Home' Independence : Independence Vol 38 No 2 Oct 2013 Contents 68 INDEPENDENCE VOL 38 NO 2 OCTOBER 2013
but it was probably best if they could
wait until after the planned parent
These sessions were to be held the
following week, with one held on a
Sunday. While demanding, they were
conducted well. Some parents naturally
vented, but that was accepted. Parents
were informed that my door was open
if they wanted to discuss the decision
further. Some availed themselves of this
We thought that out of respect for the
hardworking Parents' and Friends'
Association that office bearers ought
to be told the day before the letter to
parents arrived home. A special meeting
was called to be held a few hours after
the whole school staff meeting. They
were naturally shocked, but at the same
time I was amazed at how supportive
they were. They were asked to keep the
information confidential for 24 hours.
The main issue for parents was not
the move to co-ed -- they understood
the rationale -- but the fact that they
were not consulted before the decision
was made. This remained an issue for
a couple of years for some parents.
But to consult on such a matter
would probably have led to a run on
enrolments and possibly the death of the
The students had mixed reactions. Most
were in a state of disbelief, but excited.
The day after the announcement letter
was sent home, we held a whole
school assembly to talk through the
announcement. Students were given the
opportunity to ask questions. All staff
members, particularly pastoral staff,
were ready to provide support and care.
Class time was to be given over for
further discussion if needed.
A few students vented on social media,
as did some past students. There was
not much we could do about this.
A personalised letter was sent to all
Old Kilvonians informing them of the
change and inviting them to a special
meeting to be held a month after the
announcement. About 50 attended.
They were overwhelmingly supportive,
commenting that they wished boys had
been in the School in their day.
Culture of caring
There were plenty of good girls' schools
in the area, so the question was raised,
why not close the School gracefully?
Why did the Board bother; why did I?
Because our collective experience of
Kilvington was simply marvellous, the
best you can have.
I first tasted the Kilvington culture
from 1995-99 when I was a teacher
and Chaplain. There was genuine
respect and care between students, and
students and staff. Standards were high.
Teachers could teach, as behavioural
problems were few. Students felt free
to be whoever they wanted to be.
Achievements were celebrated. It was a
great School and deserved its excellent
When I returned as Principal, the
culture of respect and care was still
clearly visible, from the boardroom to
the playground, and it quickly hooked
me again. Also, I only had to look into
the eyes of our very happy students,
remind myself of staff livelihoods and
85 years of achievements to find the
motivation to fight to keep the School
In the Board's and my mind and heart,
there was a deep conviction that this
School was worth saving.
We now have a thriving school. By 2014
enrolments should be at 640 students,
well ahead of plans and expectations.
Our aim to grow the School to about
750 is well within our reach, especially
with demand for two Prep classes over
the last two years, which we did not
expect. Inquiry and application levels
have tripled. Staff are rejuvenated and
working exceptionally well in developing
and delivering an engaging and creative
curriculum. More staff members are
now being employed. A new Master
Plan has been developed, neighbouring
properties have been bought and new
facilities are being built. The School's
finances are sound with surpluses
forecast for the next few years.
Under pressure, our community passed
a huge test of character, which gives us
great confidence going forward. Many of
us are stronger in mind and heart for the
Leadership survival kit
Throughout this process, mentally I
needed to stay strong. Some key phrases
I repeated to myself over and over, which
helped me, were:
Be true to self
Consult widely, but trust your judgment,
and then act on your convictions
Face your fear of failure; if the school
closes it will be sad but at least you tried
and therefore can hold your head up
Stay strong in the face of criticism:
expect it, listen to it; some of it
may be warranted, but it is OK to
make mistakes; some of it will be
unwarranted, stay strong
Delegate; delegate; delegate
Maintain an attitude of gratitude
This will be a test of character, act
always with integrity.
Physically I needed to stay strong. Early
exercise for me was a great saviour -- it still
is, giving me the time and space I need to
think and set me up for the day ahead.
Emotionally I needed strength. I found
some mentors for support -- a number
of AHISA Heads among them. I also
regularly met with key friends who had
the skills to listen and guide. I also was
most fortunate to have fantastic support
from my Executive team, and the undying
support of my two children and wife, who
has a heart of gold.
Which brings me back to Channing's
proposition, that people of character offer
hope. I was surrounded by Kilvington
people of character, who offered others
and me hope. A big change such as
Kilvington has faced may appear daunting
and complex, but it is doable when
there is a culture of caring and people of
character from whom to draw strength.
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