From Professor to Principal – all in a day’s work

Published 11 August 2010

shinminichiProfessor Victor Minichiello, a leading academic administrator and public health researcher, was “Principal for a Day” at Burwood Girls’ High School in Sydney last Wednesday, combining his duties as Professor and Principal all in a day’s work.

Professor Minichiello, Pro Vice-Chancellor and Dean of the Faculty of The Professions at the University of New England, was a participant in the State Government’s “Principal for a Day” program, which has been an important part of Education Week in NSW since 2004. He was one of 50 community leaders who were invited to take part in the program – each at a different government school.

“The experience of observing classes, and talking with the senior staff of the school and the teachers and students, was absolutely amazing,” Professor Minichiello said. “It was exciting to see examples of the excellent work occurring in some of our public schools.”

Burwood Girls’ High School has more than 1,100 students enrolled, 75% of whom are from non-English-speaking backgrounds.  There are 100 staff members, and the school achieves excellent results in School Certificate and Higher School Certificate examinations. “The school represents a bright future for our society,” “Principal” Minichiello said.

“It was inspirational to see the cultural diversity among the student population of this school,” he continued, “and to observe teachers using culture as a powerful learning tool in the classrooms.

“Even more impressive was the commitment by both staff and students to show respect for – and tolerance of – diversity and difference. The school welcomed the establishment of a gay and lesbian student support program, for example. This is particularly important given the well-known high proportion of teenagers struggling with their sexual identity who are at risk of suicide intention.”

Mrs Mia Kumar, the Principal of Burwood Girls’ High School, said that she hoped Professor Minichiello would “observe first-hand how schools have changed – including our technological focus in classrooms”. And Professor Minichiello agreed that there was “much for the public to appreciate about the modern school”.

“University academic staff would learn a lot by spending time in schools,” he said. “They would see the computer-aided learning revolution occurring there: the school at Burwood was wireless, the students had desktop computers in the classrooms, and teachers were using the Moodle e-learning platform for their classes. If the Burwood students are an example of our future doctors, sport trainers, nurses, teachers, lawyers, artists, politicians, accountants and business leaders, then I am very confident we are in extremely good hands and that there is a bright future for Australia.”

At the end of the day, Mrs Kumar said that the school’s students and staff members had very much appreciated the visit of their “Principal for a Day”.

As Professor Minichiello left the school to get into his taxi, the driver asked him what he was doing at the school. He explained that he had been “Principal” for a day. “How was it?” asked the driver. “A comfort to know that our schools are in such good hands,” Professor Minichiello replied. “I would have given the teachers a raise!”

Clicking on the image displayed here reveals a photograph of Mrs Mia Kumar and Professor Victor Minichiello with Burwood Girls’ High students Geena Shin and Jessina Oakes.