The Southern Cross : February 2010
The Southern Cross February 2010 Page 13 www.adelaide.catholic.org.au In a "Holy Spirit" moment, Peter Daw knew it was time to enter a new phase in his long career in education and put his hat in the ring for the top job at picturesque Mercedes College. Peter had been working as a principal consultant for Catholic Education for four years and while he loved mentoring and guiding 25 principals on their leadership journey, he was at a crossroads. He could either continue down the path of an administrative role with CEO or get back into a school community. In the end, the choice was simple. "I found I really missed the kids. They bring such life and enthusiasm and really make you feel young. "When the job at Mercedes came up it was sort of a Holy Spirit moment. I knew where I should be," Peter explains. Sitting in his office overlooking the college's beautiful grounds and a spectacular view of the city, Peter believes the one thing that makes Mercedes really special for him is "the community". "What is magic about this school are the relationships formed between the different participants. There are strong ties between students and then between students and teachers -- and neither wants to let the other down." The synergy between the staff and 1230 students leads to a "degree of peace and harmony in the school that is rarely found". A 32-year veteran of the Catholic Education system, Peter has a wealth of experience to draw from. "I might seem a bit boring -- I've spent my whole career in Catholic Education in Adelaide," he laughs. Peter's love of biology at school saw him continue with an Honours degree in genetics at university and he then decided to go into teaching. However, upon graduating he found there was a glut of teachers and so he turned to Catholic Education and received a placement at St Paul's College. "In those days young teachers took on much responsibility in the running of the school," he explains, adding he was given the opportunity to undertake jobs that were usually handled by the more experienced. His flair in the administrative area and his strong leadership skills were quickly recognised and nurtured. Six years later he moved to Mt Carmel College, first as a deputy principal and then at the very young age of 32 he was appointed principal. The learning curve was sharp and after a decade at the college Peter took over as principal at Thomas More College, before heading to CEO and finally Mercedes. Besides the attraction of a close-knit school community, Mercedes is unique because it is the only Catholic school in the State to offer all three International Baccalaureate (IB) programs. Over the years these programs have become firmly established at the college and this year there is a 45/55 split in IB Diploma/SACE students in Year 11. While the Primary Years Program and the Middle Years Program are rigorous academically, Peter says they also nurture the student's personal growth and enhances their problem solving skills. Mercedes students are well prepared for their final years whether they graduate with an IB Diploma or the SACE Certificate. "Through IB people have the opportunity to achieve their own personal excellence. What is really special is that it embraces beyond the local." The fact that Mercedes is a school with a true international flavour was highlighted in 2006 when it received accreditation by the Council of International Schools. This was a great achievement as it involved a team of 15 international educators visiting the college for a week and undertaking a detailed examination of everything the school has to offer. Reflecting on his 21 years as a principal, Peter says one piece of advice he would have for others in a leadership position would be to understand there is more than one solution to a problem. "If you go down one path and it isn't working, don't be afraid to change direction." While his role at Mercedes is all consuming -- he really didn't manage to get a huge break over Christmas due to the staggered release of SACE and IB results -- Peter loves to spend his spare time with his two adult children and wife Debbie, who he describes as his "greatest supporter". He enjoys reading, music, cricket and footy "I love Port Power" and plays golf "badly", usually once every holidays. As the new school year gets under way he looks forward to guiding Mercedes in the traditions of the Mercy Sisters and using the experiences gained over 32 years to "continue to strive towards excellence". feature Just where Peter wants to be Continuing our series on school principals, LINDY McNAMARA chats with Peter Daw about his 32-year career in Catholic education and his joy of working at Mercedes College. PERFECT POSITION: Peter Daw chats with Mercedes students, from left, Heidi Choi, Thomas Ma, Katarina Scherge and Dorothy Chiang. SNAPSHOT Mercedes College, Fullarton Road, Springfield R-12 Established: 1954 Enrolment: 1230 Ethos: Internationally focused, co-educational school in the Mercy tradition Vision: Aspire to develop global citizens, committed to living with responsibility, integrity, compassion, loyalty, mutual respect and dedicated to justice, whose passion is to make a positive difference in our world. 'If you go down one path and it isn't working, don't be afraid to change direction.'