NSW principals honoured at 2017 John Laing Awards

Six school leaders from New South Wales have been officially recognised for their dedication to education and professional learning in the annual John Laing Awards for Professional Development, managed by Principals Australia Institute.

Christine Del Gallo (Northern Beaches Secondary College, Mackellar Girls Campus), Jane Donovan (Good Samaritan Catholic College, Hinchinbrook), Judith Butcher (Ascham School), Lyn Davis (Umina Beach Public School), Meredith Tomkins (Our Lady of Good Counsel Catholic School, Forestville), and Stephen Harris (Northern Beaches Christian School and Sydney Centre for Innovation in Learning), had their consistent demonstration of outstanding school leadership recognised at a special presentation in Sydney today. 

Each of the recipients is an outstanding school leader and has made substantial contributions to education in New South Wales through strategic senior leadership roles over a considerable time. They have been responsible for working with other senior educators to build leaders’ capacity.

NSW recipients of 2017 John Laing Awards for Professional Development

The John Laing Awards acknowledge principals in every state and territory who demonstrate outstanding leadership in providing professional learning in government, Catholic and independent schools. They celebrate the contribution principals make to support the professional learning and development of teachers and other school leaders.

Set up in 2004, the Awards honour John Laing, a Tasmanian former school principal, who worked for PAI (the then Australian Principals Association Professional Development Council). He was the motivating force behind the innovative initiative in the early 1990s to bring principals together for national professional learning projects and programs to support their role as school leaders.

Brief bios of the NSW recipients follow.

Christine Del Gallo (Northern Beaches Secondary College)
Christine Del Gallo is described as an outstanding school leader who has worked in a diverse range of educational settings.  She is an advocate for the need to build a culture of high expectations and engaging pedagogy to ensure educational success.   
She has made major contributions to the professional learning of the school leaders through her work with a range of associations including the NSW Board of Studies and most significantly, the NSW Secondary Principals’ Council.  
Christine bases her leadership on evidence and critical reflection and is a strong advocate for the use of all kinds of data in looking to improve learning outcomes. She has identified and articulated the philosophies, beliefs and values that are at the core of the school’s organisational culture and seeks to build quality practices, including quality teaching, around these. Christine has led her schools into a learning culture where professional learning, inquiry, the effective use of evidence and professional reflection are the cornerstones of realising a rich environment for students and staff. 
Christine is a proven dynamic leader with a high level of credibility demonstrated through her involvement at school, district, regional and state levels where she has held leadership positions, facilitated professional learning and contributed to strategic decision-making at all levels. 

Judith Butcher (Ascham School)
Judith began her teaching career in 1980 with the NSW Department of Education, teaching at Mascot Public School and St Peter’s Public School. She has 20 years of experience in school leadership roles and became a member of the Independent Primary School Heads of Australia (IPSHA) in 1998.  She is also a member of the Australian Principals Association and the Australia College of Educators. 
Professional learning has always been very important to Judith and she has actively contributed to the organisation and facilitation of professional learning for educational leaders and teachers.  Judith is passionate about supporting her IPSHA colleagues and believes that having a supportive and collegial network are crucial for professional development, growth and wellbeing in education. She regularly volunteers herself to mentor and support new members who join the association. She has led by example and has encouraged fellow staff and members of IPSHA to attend professional development sessions, to contribute to leadership opportunities and to support one another in their daily work. 
At Ascham School she is Chair of the Professional Development Committee and oversees the professional development of all teaching staff (P-12) as well as arranging keynote speakers for staff days. She encourages all staff to set professional development goals and encourages, mentors and supports staff to achieve them.  

Jane Donovan (Good Samaritan Catholic College, Hinchinbrook)
Jane has been teaching for 43 years and is a former of principal of All Saints Senior Catholic College, Casula and Aquinas Catholic College, Menai.  She has been the principal of Good Samaritan Catholic College, Hinchinbrook since 2011.  
Her leadership style focuses on positively influencing others around her to improve the learning culture at Good Samaritan Catholic College through a ‘Know Your Learner’ pedagogical model, which recognises the huge diversity of learners in the school. This project focuses on professional learning relating to gifted education, improvement in students’ literacy skills, differentiation of the curriculum, Aboriginal spirituality, student voice and the significant relationship between student wellbeing and their learning.   
Jane has also led the construction and ongoing operational stages of St Joseph Trades Skills Centre, a facility which is part of Good Samaritan Catholic College. This facility provides the full range of HSC vocational educational courses for students in the cluster of Catholic schools in south-western Sydney, and is part of our endeavour to provide an individualised program of study for all senior students.
Jane recognises potential and the significance of building leadership capacity in others, and being proactive in providing opportunities for them, as they progress through their career paths as Middle Managers, Assistant Principals and Principals. There is hardly a school in south-west Sydney that is not staffed by principals and assistant principals who have spent some formative time working with Jane.

Lyn Davis (Umina Beach Public School)
Lyn became principal of Umina Beach Public School in 2001 after having been an Executive Teacher, Assistant Principal and Education Consultant. Lyn is committed to the development of high quality school leaders and is currently Vice President of the NSW Primary Principals’ Association (NSWPPA), the professional association representing over 1700 principals in NSW government schools. Lyn has played a leading role in the professional development of principals and aspiring school leaders over 15 years. She has played a pivotal role in influencing not only individuals but also the NSWPPA to become a professional body delivering registered professional learning across the state.
She believes in allowing teachers to participate in executive meetings and to have an equal voice in decision-making at the school. This has built within every school a team of people with the skills to step up and relieve in higher duties as required. Professional reading is incorporated into executive meetings and this evidence base is used to select future actions in school plans. The NSWPPA Principal Credential is a learning experience that uses the AITSL Teaching Standards as a vehicle for leadership learning. 
As a principal, Lyn has inspired leadership actions and aspirations in others and this has been demonstrated by her willingness to support principal induction and develop staff within her schools to successfully become principals and executive. 
A hard worker and an inspirational leader, Lyn Davis is fully focused on leadership and has used her quality relationships with principals, with the NSW Department of Education, the Principals Australia Institute and within the NSWPPA to ensure that professional learning is always on the agenda.

Meredith Tomkins (Our Lady of Good Counsel Catholic School, Forestville)
Long before she became a school principal, Meredith realised the transformative power of quality professional learning for educators. Early in her teaching career, she had a professional learning experience that challenged her to rethink what she believed about good teaching and how students learn, which set her on the path of her life’s work to build learning opportunities that are authentically driven by students’ questions and actively cultivate students’ curiosity, not just for the task at hand, but for learning far beyond the confines of the classroom.   
As a principal, Meredith makes the quality of teaching at her school a top priority.  She seeks to build a culture that is rich with intellectual provocations from the wider, global educational discourse that challenges her teachers’ practice, as well as her own, to ensure the school provides the highest quality and future-focused learning opportunities.  
In recent years, Meredith’s school has worked with Kath Murdoch and Ron Ritchhart (Senior Researcher at Harvard Graduate School of Education’s Project Zero) to strengthen the culture of thinking amongst staff and students. Meredith’s work through this project has focused on building processes and structures around authentic co-design of the learning process involving students, teachers and subject area experts from beyond the world of education.  

Stephen Harris (Northern Beaches Christian School; Sydney Centre for Innovation in Learning)
Stephen is described by his peers as being an exemplary professional principal. He is the founder of the Sydney Centre for Innovation in Learning (SCIL), a world-renowned centre that invites and hosts international tours groups and visiting academics.  It offers professional development for staff within Northern Beaches area as well as visitors. 
As Stephen is completing his PhD, he thoughtfully shares current research, readings, articles, journals and other academic literature which enrich the professional learning of his staff. This dissemination is not just targeted at teaching staff, but rather shared with all staff at NBCS so to share the vision that is being and encourage professional dialogue.
Stephen currently serves on the AITSL Expert School Leadership Committee as a school's representative. When on site, he emails all staff and makes himself available to meet and talk with staff over any matters. Stephen is a passionate advocate for educational transformation and is often asked to speak or consult on the nature of learning and learning spaces in a new millennium.
Stephen is very much in demand as a conference presenter and consultant on rethinking school for this and future generations. In June of this year, Stephen was a keynote speaker at the Schools of the Future Conference at the Sydney Opera House, as well as the NSW Department of Education’s Principals’ Conference.