A pathway to leadership


Unlocking Potential (UP): Principal Preparation

Debby Chaves, Acting Principal, Parkdale College

Looking for confirmation that she was heading in the right direction on her leadership journey, Debby Chaves enrolled in the Unlocking Potential (UP): Principal Preparation program at Bastow.

“I wanted to learn whether I was actually ready for that next step, whether I was best placed to be a leader of a school,” says Debby.

Debby Chaves, Acting Principal, Parkdale CollegeDebby was a participant of the first group to graduate from the UP program – a highly innovative principal preparation program that is designed to thoroughly prepare aspiring leaders for their first principal appointment.

“I think there is so much that lies beneath the surface of the principal role, this program really brings it to the surface,” Debby explains.

For Debby, the program was a great chance to explore the big issues around principalship, specifically the factors that impact on a leader’s ability to motivate and sustain change. The research-based content and real-life application provided Debby with a clear understanding of what is required when responding to the challenges of principalship and defining a vision for a school.

“I wanted to have a research basis for how I was going to tackle a leadership role in the future and that the course would give me the skills, knowledge and foundation that would set me up if I became a principal,” says Debby.

“Principals are more than just a figurehead – they are the spark that implements the changes that lead to school improvement.”

During her two-week internship, Debby had the chance to observe and reflect on the challenges faced by principals. Shadowing an experienced principal and being part of their day-to-day decision making deepened Debby’s understanding of the role, as well as strengthening her belief in the importance of a strong vision.

“It provided the time, knowledge and understanding that allowed us to take a ‘balcony view’ of our school community,” explains Debby. “The role that a principal’s vision plays within the community they lead is pivotal,” she says.

Debby Chaves, Acting Principal, Parkdale CollegeDebby also appreciated the time to investigate how her new knowledge of contemporary research and theory around leadership could be applied in her school.

“Exploring the research-based leadership practice - in seven sessions spanning eight months - allowed me to implement some of the ideas that we were learning through the workshops and readings,” says Debby.

During the program, Debby made valuable relationships with “an amazing network of excellent and passionate educators”, who sustained and supported each other during the 12 months, and have committed to continue to do so into the future.

Debby is already applying her new learning by implementing a new leadership program for teachers at her school. Developing the capacity of colleagues has been a great opportunity for her to showcase her new skills and knowledge.

Participating in the UP program has convinced Debby that she is on the right track with her leadership aspirations and is truly ready to put herself into the running when the ideal position comes along.

When given the opportunity to be principal, Debby is resolved to lead a school so that it becomes “a place that every student wants to come to, every day”.

Bastow's Unlocking Potential (UP): Principal Preparation program