Ian Ross appointed Principal Hastings Secondary College Westport Campus
Interiew by Focus Magazine - Jo Atkins
1. Hi, Ian. Please tell us about yourself and your family, and what led you to call the Greater Port Macquarie area home.
It was quite funny the way this move unfolded. Earlier this year my wife Jean said, ‘Well we were in Darwin for twelve years, Grafton for twelve and this is our twelfth in Newcastle – what happens now?
We have visited Port Macquarie on numerous occasions over the past decade as Jean has family here, so we were not unfamiliar with Port Macquarie. We were delighted to have the opportunity to move to the beautiful Hastings area.
During the 1980s and early 1990s, I taught in the public education sector in Darwin. Jean is a trained nurse/midwife and while in Darwin, we had two of our four children.
Our other two children were born in Grafton where we also spent 12 years after we relocated from the Top End. I taught Industrial Arts, Computing and Special Education at Grafton High School. We re-located in 1995 when a teaching opportunity arose at Callaghan College in Newcastle.
During the five years at Callaghan College, Waratah Campus I was Head Teacher Industrial Arts and later Deputy Principal, transferring in 2013 to Jesmond Senior Campus. During this time, I had the opportunity to relieve as principal. This experience enabled me to continually develop the skills required to lead and manage a high school in a public education environment.
2. What's your background in education? (i.e. Where did you complete your tertiary studies, and what have been some of your previous career postings within the Department of Education?
I undertook training as an Industrial Arts teacher at the Goulburn College of Advanced Education and while in Darwin I completed a Bachelor of Education at the Northern Territory University.
In 2014, I completed a Master’s Degree in Educational Leadership and Management at the University of Newcastle, which has been put into practice in my roles in executive leadership teams over recent years.
At Grafton High School, I gained experience in supporting students with intellectual and physical disabilities, which as a parent and teacher was very rewarding. It demonstrated clearly to me that irrespective of a person’s ability it is possible for every student to grow and succeed in a structured education and learning environment, assisted by individualised teaching strategies and programming.
3. What/who inspires you most to continue working in the education sector?
There is an old cliché – as a teacher, I want to make a difference, for me, it is a more than that. Thirty years in the public education sector has been enriching. It has allowed me to go places, meet a diverse range of people and to use my experience to give back to the system that has supported me over my career.
School environments have changed from when I went to school. This could be attributed to the advancement in technology, greater resources and time is required to support students with mental health issues, changing family structures and modification of curriculum requirements to name but a few.
My role is to support teachers in doing what they do best. That is, to deliver quality teaching in a quality learning environment. If we can achieve that goal then every student, in our care can develop the skills that they will need later in their lives to pursue their goals, get that job they want or to develop that relationship or to function as a productive citizen in a rapidly changing society.
4. As the new principal at Hastings Secondary College Westport Campus, how do you feel you have settled into the role so far?
I am excited to lead Hastings Secondary College, Westport Campus. I am learning quickly that both the College and the Campus are positive, future-focused learning environments. Parents, staff, and students have made me feel very welcome which I consider valuable. Initially, I have found that processes and procedures at the campus are well established and highly effective in guiding students through the transition from Year 6 to Year 7 and continue to deliver quality education through to their identified post school aspirations.
5. What were your first impressions of the Westport Campus, staff and student body you'll be working with?
At Westport Campus, our students are doing amazing things supported by dedicated teachers who often go ‘above and beyond’ during their duties. The college has a wide variety of school-based programs designed to meet the needs of every student. Initiatives such as the Zenith program delivers a challenging environment for academic students in Years 7 and 8. The program has a cooperative learning approach which involves cross subject area tasks with the ability to embed 21st Century skills such as problem-solving, time management, literacy, numeracy, and communication. The structuring of this quality learning environment has demonstrated the ability to set-up students with the real-life skills required for their senior education or post school endeavours.
6. How will you work/partner with your academic counterparts at Hastings Secondary College's Port Macquarie campus, to ensure a viable future in public education locally?
Coming from a college environment has given me valuable insight into the fantastic learning opportunities that a collegial approach can offer. The ability to study a variety of courses in Year 11 and 12 at either Westport Campus or Port Macquarie Campus enables students the scope to select those courses that are most relevant to their post-school options. The teaching and support staff can also participate in cross-campus professional learning and to share expertise and teaching resources. Again, these are examples of opportunities that engage student learning and drive innovation.
The opportunity to be an active member of the Hastings Valley Community of Schools places me as a representative of Hastings Secondary College Westport Campus, in a position where I can help develop and maintain clear and transparent processes with our local partner primary schools. This public education link grows our teaching and learning networks, allows and promotes what public schools do best: develop the whole child.
7. What are some of the initiatives you'd like to introduce to ensure your campus, and the college, prospers in the future?
I see my role to build capacity in the people and processes that we have in our educational environment. That may involve developing leadership skills in students and staff. I support ongoing evaluation and construction of innovative teaching and learning strategies to support educational reform. I am committed to building a strong community support base for the college.
I want to put Hasting Secondary College in a position where it can continue to deliver quality education for all students in the Hastings area around our core values of excellence, innovation opportunity and success. I will link these values with transparent and adaptive leadership to support the college as the school of choice in our local community. This will allow students to achieve their personal best academically, socially and culturally.