Returning to work was the furthest thing from his mind when Richard Sidorko was approached with an offer to move to Wagga.
Arriving several weeks ago, he has taken on the role of interim principal at Kildare Catholic College.
"I was sitting in the sun of Tweed Heads in a pair of thongs, shorts and t-shirt, and it came out of the blue," he said.
"I'd had 12 months of retirement by then."
For the next six months, Mr Sidorko will be at the helm, navigating the school from its tumultuous recent past in the wake of previous principal Rod Whelan's departure a year ago.
Confronting challenging situations on the school grounds has become something of a pastime for the 66-year-old veteran educator.
He has now spent 43 years in the education system, 23 years of that as a principal at four different schools.
But his 12 years at Marist College Canberra, which concluded in 2017, will remain the most challenging.
As he recalls, one Saturday morning during his second year as principal, he opened a newspaper to find accounts of up to 80 historic sexual abuse cases that had occurred at the school.
"The anger of victims and their families and their supporters was something I can't compare to anything else I've ever experienced. Men killed themselves, it was a true tragedy," he said.
Listening to the harrowing accounts of victim after victim during the royal commission hearings, Mr Sidorko said he felt rising anger over the way survivors had been mistreated.
The experience, he said, took its toll on himself and his family, but he was determined to weather the crisis.
"Over the years I've had a lot of challenges in different schools and I've always tried to see it through. It's a case in point in Canberra. I felt it wouldn't be right to give it to someone else," he said.
"While it might have crossed my mind [to leave], it was never anything I entertained at length. I didn't want to let people down. I wanted to see it through.
"If I took a moment of egotistic reflection, I have no doubt that while that school was good when I came to it, it was better when I left it."
Confronting vastly different situations with his arrival in Wagga now, however, Mr Sidorko believes the intensity of his time in Canberra has prepared him well to navigate through another tumultuous time.
"I would go as far to say everything I have done up to now has helped prepare me for Kildare," he said.
"I think the sooner they appoint a new principal, that will be helpful. I think those who have grievances need to know that they've been heard and that the school and its leadership will do all it can to address that."
Only two weeks into the job, Mr Sidorko has spent his time meeting with teachers, students, and members of the Catholic Education Diocese of Wagga Wagga (CEDWW).
On Tuesday evening, he was formally introduced to the school's council and heard some of the community's frustrations from the past 12 months since the unexpected resignation of the previous principal.
"To be very honest, I don't know what it was all about. I have a rough idea about the circumstances of when [Mr Whelan's departure] occurred, I'm aware of the fallout but I take it on how I find the place," he said.
"I'm open to anyone coming to see me, I'm just gaining a picture of what's happened and I'm keen to progress this forward."
While his time in Wagga will be brief, Mr Sidorko is hoping it will bridge the chasm and bring back an amicable environment.
"I'm realistic, only so much can be achieved in a limited amount of time," he said.
"There are a number of issues that I hope, if not resolved already by then, will be in the process of being resolved.
"You can't take the hurt, or the mistrust, or the anger away from people.
:Hopefully, we can continue to focus on the future and what the school already does well, and address some of the things that are causing the hurt and the anger, and the frustration and the mistrust."
Ensuring a strong successor takes his place will be Mr Sidorko's most pressing concern when his time in Wagga nears completion.
"Whoever it is that will come in next will inherit a very good school I've no doubt and I want to assure the parents that their children are in very good hands and these teachers have not dropped the ball at all," he said.
"The new leader will have to be unashamedly about quality learning and quality teaching. There is so much here from recent history that's been done to build that culture so [the next principal] has to be a culture builder."
Originally from Newcastle, Mr Sidorko will retire to Tweed Heads at the end of this year.
Though, he admits "if I was 10 years younger, I would put my hand up" to stay at Kildare College.