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Morgan St says ‘Goodbye, Mr D’

Saturday, 28th June, 2014

The canteen ladies at Morgan Street Public School are keen to recruit outgoing Principal Chris Dougherty after he retired yesterday. The canteen ladies at Morgan Street Public School are keen to recruit outgoing Principal Chris Dougherty after he retired yesterday.

By By Nick Gibbs

For outgoing Morgan Street Public Principal Chris Dougherty, the pleasure of arriving at work to the sound of a school bell has never lost its appeal.

“I can’t remember ever waking up and thinking I don’t want to go to work,” he said.

His unwavering sense of duty in his 37-year career is admirable, especially considering the only period of his life not spent in the education system was the first five years.

Over the journey which began in Sydney in 1977 at Karonga Special School, Mr Dougherty said that despite technical progress, children have stayed the same.

“I don’t think kids have changed that much,”  he said. “We’ve always had difficult kids.”

Mr Dougherty said a love of education and equipping students with literacy skills remained vital.

“If kids are leaving our schools and they can’t read, we’ve failed them,” he said.

But the world of interactive whiteboards and high speed internet is a far cry from the teaching supplies that greeted him when he arrived at Alma 35 years ago.

“I was given a box of chalk, a ruler and a pad of paper, and that was it,” he laughed.

Mr Dougherty spent six years in the South before moving to North Public School under Principal Albert Manning who cemented his leadership ambitions.  

“He inspired me to get to that level,” he said.

After a return to teaching children with disabilities at the Barrier Special School, these aspirations were realised when he was appointed Assistant Principal at Railway Town Public before taking the top job in 1994.

The tight-knit community at the smaller school provided the ideal environment as Mr Dougherty was able to build relationships with students’ families, something he said was important.  

“If you can get it right with the families, it will help the kids,” he said.

The philosophy continued to serve him well after taking the principal’s position at the much larger Morgan Street Public School.

“When you have 340 kids looking at you at assembly, you do think ‘this is a lot of responsibility,’” he said.

The in-depth connections made possible by spending most  of his career in Broken Hill has also been a blessing, Mr Dougherty said.

“I still get grown men calling me ‘Mr D’ when I’m walking down the street.

“I’ve been blessed to be a teacher.”

As far as retirement plans go, there is nothing concrete apart from spending a few more hours on the city’s golf greens.

“I have told (North School Principal) Brett Cumming I’m going to drive past at 9:05am with my golf clubs hanging out the window.”

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