Aubin Grove Primary School and Principal Update

Important Update by Mesha Steel, Principal

For those who are not aware, since 2018, I have been the fixed term principal at Aubin Grove Primary School. My substantive and permanent role at the school is a deputy principal position. The foundation principal, Mr Frank Pansini, is the substantive principal of our school, and I accepted the role in his absence, whilst he pursued system level leadership in the Department of Education.

I am eternally grateful to Frank for trusting me enough to hand his school over to me, especially in those earlier years, as I did not have principal leadership experience. Although the opportunity was never on my career radar, this gesture was not taken lightly, and it has been my first priority in my life over the past six years to get it right, as much as I can. I never wanted to let my students, staff or community down after the extraordinary leadership they received from Frank, and my goal has always been to give the community the stability and leadership that this school had with Frank and what our students deserve to receive as their human right.

Over the last five and a half years, I have remained the fixed term principal. Throughout this time, I have applied three times and won the position each time, and I have been so happy to continue with my work with this community. In a large, dynamic and innovative school, you can shoot for the stars, and I have always aspired to keep taking this school to the next level, so honoured that the incredible staff, students and families have come along with me for the journey. I cannot express how appreciative I am for this community being so accepting of me, supporting my growth as a leader and for being so generous in giving me plenty of encouragement and feedback on how I could keep getting better. But I most appreciate how all stakeholders have shown trust in me to develop my leadership in my own way and in my own time. Following on from a highly experienced leader, who provided great stability to his school, I understand how much of a leap of faith this must have been for many of you.

I have been at Aubin Grove Primary School for twelve years. During this time, I have been a classroom teacher, parent, deputy principal and principal and I have been fortunate that this school has taken my career and personal life to places I never thought I would get to experience in my life. I have valued the privilege of building wonderful relationships with so many children and their families, watching them grow from three-year-old’s into teenagers, ready to take on their next schooling adventure. It is such an honour to be involved in my student’s lives and to have an opportunity to have an impact on their academic and social and emotional journey.

I know that schools are also the place where trauma and heartache can land for our students and their families. This school also was the place that my family took on fostering one of my students for eight years, to support her through the most challenging time in her childhood. Working with her through her final primary schooling years until she reached adulthood taught me more than I could ever learn as a teacher or administrator. The by-product of this role of foster mother also put me into position of being able to connect and support more authentically with those who are undergoing trauma or suffering in their life to reach a safer and happier place.  Although fostering came with many significant challenges, I know that my whole family is so grateful that Aubin Grove Primary School brought this incredible girl to us, at a time where she might have needed us too.

This school has a staffing community that cannot be found at any other school in Western Australia. There is just something about this dynamic of educators that even our review assessors could not put their finger on, and their line of questioning for their visit was heavily focused on how this dynamic exists in such a large school. They are incredibly hard workers, they are absolutely serious and committed to achieving success for their children, but know how to have fun, care for and respect each other too. It is the staff culture that brings us back, year after year, as we know we feel valued by each other, safe and in a place where we can make a positive difference to our children and each other. This is what we all signed up for when we became teachers.

Frank has informed me that he will not be returning to Aubin Grove Primary School, and he will contact the community about this decision, in his own time. This will now mean that the permanent principal position will be advertised to be filled in the coming weeks. After much reflection about what I can continue to offer this incredible community, I have decided not to apply for the role.

I only need to look at the faces of all of our darling children to know that it is my time to exit this school. It is a non-negotiable to me that they deserve the absolute best in leadership, as they only get once chance to be a child. After twelve years, six as a principal and through the challenging COVID days, I just do not think I have the capacity to keep leading to the level that we have all worked so hard to achieve together. When children are involved, every decision that you make as a leader is so important, serious and potentially life changing. Our children need a leader who can continue being dynamic, energetic, strategic, full of ideas and ready to deal with whatever comes their way. This leader needs to be ready to take this school to the next level in teaching and learning through their knowledge, innovation and transformational leadership skills.  I am so sad to be making this decision, but I know that it is the right decision for all of our children and our community. I am handing this school over to a new leader in the very best position that it can possibly be in, with the highest of accolades from the Department of Education, and for that,  I am very proud.

I need to acknowledge my husband Adam and my children Matilda, Loehm and Cass. They have given me the space to lead this school in my way, and I really feel as though my children have had to start their young adult lives with a pretty absent mother at times. I am so grateful to Adam for supporting me throughout my Aubin Grove journey , and for reminding me that I always ‘could’, when I thought that I  ‘couldn’t’. He has been this school’s invisible leader behind the leader, given me the most incredible advice and hard truths when I’ve needed it, and has always been my true north. He has definitely been the mother and father to our kids, and rarely complained when he knew that my head was in school land, and not with the family. It is also time that my family gets their mother and wife back.

I would also like to formally recognise the incredible team of talented administration leaders, who have known about my decision for a period of time now. They have advised, counselled and supported me, finally accepting this decision despite the impact it will have on them. They have been there for all the highs and lows, and they have been such wonderful cheerleaders of me throughout my time at Aubin Grove. Thank you to my dear friends and colleagues, Donna Jones, Lynna Matthews, Nicola Batten, Rui Tan, Dianne Podmore and Therese Turner. I can only hope to pay their generosity towards me, forward, in the future.

Thank you to the Aubin Grove School Board, led by Simon Lalor and the previous Chairs,  Anotine MacMath and Mike Van Dongen. These gentlemen, in addition to all those members who have served on the school board have led this school alongside me, made the big decisions when it has been required and have positively advocated for our school out in the wider community. The success, reputation and brand of this school is largely due to the exceptional governing and advice that the Aubin Grove School Board has provided during my leadership to drive the strategic direction of the school. I have greatly appreciated the endorsement and support the Chair members have given to me, especially at the start of my leadership journey and throughout COVID.

I have decided that for the foreseeable future, I will not be accepting another leadership position with the Department of Education. I am very emotionally attached to Aubin Grove Primary School, and I know that I am not ready to give what is required to be the principal I would like to be at another school and community. Adam and I have decided to travel overseas for an undetermined period of time, so that I can have the space to reset and think about what is going to be the best decision for us, together, moving forward.

My last day at Aubin Grove Primary School will be on Wednesday 19th June, Week 10 of Term 2. The Director of Education, South Metropolitan Education Regional Office, will introduce the new permanent principal to Aubin Grove Primary School for the commencement of Term 3, 2024.

Thank you, Aubin Grove Primary School for making the last twelve years of my life so wonderful. I will take away with me so many special memories of this school, the children, staff, families and community members. For that, I will be forever grateful.

Aubin Grove Primary School

Aubin Grove Primary School opened in February 2011 as a state of the art public primary school for students from Kindergarten to Year 6. Right from the very beginning, our school has been guided by our dedicated commitment to achieving our shared vision and our stated purpose of ensuring that every student is a successful learner and every teacher is an excellent teacher.

In 2012 we became an Independent Public School, in recognition of our capacity to accept and apply increased flexibility and our responsibility to make local decisions across a range of school operations to enhance educational outcomes for our students.

We have more freedom to make decisions about important matters that impact our students’ education such as student support, staff recruitment, financial management, governance and accountability. In collaboration with our School Board, we monitor our performance against our Delivery and Performance Agreement and articulate our plans and goals via our Business Plan.

Aubin Grove was named the 2016 WA Primary School of the Year in the WA Department of Education Awards acknowledging the excellence of our teaching and learning programs, leadership, the high quality of the relationships between school and families, outstanding governance provided by the School Board and our ability to provide a safe, stimulating and rewarding learning environment for all students.