• Greg Martin

Legends of the Nepean: Barry Roots


BARRY Roots’ father and his father before him were garbos.

For 54 consecutive years Cecil Roots and then his son, Barney, were garbage contractors for Penrith City Council.

Barry Roots also did his share of garbage collecting to earn pocket money during his school holidays.

Barry could easily have become the third generation Roots to, as Lonnie Donegan sang in his 1963 hit song ‘My Old Man’s a Dustman, “wear a dustman’s hat”.

Fortunately for the folk of the Nepean, Barry’s bent was education - not getting up in the dark to race around streets, hefting and emptying garbage bins into the back of a truck.

Barry however still gets up in the dark because this dedicated educator sets off bright and early to spend up to 12 hours a day overseeing the education of the 1350 students under his care who attend Penrith Anglican College at Orchard Hills.

Barry was the foundation headmaster at the college when it was established in 1998 with just 130 students and a staff of 10.

As a headmaster, facts and figures show that he is doing something right.

Six of those inaugural PAC teachers still serve on the staff – Lyn Heazlewood, Elizabeth Cumming, Sharyn Jackson, Sue Kennedy and Rose Hallam – they obviously enjoy working in the environment created by their headmaster.

There is now more staff – 135 - at PAC than the first student body in 1998. The college now caters for 1350 students from kindergarten through to year 12.

It has very quickly earned a respected reputation as a quality learning centre which produces successful students and citizens. The college has never had to advertise for students – word of mouth accounts for that. “We never have any problems attracting students to the school – this year both our pre-kindy and kindergarten classes have maximum numbers.

“It will probably get to the stage where, just like those wanting Sydney Cricket Ground memberships, parents wanting their children to come here will need to register them at birth,” Barry laughed.

Each year, the number of students achieving high marks in the Higher School Certificate and its transnational equivalent, the International Baccalaureate with which the college is associated, grows.

“Last year 80 per cent of our students who sat for the HSC and IB achieved early places or main round offers to university,” Barry said.

But PAC students learn a lot more than readin’, ‘ritin’ and ‘rithmetic. Under the guidance of Barry and his “amazing staff”, every student who comes under their care leaves the school a better person.

They are encouraged in so very many ways to become better citizens through, and again with the song analogy, Otis Redding and Aretha Franklin’s hit “R-e-s-p-e-c-t”.

Respect for their parents, respect for their teachers, respect for their fellow students, respect for their school and respect for the wider community.

A kindly soul, Barry Roots, however is a “hard-maker” when it comes to respect but stresses that respect also has to be earned.

And that’s why PAC keeps producing good citizens year after year! Barry is now teaching the children of former students.

“I recently had great delight in interviewing two PAC graduates as parents who applied for their little girl to join our pre-kindy class - it was just wonderful,” Barry said.

Barry’s commitment to education can be gauged by his answer when Nepean News asked him what he did outside of work hours.

“Nothing,” he quipped. “Other than the job and my family, I have no other interests.

“I love the kids in my care – they are a great responsibility and apart from time spent with my wife, Pauline, sons Mark and Nathan and grandson, three-year-old Luke, I devote the rest to ensuring our children here are given every opportunity to succeed both as students and citizens.”

Barry Roots has spent all his adult life either teaching or as an educational administrator.

The Roots family has, well, er, deep roots in the Nepean ever since his great, great, great grandparents Stephen and Ellen Roots settled in the district early in the 19th century.

Barry attended Penrith infants and primary schools and then was in the inaugural Year 1 intake at the new Nepean High School in 1962.

The son of a garbo did well at NHS, eventually becoming the very first school captain and after graduating did an arts and teaching degree at the Australian National University and then a Diploma of Education at the University of NSW.

Between his first teaching role at St Marys High School and spending 13 years as economics and geography and later deputy headmaster at St Pauls College Cranebrook, Barry worked in administration for the Department of

Education in North Sydney and Parramatta.

Barry is proud to be a teacher.

“Teaching is one of the noblest professions,” he said. “We help develop and mould what society will be like in the

City Council when he was inducted nothing more important than that.”

Onto PCC’s Wall of Achievement In 2009, Barry’s commitment to which recognises those who education was rewarded by Penrith have contributed to our society.

Barry Roots was nominated as a Legend of the Nepean by Jill Woods. If you know a local legend, send us a nomination at nepeannews@aol.com.

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