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A farewell to Jane Hofmeyr

| November 4, 2013 | 0 Comments

By David Wilkinson

At the end of 2013, Jane Hofmeyr will retire from office as ISASA’s executive director. She has served for 15 years in this very challenging and demanding position.

J ane Hofmeyr joined ISASA as executive director at a crucial time in the association’s history. ISASA had only recently been born out of the former Independent Schools’ Council. It was not an easy transition or time. Delegates at the 1999 Heads’ Conference were divided in their opinion about the way the association should be restructured. There was discord. One of Jane’s specific tasks was to dr ive the ‘Brave Stretch’ initiative that had been put in place – a strategic initiative to broaden the association’s membership and scope. She had to embed this vision and assert her authority without alienating members. It was a difficult time but she succeeded and, as a result, the association was able to grow and develop.

ISASA now public-spirited and globally recognised

ISASA has grown under her leadership into the strong, vibrant and dynamic organisation that it is today. A number of factors assisted in this growth – the economy, the growth in the black middle class, increasing disenchantment with the state sector, and confidence in the independent sector. ISASA has become a public-spirited, globally recognised association under her leadership.

When Jane joined the association, she came with limited experience or understanding of independent schools. She had experience in education, but none in the independent sector. She had to learn fast. Because of her huge intellectual capability and her dogged determination, she did so in a relatively short space of time.

Henry Bennett, one of ISASA’s former chairs and longserving legal adviser to ISASA, has this to say about Jane: When joining the executive structures of ISASA, I was immediately struck by three characteristics of Jane: first, her keen intelligence and impressive memory combined with a sharp sense of strategy; second, her ac ademically robust manner of debate; and third, her determination and courage.

Dogged determination

Jane can come across as too single-minded at times. But that is because of her qualities as a debater and thinker. She engages in robust debate and her focus is always on the best interests of ISASA and its member schools. In particular, she championed the growth and development of the new and smaller and lowfee schools. This growth allowed her to promote a better understanding of the independent sector when negotiating with government or marketing to the media.

No doubt, Jane has ruffled some feathers along the way. But she has undoubted ly earned the respect of all – a respect based on her dogged determination, her incredible memory for facts and details, her tireless work in ensuring that articles and documents were absolutely accurate and coherent. As a counter to this image of a workaholic who did nothing else, she enjoyed socialising with colleagues and had the ability to laugh and enjoy the lighter moments. When the day was done and a crowd around, Jane was in the centre, telling stories and quaffing a cold one.

Henry recalls her first scalp was the lobbying of the then- Minister of Education, Kader Asmal, to push back the state’s attempts to dictate curriculum to independent schools and to limit this intervention to framework and outcomes. After further experience of her dealings with officialdom, Henry saw that ISASA had a “gladiator of juggernaut proportions” to protect and advance the interest of independent schools.

Jane’s work in relation to the proper calculation and implementation of subsidies in terms of the national departmental norms and standards, and the amelioration of the National Curiculum Statement Regulations to give ‘independence’ a substantive meaning, is the continuum of this determination.

Her encounter with Minister Asmal may have been one fraught with strong disagreements over policy and principle. But that is a thing of the past. Instead, the relationship with the Department of Basic Education has become a positive one. Jane’s relationship with the current Minister of Basic Education, Angie Motshekga, is entirely different. Jane has come out in suppor t of the minister on a range of issues in recent months, and this has been acknowledged public ly by the minister. At this year’s ISASA conference in Johannesburg in September, Minister Motshekga stated in her address how grateful she was for the support provided by Jane and ISASA. The minister paid tribute to Jane for her leadership of ISASA and expressed the wish that this healthy link between her department and ISASA would continue after Jane’s retirement.

Jane lived and breathed ISASA

Jane has also marketed ISASA vigorously and established its brand. This has led, in turn, to reinforcing ISASA’s attractiveness to schools as a service provider, and established its reputation as an association of first choice because of its high quality. ISASA’s human and physical resources have grown year by year under her leadership, to ensure that it can respond to the expectations of its members and, indeed, those of the sector.

Jane is a perfectionist. She is an academic scholar of note. She truly lives and breathes ISASA and education in all that she does. As a result of her perfectionist and driven personality, she gave of herself physically and intellectually and emotionally. At times, this was clearly evident and she appeared drained and exhausted. Her health suffered. But she would bounce back with renewed energy and vigour.

For four years, I was ISASA’s chair, and I found Jane to be an excellent communicator who kept me up to speed with all the necessary and pertinent issues and challenges. There was always explicit detail about an issue or crisis. No wonder ISASA’s phone bill grew larger!

I often had a quiet chuckle as I heard her relate that the current problem was the “worst ever in the history of ISASA” and the most threatening to the existence of ISASA ever. I became used to this! But this exaggeration was Jane’s way of preparing herself to tackle her responsibilities and the particular issue of the moment.

Manifold and varied contribution

There is no doubt Jane will be missed. She will be missed for a number of reasons, to which I have alluded. What is her greatest contribution to ISASA, I hear you ask? That will be answered by historians in the future, who will have the benefit of perspective. But for us, here and now, suffice to say, Jane’s contribution to ISASA has been manifold and varied. The fact that it is a strong, wellfunctioning, wellresourced and greatly respected education association is largely due to Jane, her team and the many volunteers who served as office bearers. She was the central cog around whom others bent to the task.

Thank you, Jane! Enjoy a well-deserved retirement. But I know you will continue to be very busy. I am confident you will continue to serve the interests of education and independent schools, in particular, in the consultancies and other tasks that you will take up after you retire from ISASA.



Category: Summer 2013

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