From the President: Just doing what needs to be done
Queensland Teachers' Journal, Vol 124 No 3, 23 April 2019, page no. 7
The Promotional Positions Classification Review (PPCR) is a high priority for outcomes in the current round of enterprise bargaining. With all the discussions and investigations to date, one thing is abundantly clear: a fair outcome for school leaders will only eventuate when the complexity of leading a school in the 21st century is understood.
No other leadership position across our community requires an individual to directly lead a group of up to 300 employees, manage facilities and budgets worth many tens of millions of dollars, be responsible for the education, health and wellbeing of up to 4,000 students, and manage the expectations of the community and of the school, parents, employees and students.
As a QTU Organiser, I supported members in times of natural disaster, most notably in Charleville in 1997 and the Toowoomba and Lockyer regions during the floods of 2011. In my time as QTU President, I have played a role in providing support for Bundaberg (tropical cyclone Oswald, 2013); the far north (TC Ita, 2014); Rockhampton (TC Marcia, 2015); north and western Queensland (TC Debbie, 2017); and now Townsville (tropical low, 2019) just to name a few.
What are the learnings for principals when one of Queensland’s regular natural disasters strikes? A recent visit to Townsville following on from the catastrophic floods of 2019 gave me an opportunity to both check-in with QTU members and to gain a further appreciation of the true depth and breadth of the role of school leader, revealed by a community in crisis.
On each of these occasions, it is recognised that the Department of Education has generally provided strong support and that the extraordinary expectations of principals to be community leaders was recognised but essentially under-valued.
There is nothing in the principal handbook that describes what you should do when your community is subject to a disaster. Yet I have witnessed many principals who have taken all that and still successfully led their community to recovery. This is not because of mystical abilities conferred when one becomes a principal, it is about extraordinary skills, work ethic and a commitment of energy above and beyond normal expectations. It must be recognised that all of this is often undertaken while the principal, their family and home are subject to the same trials as the rest of the community.
One simple refrain is common: I did what needed to be done.
Principals are not super-human, but they are heroes to many. Time and again I have heard stories of principals holding it together to get the school open, to provide a safe and healthy space for students and staff, to return the community to some sense of normality by re-establishing routines. To deliver for others, for the benefit of the many.
Some would argue that this is the role of a leader and there is some truth in that. However, so much of what happens in schools on any given day is outside of the normal expectations of leaders that the reality of dealing with a disaster moves us into the realm of the almost unimaginable.
So then to my point. For us to successfully negotiate a new salary classification structure that reflects what school leaders are truly worth, we must break down the barriers to understanding to the greatest extent possible. The support from the entire membership for this pivotal claim by the QTU is a crucial part of that process because who, other than principals themselves, has the understanding necessary to educate the community if not the teachers who work together every day.
Through collective action we can and will achieve change for the better.