Geelong Grammar School’s (GGS) current principal, Stephen Meek – who announced his retirement in August 2016 – will step down next year after thirteen years as the school’s principal, prompting an extensive local and international search for a replacement.
That search has ended with Rebecca Cody, who is currently the head of Methodist Ladies’ College (MLC), located in Claremont, Western Australia. She will take on the role in Term 2, 2018, becoming the prestigious school’s first ever female principal.
GGS’ alumni includes former Australian PM, John Gorton, Rupert Murdoch, Kerry Packer and Prince Charles, and caters for approximately 1,500 students from Pre-school to Year 12, including 800 boarders from Years 5 to 12.
In an interview with The Educator, Cody said that her move to GGS was inspired, in part, by the ways in which the school’s philosophy and values aligned with her own.
“I think that leadership is a privilege, but it’s very much an honour when you find yourself in a context where your expertise, style and values all connect. So I’ve been very blessed at MLC that this has been the case,” she explained.
“For me, Geelong Grammar School represents that connection, but also offers new learning for me – and the new learning specifically is around the school having four campuses and being a co-ed environment.”
Cody said her “next strategic endeavour” relates to GGS’ centre for creativity and innovation, pointing out that having started out in the field of performing arts, the centre was something that resonated strongly with her.
In terms of what she is most proud to have accomplished at MLC Claremont, Cody pointed to ensuring that the school community worked together as a team and was able to “articulate and embed the school’s philosophy and culture”.
“I think that your effectiveness as a school community comes down to how you live the philosophy, culture and values, and lastly, how you execute your strategy,” she said.
“For me, it’s been the combination of those four elements in practice.”
Cody said that the legacy she will leave behind at MLC Claremont is ultimately for its community to decide, but expressed confidence that she had enabled the College’s “social capital” to thrive.
“To me, the social capital is the way that a community recognises its value, and then works together to optimise that value,” she said.
“Together, we’ve strengthened this and helped it thrive. It’s in such a strong position that I’m incredibly confident that there will be many people who will want to become its custodian for the next chapter.”
Remarking on becoming GGS’ first female head, Cody emphasised that “gender does not necessarily make a leader”.
“I think we are far more human than we are gendered, and leadership is a layering of skills, judgement and values that is developed over time,” Cody said.
“Through that development, there is a sense of thoughtfulness and mindfulness in terms of the combination of those qualities.”
As for how she intends to impact teaching and learning GGS’, Cody cautioned that it’s “not wise to arrive with a plan and then attempt to unravel that plan”.
“Leadership is very contextual. You have to understand your context, and in particular, listen to the people within the school before defining how you can contribute to the school,” she said.
As for her priorities looking ahead, Cody said they will always centre on professional learning and development for staff, due to the critical value that teachers contribute to society at large.
“I have the view that Australia, as a community, should be enabling teachers to be stellar, because their work is important to the country on so many levels,” she said.