointed Jeff Hayes as its new Chairman. It also welcomes Isobel Newport-Mangell to the Board, an Old Elean and long-term supporter of the school, and Reverend Canon Mark Bonney, who becomes Dean of Ely Cathedral on September 22.

Richard – a Chorister and King’s Scholar at the school from 1955 until 1963 – made the decision to step down from the role in 2011 after serving seven years as Chairman and a total of 14 years on the Board of Governors. After playing an integral role in the successful acquisition of the Old Palace, he was persuaded to stay until September this year to oversee the building’s redevelopment.

Indeed, it was at the opening of the Old Palace last week where Richard made his final address to staff and Governors. He returned only briefly on the first day of term on Monday (3) to see the historic building come to life, as the students took their first steps into the new Sixth Form centre and boarding house.

Richard speaks of his role as Chairman of the Board of Governors with modesty, regarding the leadership role as a service to the school and its community. He is also renowned throughout the school for gratefully acknowledging staff in all roles as well as the contribution of parents, grandparents, Old Eleans and benefactors.

“It has been thoroughly rewarding to participate in the transformation of the school during my term in office, but, more importantly, to be of service to a generation of families,” said Richard.

“It is the Head, Sue Freestone who is responsible for leading the school, and she is now recognised as one of the foremost professionals in education. Her leadership has been outstanding, which is evident in the progress that has been made. She is highly professional and well-regarded politically, and working with her has been a most rewarding experience.

“When I reflect on what has been accomplished over the last 14 years, I am reminded that, while we would all consider new buildings and initiatives to be significant developments, it is the teachers and staff that the children will remember.

“It also brings me great pleasure to depart on a day when history meets the future, as the Old Palace comes to life with young people.”

Head of King’s Ely, Sue Freestone said: “Life at King’s Ely will never be the same again. Richard has been a Governor at the school for many years and he was part of the team that appointed me as Head in 2004. We have worked together creatively, harmoniously and productively, especially for the seven years since he has been Chairman.

“Richard has been an exceptional Chairman and I suspect there are few in his position who know more about the issues that affect independent education in this country, and certainly none who know more about their own school. He attends concerts and dramatic productions; he seldom misses a home cricket match; he has a passion for his school, and his wife Jo is seen by many as an unfaltering supporter of all we do, in her own right.

“To Richard I offer my heartfelt thanks for the unstinting support he has offered me, personally, and for the myriad gifts of time, energy and commitment he has showered on this school for the past 14 years. We will miss him sorely.”

Jeff Hayes, who was officially appointed as Chairman at the Board’s strategic meeting yesterday (6), said: “Richard is a hard act to follow and I hope that I am able to fulfil all expectations over the next three years. It is a real privilege to be appointed Chairman of the Board of Governors, and not one that I take lightly. I aim to apply my experience of the private sector to the role and I am fortunate to have the expertise and support of the Governors to ensure that the Board delivers its long term strategy.”

Sue added: “Jeff has been a member of the Board of Governors for two years and has been associated with us for several years more. He brings a new perspective to governance at King’s Ely and I am really looking forward to working with him as we enter into a new phase in the development of the school.”

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