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Case Study - 20+ Years as a Principal - John Bormolini

Posted on 16 April 2019
Case Study - 20+ Years as a Principal - John Bormolini

I read with interest recently some of the statistics collated by our National Association on the average years of service for our serving Principals. Amongst other things of note, was the fact that around 40 percent have five years or less in the role and at the other end, only seven percent have spent 20 or more years serving as a Principal, all of which point to interesting changes ahead.
It left me reflecting on the reality that it does not seem long ago that I was one of those at the beginning with little Principalship experience and now, I have colleagues making humourous references in my direction about being one of the elders. The years have certainly flown. Without doubt it has been a journey of enormous reward and as many have already stated in this anthology previously, a great privilege to serve in education and in educational leadership for considerable time.


I began my work in education working in the West Australian Government School system that included a range of regional and metropolitan schools. It included time in middle management roles before taking up a position with Catholic Education. After a relatively short period as a Deputy I took up my first Principal appointment at St. Luke's College in Karratha. The challenges of the Pilbara region in Australia's North West were (and still are) tinged with lots of sacrifice and challenges but tremendous satisfaction too. The best way to be well equipped and successful was to embrace the challenges with a positive mindset, retain a good sense of humour and pitch in actively as a true colleague and member of the team and community, not as a distant administrator. It helped enormously to be a jack of all trades and my upbringing in the West Australian wheat belt made a lot of difference when self - sufficiency, repairs or innovative thinking were needed on regular occasions.

They included managing the College as an Evacuation centre more than once during the peak of some havoc - wreaking cyclones. Perhaps most testing though was reassuring newly arrived staff who were often ready to turn tail and change their mind about the outpost when the felt the blast of 40 degree heat when stepping off the plane or set eyes on their shared accommodation for the first time. Lots of daily problem solving with limited resources was always offset however by some of the most amazing landscape inland and fantastic marine adventures offshore within the 40 island archipelago.


Eight years on from St Luke's saw a somewhat reluctant relocation as a family back to Perth, and to Emmanuel Catholic College, a relatively new school in the expanding southern suburbs of the city. Commencing there as the College's second Principal six years after its foundation and blessed with a wonderfully dedicated staff the community steadily emerged from its humble beginnings. Building the College's Catholic identity and academic culture were the primary priority and with time it became a school of choice for the region as it consolidated.


A significant memory among many was the College's move as the first Catholic secondary school in WA to enrol Year 7 students onto its secondary campus, back in 2008, an initiative that met with significant resistance at the time. It was made even more interesting given that the State Government was very reluctant to entertain this change happening in government schools, even though it was established already in other parts of the country. By 2010 the move was widespread in our Catholic and Independent sector and eventually the change was adopted completely during 2015.   


The nine years at Emmanuel were filled with constant change and inching forward every year but most significant was the cohesion and positivity gained from undertaking a comprehensive three -year, re visioning project that saw the College adopt new Core Values, a clear Shared Vision and greater involvement and engagement with community. These days none of these initiatives or language is new, in fact they're accepted as fundamental in building good school communities but at the time it was personally and professionally challenging and exciting.

 
The beginning of 2014 saw my appointment to Chisholm Catholic College. Culturally diverse and rich in tradition and joint foundation from the amalgamation between St. Marks (CBC) for boys and St. Thomas Aquinas (Dominicans) for girls in 1989, Chisholm established itself as a strong Catholic school community and remains the largest Catholic secondary in our system. It is a wonderful school and to have been Principal there for the past six years and influenced its more recent directions and community, continue to be a true privilege.


Biggest does not necessarily mean best however, is the message I often remind my staff of. Beautiful campus's and amazing facilities are tremendous but there is much we can learn both from within and from others, as we seek to improve what we do. Our schools are such incredibly busy hives of activity and dedicated input from everyone, so much so that I fear for the pressures we place on ourselves and the young people in our care. There are signs of these strains continue to increase. In my view never let it be said that technology eases these strains and pressures I believe in many ways it is the opposite.


The leadership of our schools is of vital and pivotal importance. It is crucial that those learning and aspiring to emerge after us understand that that the responsibility never diminishes, the constant attention to adapt to change will always remain and unpredictable obstacles with increasingly secular life, will present.

The 21st Century Leader will need to be as adaptable, entrepreneurial and creative as the student, learning and growing constantly in response to our world. At the same time, authentic and discerning in mindfulness and positive outlook. We must never lose our faith and with it hope. Whatever the challenge I'm certain that the commitment and dedication to what is best about our vocation mission will always be rewarded by those grateful, final year students that go forward in life, forever appreciative.     

John Bormolini
Chisholm Catholic College
Tags: CaSPA Case Study

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