Alumni Stories: From Protester to Principal

Warren Fineberg attended Scott St Kindergarten and Elwood Primary/Central before joining Elwood High from 1967-1971. His 100-year-old mother attended Elwood Primary/Central from 1922. Warren completed a Science degree, taught in Secondary Schools, became a School Principal and is now the Executive Director of the Jewish Holocaust Centre in Elsternwick.

“I loved my time at Elwood High but I was not always the most productive student. I came into Elwood High in Year 8 from Elwood Central and I was always very socially active.

A lot of us played basketball on the school courts at every break time and we had a very strong team. We played off in the final of the Victorian State School Championships and, even though I badly damaged my ankle in the game, I had to keep playing as we had too many players on the bench. They had been sent off. We didn’t win the match and I carried that injury through Year 12.

I was one who always wanted to change the world and was prepared to stand up and say something if I thought something was wrong. Sometimes this meant that I stepped in to help kids who were being picked on and sometimes it meant that I stood up against school rules.

In Year 10 I remember I organised a student strike in protest about the green and gold beanies that boys had to wear.

The anti-Vietnam war demonstrations were big in the city in 1970. I used to meet someone who delivered ‘underground newspapers’ to me through the school cyclone wire fence. It was a challenging and confusing time and I was aware that I could get called up in the draft for Vietnam, which of course was ended when Gough Whitlam came into power in 1972.

In Year 9 I set up the Astronomy Club. This really took off and about 20-30 kids would meet in a school classroom at lunchtime every couple of weeks. There were no teachers involved, the club was all student led. We researched how to build telescopes and started to build them in the classroom.

I was also pretty interested in science experiments and I got a bit of a name for myself for organising experiments, which often resulted in very loud explosions in the lab.

In Year 12 I became the organiser of the end of school activities and all Year 12s attended a series of planning meetings. Of course we wanted to disrupt school activities as much as possible. I remember that the Freedman twins rowed a small wooden boat down the canal and inside the boat was a mock coffin marked “RIP the spirit of Elwood High”. This story got quite a bit of press in the Herald Sun. I guess what we were really saying was that it was time for us to move on from school.

I did well enough in Year 12 but somehow the Department “lost” some of the Year 12 student applications for tertiary study, mine included. In February 1972 I led a delegation of students into the Director General of Education’s Office in the city, demanding that we be notified of our tertiary placements.”

Warren went on to complete a Science Degree at Monash University and then with a Diploma of Education he taught in secondary schools. A Master of Education in the mid-1980s followed and then he worked in the research branch, followed by two years in the curriculum branch of the Education Department. During this time he wrote the biology and science curriculum for secondary schools. He did a stint as research fellow at Monash University before returning to school teaching, his passion.

As a Senior Science teacher at Brighton Secondary School in the mid-1980s he met up again with David Pittock, who had been the Year 12 co-ordinator at Elwood High and was now the Deputy Principal at Brighton.

In the late 1980s he became the Headmaster of the Senior School at Mt Scopus, then Head of Senior School at Wesley and Mentone Grammar before retiring in 2010.

As a “failed retiree” he was appointed the Executive Director at the Jewish Holocaust Centre in Elsternwick and maintains contact with some of his old classmates from Elwood High.

References

http://www.jhc.org.au/departments-at-the-jhc.html?tmpl=component&print=1

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-11-30/holocaust-exhibition-opens-at-awm/8079682