Frank Ali’s career has come full circle at Blackfriars.
In 1981, Mr Ali started his working life as a Year 6 teacher at Blackfriars, spending five years in the primary school.
His leadership qualities soon shone through and, in 1986, he was appointed Head of Primary – a role he went on to hold for more than a decade.
He then went to Mercedes College, as Head of Junior School (1999-2007), before a 10-year stint as Head of Primary at St John’s Grammar School, Belair (2008-2017).
In 2018, Mr Ali returned to Blackfriars as Head of Primary.
This week, Mr Ali announced he would retire at the end of the 2021 school year – fittingly ending his career in education at the place it started so many years ago.
“If I could have written the script, that would have been it, to start and end in the same spot,” Mr Ali said.
“And coming back to that same position as Head of Primary has been wonderful.”
He said he had “honestly loved” his most-recent stint at Blackfriars.
“It has been so rewarding,” he said.
“Just having the boys of dads that I taught way back in the day has been so special; it’s been one of the things that I have really enjoyed.
“I’ve been really lucky that I have a fantastic staff at the moment. The classroom teachers are probably the best that I have had in 35 years that I have been a Head … we’re really blessed.
“The children here are wonderful, too. They’re so respectful.”
While he had many highlights over a long a career at Blackfriars, Mr Ali said the annual Year 6 Father and Son Camp was a particular standout.
“The friendship and camaraderie that developed with the parents after those camps … that was something I really, really enjoyed,” he said.
Seeing children with additional needs thrive was also particularly rewarding.
“It’s one of the reasons I wanted to get into teaching,” Mr Ali said.
“I was one of those children who was quite bright and didn’t struggle with my studies … and I felt sorry for kids who didn’t find it easy, and I think maybe that was what led me to eventually wanting to pursue an educational career.”
With six grandchildren, aged 3 to almost 18, he is sure his retirement will not be boring: “I’ll help (wife) Tracey out with some of the grandchildren duties, which I will absolutely love. She (Tracey) has been looking forward to having me around.”
He also plans another full-circle moment. While Mr Ali was studying at university in the late 1970s/early 1980s, he worked as the manager of the Pooraka Hotel (now the Bridgeway Hotel).
“What I would love to do, my son-in-law owns a couple of hotels, so I’d love to pour a couple of beers for him and help him out there. Just talk to some people and pour a beer for them,” he said.
The recent announcement that current Deputy Principal David Ruggiero would take over from Simon Cobiac as Blackfriars’ Principal in 2022 meant Mr Ali was confident to retire knowing the school was in safe hands.
Mr Cobiac congratulated Mr Ali on a wonderful career.
“Mr Ali returned to Blackfriars at a time of significant development and change and he brought his wisdom, insight and experience to the conversations, plans and strategies developed in our community over this period,” Mr Cobiac said.
“But his greatest legacy is the positive and caring relationships he has developed with students, parents and with the staff at Blackfriars.
“I wish him many happy years of retirement with his wife, Tracey, his children and grandchildren, and, of course, supporting his beloved football team, the Power.”
Blackfriars will celebrate Mr Ali’s significant contribution to the school as part of the end-of-year celebrations.