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CaSPA Case Study - Co-Principalship a Retrospective

Posted on 23 April 2017
CaSPA Case Study - Co-Principalship a Retrospective

Above: A photo of Sandra Diafas and Angela Killingworth when they were co-principals at Marion College from 2002-2004

This is the fourth and final article in our Series on Co-Principalship in Cathollic Secondary Colleges

Our natural response to writing about our experience as Co-Principals was to craft a piece that would give you a good belly laugh! Why? Because laughter characterised our three years together as Co-Principals of Marian College, Sunshine West from 2002-2004. We are not entirely sure that everyone else found us hilarious, but we revelled in each other's company- well except on some occasions when our egos escaped their confinement. And thena little sulk, a little attempt at outdoing the other, a minor skirmish whilst wrestling for authority in a meeting, a tad of resentment at a success the other had not initially supported. We could have possibly dragged up a couple of other adverse behaviours about each other, but we laughed too much when thinking back over the years spent together.

Our advice to anyone embarking on this formative adventure:

  • Don't take the risk of being forced into an arranged marriage. We applied together as we had already worked together and were friends. We know that some arranged marriages work well but it was a risk that we weren't prepared to take
  • Angela says think carefully about sharing an office with an only child who had never had to share a bedroom before! Sandra says consider carefully about sharing with someone who THINKS she can juggle 5 things at once.
  • Beware the 'divide and conquer' experts. Add into a discussion; 'I'll have a chat with.. and get back to you.' Even the most ardent advocate of this methodology will give up eventually.
  • Early on consider that speaking with two Principals at once can be tough. Have areas where you can meet individually with people. We decided half way through our first year to have specific areas of leadership so that staff and students know who they should address an issue or idea to. Whilst sharing all tasks was fine for us we found that staff needed greater clarity about who to talk with to progress an issue.
  • Beware of the whirlwind you can create from the energy of two principals- change at break neck speed can result in collective whiplash
  • Ensure that there is on-going formation to support the professional relationship. A well-structured, co-designed induction/formation program would have been fabulous

We remain the best of friends, going on to other Principalships and loving those as well. We missed each other - sometimes consumed by the loneliness of life as a solo Principal. We very often rung each other for advice and of course for a laugh. Co-Principalship provided deep insights into ourselves and each other. We learned so much from each other and along the way, lead Marian College effectively.

About the authors:

Sandra Diafas retired as a principal after 15 years in a variety of roles.  She is taking a break at the moment prior to pursuing other interests in near future

Angela Killingsworth finished as a principal a few years ago and worked for the CEO Sandhurst before commencing her own consultancy - "Off Me Farm".  She is avialable to assist principals in the many challenges that present themselves and can be contacted on 0400 904130 or  killingsworthangela@gmail.com

Tags: CaSPA Case Study

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