WA principals recognised at the 2017 John Laing Awards

Five school leaders from Western Australia 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.

Greg Wyss (St Joseph’s Boulder School), Geoff Harris (Balga Senior High School) Lisa Helenius (Rapids Landing Primary School), Suzanne Bursey (St Clare’s School Lathlain) and Wayne Revitt (John Wollaston Anglican School) had their commitment to education and consistent demonstration of outstanding school leadership recognised at a special presentation in Perth today.   

Geoff Mills, 2017 John Laing Award recipient Suzanne Bursey, Claire Vemey and Stephen Breen at the Perth presentation

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

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 former Tasmanian 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.

A brief bio of each WA recipient follows.

Greg Wyss (St Joseph’s Boulder School
A principal of six schools over 32 years in CEWA, working across three of the four dioceses, some of the more important initiates introduced by Greg include the introduction of Curriculum Framework, Collaborative Learning, Data Driven Instruction and the West Australian Religious Education Units of Work.  Greg has a reputation for always putting the needs of the students in the school at the forefront of his leadership style. He is described as always willing to help those students who struggled or had come from disadvantaged backgrounds.  He is a firm advocate of leading by example and ensuring staff who displayed leadership qualities develop whenever opportunities became available. Many of Greg’s staff members have gone on to be assistant principals in other schools or principals in their own right.  He is able to quickly form a vision for his schools and possesses an exceptional ability to positive influence others and get them on-board.  Greg is always willing to listen to staff and the general community to ensure that decisions made are always in the best interest of those in the community. 

Geoff Harris (Balga Senior High School
Geoff Harris has a solid track record of going the extra mile and is an identified leader in the development of effective teaching and learning programs for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students. His achievements are many but include the following: 
Beginning at Balga Senior High School, Geoff coordinated a major workshop focusing on solutions to families and community peace and safety. The presentation was designed and facilitated by Balga SHS students to over 150 community members.  Geoff has also worked with students to enable them to help lead the professional learning of teachers in ten schools thus far.  In 2012, Geoff lead his Senior Management Team to participate in the inaugural three-year Principals and Leadership Mentoring implemented jointly through Department of Education WA, Catholic Education and the Fogarty Foundation, known as the Fogarty Edvance Program. This program is now in its fourth group of schools. In July 2017, Geoff was invited to present at the World Indigenous Peoples Conference on Education, Toronto, Canada and is highly respected by his peers in WA and beyond.  

Lisa Helenius (Rapids Landing Primary School
Lisa’s extensive experience as a highly successful school principal and efficient leader is supported by a reputation for excellence, inclusion and high care for the communities she works with. With a mindset of autonomy and being fully committed to collaboratively working with students, staff, parents, key community stakeholders and system educators, she builds professional learning communities that provide full curriculum offerings for all students. Her leadership, change management and resourcefulness bring energy, passion and intentional action when defining, monitoring and achieving articulated visions. 
Her success as a school leader can be attributed to building, nurturing and sustaining inclusive, safe and supportive school cultures.  

Suzanne Bursey (St Clare’s School)
Suzanne is a highly experienced educator and principal and has developed a reputation for improving student outcomes through teacher development.  Her vision to promote St Clare’s and CARE school education has seen her present at various State and National Conferences, and also nominate other staff members and students to do the same. Sue has also engaged in partnerships with universities, TAFE and foundations on research projects and new initiatives to expand understanding and promote the education of students who would benefit from it.  
Suzanne is also recognised for her clear vision in ‘de-privatising’ classrooms and promoting interaction with other schools and teachers to build a culture of best practice. The physical structure of her school has been transformed to a vibrant, open, safe and nurturing learning environment. Teachers are encouraged to use their unique skills and passions which has resulted in a number of new courses and initiatives to engage and motivate. 

Wayne Revitt (John Wollaston Anglican Community School
Wayne is an engaged and active member of the Independent Primary Schools Heads Association (IPSHA) in Western Australia.  He is also the Project Officer and a member of the Executive Committee of this Association.  Wayne is described by his peers as a fine example of a successful school leader and his leadership style strongly reflects the articulated vision of the framework that he espouses to foster leadership within others.
He has a strong interest in Positive Psychology and Education. He is Vice-Chair of the Positive Education Schools Association (PESA) WA Chapter and directly facilitated/organised a wide range of workshops at the annual Positive Education Conference with the Positivity Institute in 2015 and 2016.