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Case Study - 25 Years as a Principal - Dan McMahon

Posted on 1 July 2018
Case Study - 25 Years as a Principal - Dan McMahon

I arrived at St Brendan's Yeppoon as a newly minted Principal as a comparatively young Christian Brother in 1992.  St Brendan's served the community in Central Queensland and was a school of 400 boarders and a few day students. The six years I had at Brendan's was a real privilege.  It was very much a boarding community.  Living in daily contact with those young men from rural Queensland was a lot of fun if fairly exhausting at times.  The opportunity to visit families in western Queensland was a regular feature of life.  It gave me a real insight into the joys and heartbreak that comes with living dependant upon the seasons.  Brendan's also supported the mining communities of Central Queensland which had its own cycles of ups and downs. 
I learnt early in that first experience of leadership how crucial it is to develop 'right  relationships' in schools.  Young people need to feel known and valued.  All else followed from that.
I moved to St Patrick's Shorncliffe in Brisbane in 1999.  It was a great school but in need of a fair bit of work.  St Pat's had lost a little faith in itself and it was a great challenge to convince the boys and some staff that we were as good as anyone else.  Harnessing the talents of some great staff we made significant impacts in that culture in a fairly short space of time.
Towards the end of 2000, I decided to leave Religious life.  I am pleased to say that I loved my time as a Christian Brother and had absolutely no regrets about my journey to that point.  In 2002 I accepted the position as Principal of St Joseph's Toowoomba and not long afterwards, to the amazement of many of my friends, found someone silly enough to marry me and start a family.  St Joey's was another wonderful experience professionally and personally.  Over a period of time we were able to build up the enrolment and facilities of the school and create an excellent learning environment.
In 2009 we moved to Bundaberg and I took up the position I currently hold and enjoy at Shalom Catholic College

I am more and more convinced that the primary role of the Principal is to ensure that a good culture exists in a school.  A culture that ensures young people are known and cared for.  One that absolutely supports the pursuit of excellence in all areas and one that is authentically Gospel driven. 


The best thing that I can say about my 40 years in Catholic education spanning ten schools is that I have hated leaving every one of them.  There have been plenty of challenges but I have loved the work.  I have been privileged to work with some just outstanding colleagues and so many wonderful young people and families. 

Catholic education is one of the best things our Church is doing at the moment and I love being a part of that.

Tags: CaSPA Case Study

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