SCEA Pioneers of the Week: Alan & Valerie Campbell

It has been sixteen years since the Campbell’s finished up at SCEA.

Their children completed schooling through Midland Christian School (now known as Swan Christian College: Junior Campus) and then Swan Christian High School in Middle Swan (now Swan Christian College: Senior Campus).

However, there is a generation of SCEA staff and families who remember the ‘Campbell’ surname. It is one that evokes the earliest memories of the first school in the SCEA network – Midland Christian School.

While many see Bill and Joan Grosser as the visionaries for a Christian school for people in Midland, the Campbell’s acted as the ‘hands and feet’ in creating the school, once the vision was cast.

“No one envisioned more than one hundred students,” said Alan as he recalls those early days, “and it grew so quickly that we really had to attribute this to a work of the Holy Spirit.”

Valerie Campbell (known as ‘Val’) was the early face of SCEA, initially joining the Steering Committee for the new school following the Campbells arrival from Northern Ireland just a few months earlier to begin life in Perth.  She promptly stepped off the Committee as there was a need for at least one teacher to begin the work. This number grew to two and then three, with Val being the face of the interview panel each time and representing the interests of the school at Board meetings, registration visits and welcoming prospective parents onto the building site in West Midland prior to the demountable buildings arriving courtesy of local scrapyard merchant and industry liaison and networker, Mr Peter Bailey.

“I originally just wanted a teaching job, but things grew after we started to cast a vision to parents from different churches.  There was any number of reasons that parents joined the Christian school: an open dissatisfaction with Education Department’s stance on social issues, a strong dislike for Halloween-related activities or even just a sense of togetherness across church divides at the time”, says Val.

“The goal was to create an affordable option for Christian families. I believe we did that, but what was absolutely overwhelming was the sense of community that came together through the volunteering and the sense that there was something greater at work than just us as individuals,” says Val.

Alan watched Val settle into the rigours of full-time teaching and administration while he pursued business ventures and maintained the young family just walking distance from the chosen lot in West Midland. Alan had been volunteering for six months until the role of ‘administrator’ was created in mid-1982. The initial list of enrolments ballooned from 57 inaugural students to 180 on the roll for 1983, and the concept of the school was growing rapidly.

“What was becoming more apparent was the need for the Year Seven students who now were seeking a secondary schooling option. By Term Three, we had only just begun to reach out to different planning and regulatory authorities, and we were having families wanting Year Eight, Year Nine and Year Ten options for elder siblings who were looking to be a part of the community,” recalls Alan.

Alan’s role as ‘administrator’ became ‘General Secretary’ and later Chief Executive Officer.  He spent a total of 23 years in service to SCEA and counted his time establishing Mundaring and Ellenbrook as opportunities that he cherishes as part of the legacy of ‘early SCEA.’

Val also gave in excess of twenty years, mainly within the classroom and as Principal of Midland Christian School.  She still has very fond memories of those early classes.

“It was something extraordinary to be a part of. There were scores of people who volunteered and made SCEA such a happy and bubbly place to be. For instance, I had Mrs Astridge as the school secretary as a full-time volunteer until we could afford to pay her.  Viv Price spent twenty years as a volunteer in the library. Numerous Christian souls gave humbly and never asked for thanks or gratitude, just to make the Christian schooling experience something that the children enjoyed.”

Former pupils recently spoke of Val Campbell and the dignity with which she conveyed when she was Principal:

“If you got to go up in assembly and shake her hand, that really meant something. In the midst of transportable buildings and the bitumen quadrangle, Mrs Campbell had a sense of class and dignity that we all appreciated,” said a pupil from 1986.

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