THERE was a school, a principal, and students, but no furniture.
That’s how Beryl Fenwick described the day of the official opening of Manning Valley Anglican College, in 2003.
“We knew the furniture was on the way, on a truck, somewhere between Sydney and Taree,” Ms Fenwick said.
Finally the truck arrived, very early in the morning and a team of volunteers scrambled to unpack the furniture and have it installed, in time for the first lesson.
“It was one of the loveliest memories I have, people helping to ensure the school was a success, right from its first day,” Ms Fenwick said.
That humid January morning in 2003 was the culmination of six years of work.
When the idea of an Anglican college was first mooted, in 1998, the site that was eventually earmarked for the school was dairy land with a few trees and an old shed.
“The then Bishop of Newcastle, challenged the local priest to establish a regional Anglican college in Taree,” Ms Fenwick said.
The next step was to establish a steering committee, of which Ms Fenwick became secretary.
“The first step was looking for a suitable parcel of land on which to build the school,” Ms Fenwick said.
Various sites were inspected before the committee settled on the current site, which had been surplus government needs when building the Taree bypass.
“The diocese of Newcastle paid $500,000 for the whole area,” Ms Fenwick said.
“It was a very good purchase because from that early beginning, there was enough land for the school, an aged care facility and to build [what is now a local] church there.
“Finally the land became available and once that happened, we then had something concrete to work with.”
The next step was to secure a loan to engage an architect to design the school and for its constructions.
“The banks were initially not interested, it was too big an undertaking,” Ms Fenwick said.
“But the local building society was prepared to take us on, on the understanding we make interest payments every month, which we did.”
By October 2002, the committee finally reached the point where a school principal could be appointed and the college’s first principal, Glenn Turner, took the helm.
There was just one problem; he had no office.
“So we rented accommodation in Centrepoint Arcade, in Taree and the principal had to interview the students there,” Ms Fenwick said.
“Finally, towards the end of that year, we could occupy the building on site.”
For her efforts on the steering committee, as well as other diocese work, Ms Fenwick was awarded an OAM in 2019.
She said she was proud of the work the committee and diocese did to build the school, which today has over 700 students.