Home' Independence : Independence Vol 35 No 1 May 2010 Contents 46 Independence Vol 35 No 1 May 10
will be who will make which decision’.
If you’re wondering whether you
should get someone to do something
or whether you should do it yourself
that is a very helpful key question. It
makes you focus on the proper locus of
responsibility and it has implications
for delegation and reporting back and
so forth. For example you can safely
leave it up to the fathers’ committee
to decide what colour paper napkins
to have at their annual dinner, but you
must work with them and guide their
decision making if, for example, the
committee is thinking of donating a
piece of equipment to the school that
would involve activity that did not fit
within your policy or what you were
trying to achieve.
• An elderly retiring Head at my very
first AHISA conference said, ‘Let me
give you a good piece of advice which
was given to me by an older Head
who was retiring when I began’, and
that was: never give an answer on the
same day to a staff member who asks
you a weighty question, give yourself
24 hours to think about it and look at
the implications of it. There were times
when I regretted not following that!
• In terms of having a sense of being
called to the job of Principal at Tara,
and wanting that school to be God’s
place and to give honour and glory
to God and for it to be a community
where God was honoured, I found
it very salutary to think of myself as
the ‘deputy’. This allows you to pray
quite simply, ‘I want to do what You
• Be an enabler rather than a disabler.
The Head is an umbrella providing
cover and shelter under which others
can grow, but the Head can disable so
much through lack of encouragement.
You have a prime responsibility to
enable initiatives and enable young
staff to grow in self-confidence.
• Staff formation – that is, investment
in young teachers and the Head’s
leadership circle – is very important.
It can be easier to go and mix with
the children but if that means you’re
avoiding the common room then that’s
a real mistake. The same James Wilson
Hogg once said, ‘No school can rise
above its common room’ and that’s
very true, and it’s where the Head has
to be a fair bit.
• Have one day of the week without
appointments. Heads are constantly
responding to other people’s
agendas. If you have one day without
appointments that’s when you can do
some reading, walk around the school
a bit more or work on a scheme you’re
developing. It gives you time to do
what you want to do, rather than work
to the agendas of others who may
telephone or come in person.
• Walk around the school at least
once a day.
• Trust the pebbles. You never know
how far the ripples go when you throw
one pebble in. So trust that your words
are being heard.
• The most important thing you do is
appoint good staff. Most Heads inherit
their staff and some of them may not
be any good. If necessary you need to
take steps about that.
• Maintaining a really good relationship
with your Chair of council is critical.
You have to be able to trust the Chair
absolutely and the Chair has to be able
to trust you absolutely. Things start to
go wrong when there’s no trust or the
Head fails to tell the Chair the things
the Chair must know about, such as an
expulsion. A good Chair won’t quarrel
with your decision, but he or she
should know about it and be privy to
the reasons for your decision.
Bishop Greg O’Kelly
AHISA National Chair
Dr Ruth Shatford AM
AHISA National Chair
Bishop Greg O’Kelly was Head of Saint
Ignatius’ College, Athelstone, SA from
1978 to 1981 and from 1994 to 2006. He
was Headmaster of St Ignatius’ College,
Riverview, NSW from 1982 to 1993.
• It is cultural leadership not curriculum
mastery that is the major role for the
Head of a school. Education is about
formation. There’s an old Jesuit saying,
institutio puerilis renovatio mundi,
‘the education of youth is the renewal
of the world’. You can employ people
to be experts in curriculum, to work
out a timetable, but cultural leadership
is the Head’s responsibility. That has
implications for the sort of values you
carry with you, too. The great James
Wilson Hogg, Headmaster of Trinity
Grammar School in Sydney from 1944
to 1974, wrote somewhere once that
what a man believes in is crucial. A
belief in Christ will produce one type
of society, a belief in Lenin another.
The ideology of the Head and his or
her personality are very important.
Dr Ruth Shatford was Principal of
Tara Anglican School for Girls, North
Parramatta, NSW from 1980 to 1999.
• A friend advised me before taking up
the Headship at Tara that ‘the most
important decision you will ever make
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