graduated HSC in 1976 and tossed between two career directions – teaching and
the police force. While Victoria Police might have been poorer without him, the
young minds that have been shaped in his 38 years in the job have been all the
richer. Hanging up the chalk after 24 years of principalship – 4 at Mother of
God, Ivanhoe East, and almost 20 at St Therese’s School, Essendon, Chris had a
few things to say when we sat down to talk to him about his impending
What do you love most
and what will you miss most about being a Catholic principal?
I love the job, I consider it to be such a privilege. I can’t
think of another profession where you get to be embedded in the lives of people
in the same way you do in Catholic leadership.
The community has grieved over several deaths – the passing
of parents and also of a child – they were watershed moments because we walked
the path together. I recall getting a phone call when one of the mums died, I
was the first call the husband made, and he was wondering whether to wake the children
up and take them to the hospital. To be invited to give advice in those
moments, it doesn’t get any richer than that, holding the hands of people who
are struggling. And then the other side is being part of people’s lives when
they are elated. To be embedded in deep and meaningful relationships with
families is an absolute privilege. It’s central to what our school is about.
If I am to miss anything, it will be the
closeness of the relationships you build, not only with the children and
families but also with the staff. When I started at St Therese’s, we had 400
children and 20 staff, and we’ve grown to 550 students and 50 staff. That’s a lot
of people to get to know and to share with and listen to. I will miss the children, and having fun. Schools have
changed to a significant degree and on many levels – one of the things I’d like
to see as we move forward is that we don’t take the fun out of schools. The key
job for schools is to prepare these children to participate in both life in the
church and life more broadly, and I’d hope education goes the way of including
Advice for new
You will learn a lot before you go into the job depending on
who you’ve worked with as deputy, you learn a whole lot more after that point,
you need to be open to the fact that learning is ongoing. Be prepared to listen
and learn. You don’t always need everyone to agree with you. I don’t know the
recipe for success, but the recipe for failure is to try to please everyone. If
you come to school with an open heart, with the right intentions and right spirit,
if people think they’ve been given the opportunity to be heard, they will by
and large come on board with you.
I never considered myself to be holy enough to be a
principal, so in many respects I’ve gotten away with it, but I think one of the
keys is that you have to bring yourself to the job, and in my case I’ve brought
my family to the job as well, and that has made life a lot easier. My children
and my wife are both interested, and they’ve supported me over my time here,
turning up to school events. It’s not a 9–5 job, and it has made life a lot
easier having them onboard.
What do you hope you
are leaving behind (as a legacy)?
You hope to leave the place in a better condition than what
you arrived, but the truth is you have to move forward. I would like to be
remembered as someone who took the job seriously, loved the job, and who didn’t
underestimate the importance of people in this role.
My favourite two letter word is ‘us’. Without ‘you’ there is
no ‘us’, and I’ve been on about that for a long time, and ‘you’ means the
students, it means the families, it means the staff and it means everyone in
the community. Without each of those ‘yous’ there can be no ‘us’.