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The Southern Cross : December 2011
December 2011 Page 21 www.thesoutherncross.org.au The Southern Cross Veteran principal Patricia Cramp and novice principal Stephen Pestrin are heading Tenison Woods Catholic School in a unique part-time partnership that could make school leadership more enticing to teachers. The duo has been job sharing at the Richmond R-7 school since January and are finding the experience rewarding for different reasons. Theirs is the only part- time principalship across the State's 103 Catholic schools. Patricia has been a principal for the past three decades and the past eight years ahve been at Tenison Woods. She said the part-time role allowed her to adjust to a different pace of life and spend more time with family and friends. She is among the 30 percent of Catholic school principals in South Australia who are set to retire in the next five to 10 years (see story above). "I don't want to totally retire, so this is a great way of getting my personal needs met," she said. "I feel I still have something to offer and still much to learn." Mr Pestrin, who is part-time principal at Tenison Woods and an ICT support teacher at two other schools for the rest of the working week, said he has been able to gain leadership experience while maintaining a presence in the classroom. "I'm enjoying it," he said. Mr Pestrin took leave from his position as deputy principal since 2003 at Antonio Catholic School in Morphett Vale, to help head Tenison Woods. "If you are a full-time principal, sometimes the administrative needs of the school take over. Whereas doing it this way is a great balance." Patricia said Catholic Education South Australia had shown "courage" in supporting what was a very "different" school leadership model which, she said, had been generally accepted by staff, students and parents. She said job sharing the principal's role was do-able and could open the door to more future leaders, especially working mothers and fathers needing work-life balance. About a third of South Australian Catholic school principals could retire in the next five to 10 years, but a steady interest in the top job from teachers has Catholic Education positive about the future. Catholic Education South Australia (CESA) leadership programs coordinator Michael Campbell said 30 percent of the principals heading 103 Catholic schools across the state are aged 55 years and older. The expected retirement rate of CESA principals is almost half the rate in a national survey recently released by Principals Australia Inc. The Principals Australia survey found 60 percent of the 1600 principals and school leaders surveyed planned to retire over the next five to 10 years. The survey says these findings, released in September, have "major implications for the urgency of professional development for aspiring leaders". Mr Campbell said this year there were 61 teachers (most aged in their 30s) vying for a spot in CESA's Discernment and Foundation Module -- a two-year part-time program for potential school leaders. The program accepts 25 applicants. Last year 58 applications were received. He said those who completed the program were often placed on the acting list for deputy principal and principal positions temporarily vacated due to renewal and long service leave. That list, said Mr Campbell, has remained steady with about 65 leaders and teachers each year. He said alternative leadership options, such as having two part-time principals share the role, also deserved further attention in coming years (see separate story). "I think these are the realities that we need to deal with and we need to plan and put processes in place that are open and transparent to people interested in becoming future school leaders," said Mr Campbell. University of South Australia School of Education Associate Professor Judith Gill said the role of principals had "changed dramatically" over the past decade and could be a "turn-off" for younger teachers often motivated by working proactively with children in the classroom. As part of an ongoing study, Ms Gill has been interviewing principals of South Australian government and non- government schools on the changing role of school leaders. She said many were frustrated by the increasingly high degree of accountability and time-consuming red- tape limiting their ability to making their school a better place for students and teachers. Principals and school leaders wishing to participate in Associate Professor Judith Gill's study on the changing role of principals can contact her on 8302 6325. schools | Future principals wanted TEAM WORK: Tenison Woods Catholic School principals Patricia Cramp and Stephen Pestrin in a job-share arrangement that could pave the way to more Catholic school leaders. Photo: Christian Le Ray Part-time principals a perfect match Rebecca DiGirolamo