This year will see the retirement of two of SCEA’s longest serving Business Managers – Swan’s Frank Bowyer and Ellenbrook/Beechboro’s David White. They support SCEA’s largest schools and rarely get the chance to reflect on their long and distinguished careers. The opportunity to sit down with them this week was too good to miss!
In his sixteenth year with SCEA, David White has seen more than his fair share of Excel spreadsheets.
“I’ve always seen this role as a ministry, rather than as a job. You really need everyone to pull together in a school to make it function at its best,” says David as he recalls his fondest moments in his SCEA lifetime.
“Well, there is no better feeling than putting a grant application together, submitting it with all the right documents and then getting that phone call from the government minister to say that the application is successful and your school is going to be improved through buildings or classrooms.”
Frank Bowyer knows all about success from his fifteen years assisting the multi-million dollar operations at Swan Christian College.
“I remember when we put the five million grant proposal for a performing arts centre to the government on a whim. We pushed the ‘Send’ button with a minute to spare and then, when we were successful, we thought ‘OK, now we have to make this happen!’”
“One day it was a patch of dirt, the next year it was the Maalia Mia Centre and every new student came into it like it had always been there. Very few people are aware of what the origins of some of our buildings are. The Swan Trade Centre was also a multi-million dollar grant proposal which became the first Trade Centre in an independent school in Western Australia.”
Frank took the position of Business Manager at Swan after spending some years in investment finance with multinational companies. After travelling through different world cities for his work, the lifestyle of Perth appealed to Frank and his family. The advertisement for the position came up a year prior to Frank accepting it. In the end, it was a conversation with former Principal Mark Lewis and a fair amount of prayer that convinced Frank to take a chance with ‘school finance’ as opposed to the ‘corporate finance’ settings that he had grown accustomed to.
School finance included much more than just numbers and figures for Frank. Early on, Principal Mark Lewis announced at a school assembly that Frank would be running 42 kilometres as part of an Ironman team to raise money for a charity! This was much further than Frank had ever run in the past, and the challenge was certainly significant for the new Business Manager.
A few years later, after successfully fundraising for the Kantaloomba School in Zambia, Frank travelled over to see this rudimentary facility that had been set up purely from Swan donations.
“It was incredible to see that the door had been opened for this to happen. It showed me that God can impact everyone in this world.”
Back at home, the building projects were moving ahead for Swan.
New General Learning Areas (GLAs for those in the know) and the completion of an amphitheatre allowed for further student growth and Swan was hitting record numbers of enrolments.
Down the road at Ellenbrook, David White was winning the ECC Employee of the Year for his excellent work securing grant money to build a state-of-the-art facility at a fraction of the normal cost.
“I like to see it as good stewardship. We didn’t want to see any cost over-runs, because that’s just not helpful for anyone. In the end, it was quite satisfying to see it all come together like it did.”
David also played his part in the pastoral side of the College, attending eight Sydney-Canberra trips with students and teachers to see the nation’s capital and witness the growth and development of SCEA’s Year 7 cohorts.
“As a Business Manager, I think it is so important to see the products that you’re working with – students and families – and to ensure that we are serving them in the best possible way with what we are trying to achieve through the running of our school facilities.”
Frank also sees the need to consult widely before undertaking large projects for his College in Middle Swan.
“Buildings change the landscape of your school. They also change the complexion and the culture of your community. Its really important that we strive to equip our schools with buildings and surroundings that are in keeping with the culture of the organisation and what we are aiming to achieve in Christian education.”
“One of the amazing things I’ve been privileged to enjoy in this role is the opportunity to pray with families who are dealing with financial issues. Many do not hold to a Christian faith, and the opportunity to minister in this way through prayer has been very special to me.”
So, what now for these smiling, soy latte sippers?
David and Frank will finish up their work at SCEA on October 1, 2021. Will the bills still get paid at Ellenbrook? How will we ever survive at Beechboro? Most importantly, who will run the 42 kilometres in the next staff Ironman event?
Frank draws on his Biblical knowledge for this answer from 1 Corinthians.
“I love that verse about there being many parts, but only one body. I feel like, for David and myself, we’ve been active parts of one body – which has worked together to achieve great things.”
A quick tour around Swan demonstrates the hard work that has categorised Frank’s time at Swan. Students are rehearsing for their upcoming drama production in the aforementioned Maalia Mai Theatre, a host of boys and girls are working hard on pre-apprenticeships in the Trade Centre and the ovals are in fine shape full of Primary students enjoying their morning recess. David has his hands full with the Beechboro site migration process and Ellenbrook is adding new students every day as they celebrate 20 years since opening on Santona Boulevard in 2001.
Frank and David have both expressed an interest in ‘staying in touch’ with their respective schools and with the future of SCEA as a Christian organisation. We may be fortunate enough to see one or both of them at upcoming Association meetings which determine the direction of our schools as vessels for Christian education.
“The optimism and the recent upturn in SCEA is simply amazing,” says Frank as he gets up to return to his meeting.
“It’s quite a special place to be a part of.” The positions for Business Managers of Swan and Ellenbrook will be advertised in Term 2.