ABU DHABI // After nearly a decade running one of the emirate’s foremost schools, Raha International School (RIH) principal Wayne MacInnis is leaving the sand dunes to retire among snow banks.
The Canadian, who joined RIH a year after it opened in 2006, held his final school assembly last week where he recalled an annual student survey.
“There was one question on the survey that always made me feel kind of uneasy,” said Mr MacInnis.
“And that question was, ‘Does the principal know your name?’”
The audience giggled.
“So I often had students coming up to me on the playground tugging on my trousers and saying, ‘Mr Wayne, what’s my name?’” the 64-year-old said. “I sometimes said, ‘Mohammed?’ or ‘Bob?’”
More laughter ensued.
Since he took over, the pupil population at the Khalifa City A school has grown rapidly from its initial 300 pupils.
“Now, we are almost at 2,000 people and I’m getting old. My memory is starting to be not so good. Even though I don’t know much about you individually I know you well as a group,” he said. “I always say how proud I am to be principal of a fine group of students. Our students are getting into some of the best universities in the world.”
Mr MacInnis, who led the school to a rare “outstanding” rating this year, said he owed much of the pupils’ success to his staff who fostered a nurturing, inclusive environment.
“There is a real sense of community that some schools may not have and there is a pride in what we’re doing. I think that’s really the thing that makes us stand apart,” he said.
The most challenging part of his job, he said, was having to jump through the hurdles involved in recruiting staff.
“The hardest part was probably the frustrations trying to bring in world-class teachers. The paperwork and the process is demotivating for them,” said Mr MacInnis. “They go elsewhere and they’re doing wonderful work elsewhere. That’s been the biggest frustration.”
David Taylor, deputy head of primary, said having “consistency in leadership” had helped the school to achieve its goals.
“If you’re in a school and the leadership is changing every three years, people come in [and] they want to change things. They start and they go,” Mr Taylor said. “Whereas we feel we’ve followed through with long-term goals.”
Ros Marshall, chief executive of Taaleem, which owns RIH, said the school’s outstanding status was a fitting tribute to Mr MacInnis, who is retiring to Toronto.
“We are indebted to him for his professionalism and vision to guide the school during its maturing years,” she said.
“We wish Wayne good health and happiness in his retirement.”