A new program has been launched to help equip teachers working in rural and remote settings with the skills and knowledge to lead.
The Outback Principals Development Squad (OPDS), developed by the Toowoomba Catholic Schools Office, aims to give aspiring leaders an insight into the role in rural and remote (R&R) schools so they experience both the contextual complexities as well as the intrinsic rewards that can be encountered.
Members of the squad get the opportunity to immerse themselves in the core dimensions of Toowoomba Catholic Schools (TCS) leadership – religious and educative leadership, as well as the supporting staff and community, strategic and organisational leadership.
The aspiring principals also experience living in a R&R setting for a short time, shadowing the existing principal and attending all relevant related activities in the school and community.
Recently within TCS there have been a number of staff movements where the squad has been invaluable in providing future leaders to fill vital roles.
Mary Porter, Principal of St Joseph’s School in Tara is taking seven weeks leave in Term 1 this year and during this time Kylie Williams will take on the role of Acting Principal.
Williams is currently an Assistant Principal Religious Education (APRE) and Middle Leader at St Patrick’s School in St George and participated in the Outback Principals’ Development Squad in 2022, where she worked alongside Ms Porter during this program.
“Interested leaders volunteer to take part in learning to develop their ability to think clearly, engage others, lead and inspire and deliver outcomes,” Porter said.
“As part of the process, Kylie Williams, a member of the squad, visited St Joseph’s School in Tara, a small rural P-6 school to shadow and walk with me as a principal for a week.”
Porter said Williams experienced the unique culture of the school and became familiar with the community, establishing relationships with the students, parents, staff and the parish priest during her visit, which is essential to the process.
“It is reassuring to have someone ready to take on the principal leadership role in outback schools. The Outback Principal Development Squad process is working well,” she said.
Williams said she is delighted to be given the opportunity to lead St Joseph’s School.
“The OPDS allowed me to have a small insight into the workings of small rural and remote school. Even though I am currently in a leadership role in St George, it gave me the opportunity to see complexities of a smaller school,” Williams said.
“To see Mary Porter lead the teaching and learning as well as fostering and building the Josephite charism throughout the school and wider community was inspirational. I certainly believe that participating in the OPDS has given me the confidence to accept Acting Principal opportunities which become available within the Toowoomba Diocese.”
Also, as part of the program David Anderson, a teacher at Holy Name Primary School in Toowoomba, has enthusiastically accepted the acting position at St Patrick’s School in St George to replace Williams during this time.
Anderson also participated in the Outback Principals’ Development Squad in 2022 and deputised at St Patrick’s School in Mitchell during Term 4 2022.
The 2023 OPDS program will occur in Term 2 this year.
The original version of this article appeared as a media release from the Toowoomba Catholic Schools Office.