Saturday, March 14, 2015

Exceptional Leadership

Merrylands East Primary School
On Friday we went out to West Sydney, to visit two school campus and meet their leaders.

We had spent a lot of the after function on the first night of the conference speaking with John Goh, Principal Merrylands East Primary School. I believe he fits the 'courageous model' of leadership. He has introduced radical changes at a systems level - including changes to the school day and refusing Ministry money because it would not build what the school and community needed. His school features regularly in state and national media - for good reasons (unlike he tells us many other news stories that focus on his catchment area!)
You can read about his 'win' in 2012 - where he managed to take control of what was meant to be a standard template building programme -

Instead of just a standard hall, Merrylands Primary gained a hall with a commercial kitchen, toilet block, school wide wifi upgrade - amongst other things - and I'm pretty sure he said it came in under the original 'hall' budget. As well as this classrooms have been 'de-walled, a range of furniture 'collected' - and to top it off, John has no office - works out of his 'phone'!!! Even more revolutionary, the school day has been rearranged - after full community consultation - 

The staffroom has a range of furniture - couches, standard chairs, leaners and casino bar stools - because 'why wouldn't you?' John says he has no trouble finding staff - the last job he advertised had 160 applicants. And listening to John, why wouldn't you want to work with him? His passion, enthusiasm and vision are exciting.?He spent an hour sharing the work of his staff, student and himself with us - something he does regularly. The students worked in 'refitted' traditional classes, technology was in abundance and the senior students were working on their EdVenture projects - they willingly talked to us about these. It was a wonderful hour. 

John lives the mantra - make a change, others will come to look, and then they will make changes too......

Merrylands High School 
John had organised for some of our group to spend some time at the High School many of his students go on to- he has a close partnership with the school. We met with Alice Leung, Head of Science and Lead Technology Teacher; Lila Mularczyk, Principal and two wonderful students - Ali and Nadia.

I took away a number of really clear points - initially the total availability of the Principal - her office (where me met) was totally accessible to both staff and students. There was a constant feel of 'busy-ness' around the admin area. Secondly, there strong committment to ensure ongoing learning - both students and staff. Alice's entire programme is based around supporting staff to implement the use of technologies in their classroom. She had targeted subject areas and Yr levels that she was working with this term. As well as this she was responsible for organising a team of 30 student 'digital' leaders. Amazingly two full time teachers were allocated to as 'engagement experts' - they are available every period to work out of the library with seniors around assessments. 
The 'money' for these positions from the 'unstaffed ' funding that comes into the school. Interestingly a committee decides where this funding should be spent - based on community, student and teacher input. The Principal does not sit on this committee.

The high school also had different timetable structure. Senior classes started at 7.30am and most senior classes did not run past 12.30pm - some went till 1.30. This gives the seniors time  to pursue any number of things - work placement, tertiary short courses or volunteer work. Junior classes ran till 3.30. Yr 7 classes run fully integrated curriculum. In Yr 8 and 9 classes integration was more around subject pairings. They would like to integrate Senior courses more, but under the national exam system (ATAR), where students are ranked according to their results, this is more problematic. Definitely a lot for us to think about.

In the short time that we spent with them, Lila and John both appeared to me to be exceptional Principals - Lila leads the NSW Principal's Association and John is consulted regularly by the NSW  equivalent of the Ministry - helping to lead change state wide.  It was an invaluable morning spent in their schools.


Had to add one last picture .....!!!!!!

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