Schools Plus founder and CEO Rosemary Conn resigns

Schools Plus founder and CEO Rosemary Conn resigns

Schools Plus founder and CEO Rosemary Conn has announced she is stepping down after nearly a decade in the role.

Under Conn’s stewardship, Schools Plus grew from a simple concept, proposed by the first Gonski Review into Education, into a leading investor in school communities across Australia.

“Schools Plus was founded by a group of well-known not-for-profit organisations led by Michael Traill to close the education gap caused by disadvantage,” Schools Plus Chairman, Angus James, said in a statement.

“As Schools Plus founding CEO, Rosemary has been dedicated to driving funding for and mobilising educational initiatives for children and young people from less advantaged backgrounds over the last nine years.”

James thanked Conn for her “incredible leadership that it has resulted in transformative change for around half a million children and young people who have less advantaged backgrounds and the 40,000 teachers who work in these communities.”

Some of Schools Plus' achievements under Rosemary’s leadership over the past nine years have include raising more than $60m, supporting 1,500 school communities, establishing the Commonwealth Bank Teaching Awards, securing significant philanthropic partnerships and setting up the Pioneers in Philanthropy – a group of leaders committed to enabling equity in educational opportunities for children.

Last year, Conn was named a finalist in The CEO Magazine Awards, and in 2019 was recognised as one of AFR’s 100, Women of Influence in 2019.

David Gonski AC, who was instrumental in the foundation of Schools Plus in 2013 and is Chair of Schools Plus Pioneers’ group said: “I believe that all children should have access to a great education, regardless of background or postcode.

“Rosemary’s legacy at Schools Plus has been to support hundreds of teachers and school communities to implement high quality programs to help close the education gap for hundreds and thousands of students across Australia. We have been truly inspired by her passion and dedication to furthering this cause at Schools Plus.”

Conn said effective partnerships, whether with local businesses or individuals, can make a huge contribution to a school community in terms of time, talent and other resources.

“I’ve seen principals have great success by building and nurturing relationships in the community beyond the school gate which help people to feel more connected to the school,” Conn told The Educator.

“Storytelling is also key – being able to clearly articulate to potential partners what the school’s priorities are, how a partner can assist and why that’s really important for children and young people in the community to thrive.”

When asked what the priority areas should be for the next Schools Plus CEO, Conn highlighted the progress made and said it is important that additional partnerships are established so that more students in need get the support they deserve.

“Schools Plus supports 500,000 students in 1,400 schools. This has led to some significant improvement in outcomes for these children and young people but there is still a lot of work to do,” she said.

“There’s a great opportunity for the organisation to grow the number of schools we partner with and also to share the insights gained from the work to have a positive impact far more broadly in the system.”

Reflecting on her tenure as Schools Plus CEO, Conn said leading the organisation has been “a real privilege” which has allowed her to “have a strong sense of purpose in the role.”

“After having time for some exciting overseas adventures, I look forward to exploring what might be next and channelling my energy into something equally purposeful in future,” she said.

Conn will continue in her role until 15 September while Schools Plus conducts a search for new CEO.