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Fresh start for school principals


Eleven Catholic schools will have new people at the helm in 2023, including seven first-time principals.

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Emma Fowler

Emma Fowler is in her first principal position, at St Raphael’s School at Parkside. Previously she worked at St Joseph’s Kingswood as the assistant principal as well as taking on acting principal roles at both St Joseph’s and Our Lady of Grace School, Glengowrie. Prior to this she worked in the Catholic Education Office as the education advisor for Technologies.

One of the challenges for her will be navigating a new building project.

“I haven’t had much success in my personal life with building projects with my house taking almost three years to complete,” she said.

“However, I am hopeful the school building project will be significantly different. We have a great team of people working behind the scenes on the project and an excellent on-site team so I am confident our new administration and classroom buildings will be amazing.”

Emma said rather than being nervous, whenever she started somewhere new she had a feeling of excitement.

“I love meeting new people and learning about their story, who they are and what’s important to them,” she said.

“On the first day I can’t wait to see the sea of smiling faces that walk through the school gate and I am excited to get to know each and every one of their stories.”

Sonja Smith has taken on her first appointment as principal of St Mary’s Memorial School at Glenelg, after being acting principal at the school in 2023. Previously she was deputy principal of St Joseph’s School, Murray Bridge, where she taught for seven years after five years at St Joseph’s School, Kingswood.

Sonja said she was excited about the opportunity to make a lasting impact on the lives of others.

“As a principal, the privilege of connecting with each child, staff member and family is an incredible responsibility that I treasure and embrace,” she said.

“The daily interactions with students bring me moments of genuine connection with smiles, high fives and the endless curiosity of young minds.”

Challenges include addressing “psychological safety, wellbeing, workload and the persistent issue of teacher shortages”.

“The demands on educational leaders continue to grow…we need to be more flexible, creative and adaptable than ever before,” she said.

Welcoming students on the first day of school and helping them to settle into the new year, especially those starting school for the first time, was a highlight for Sonja and she is determined to remember each child’s name.

Julie Hancock

Julie Hancock has taken on the principalship at Immaculate Heart of Mary School (IHMS), Brompton, after being head of junior school at St Columba College and leader of learning at St Brigid’s Catholic School, Evanston. She said she was looking forward to getting to know the ‘strong, positive, connected’ community at IHMS and creating partnerships.

“As a new principal I’m keenly aware of the fresh challenges and opportunities that lie ahead,” she said.

The biggest challenge will be balancing the many responsibilities necessary to be an effective leader, but with the support of our system and the great team of staff at IHMS I look forward to it.”

Luke Buchanan, the new principal of St Columba School, Yorketown, has been in Catholic education for 19 years. He has held leadership roles in physical education and wellbeing before spending two terms as deputy principal in 2023 at St Martin de Porres School.

Luke Buchanan

Luke said he was looking forward to getting to know students and their families, adding the local community had been ‘warm and welcoming”.

He hoped to “build community through relationships” and strengthen Catholic education in the southern Yorke Peninsula region.

While he had “minimal nerves” for his first day with students, Luke said his first official day leading staff “kept me up the night before”.

But after his first week with staff he felt “a sense of calm and strength”.

Being a physical education teacher, Luke said he was looking forward to “wearing multiple hats” as he gets to know students and their families.

Luke is replacing Scott March who is taking on his second position as principal after five “amazing years” in Yorketown.

Scott March

He will be joining St Francis of Assisi, Newton, after working in various leadership and teaching roles across country and metropolitan schools.

“Joining St Francis of Assisi Newton is a wonderful opportunity to help enliven a beautiful school with a rich Franciscan history,” he said.

“Part of our drive as a school will be to become a broader part of our local community, diving into our charism and looking at ways we can use this to serve others.”

While it was natural to have a mix of nerves or excitement when starting at a new school, he said the first day was “an exciting day to see the school in action and meet the faces that are going to become a huge part of your life for the foreseeable future”.

Andrew Baker won’t have much trouble fitting in as new principal of St Francis de Sales at Mount Barker, where he has lived for more than 20 years. In addition, he

Andrew Baker

will be returning to the school where he was deputy principal for nine years. In 2014 he was appointed principal at Gleeson College in Golden Grove and after six “wonderful years” there, was principal at Nazareth Catholic College.

“I loved my time at Nazareth, the largest Catholic school in South Australia, a super-diverse, multi-campus community with nearly 2500 students from the Early Childhood Centre to Year 12,” he said.

“As much as I have enjoyed both schools, the opportunity to come back to my community, my parish, and an opportunity to give back to a school community that means so much to me is such a gift.

Kylie McCullah

Loreto College has welcomed Kylie McCullah to the role of principal, following the departure of Dr Nicole Archard, who has taken up the post as principal at sister school, Loreto Kirribilli, in her hometown of Sydney. Kylie has more than 20 years’ experience in Sydney’s independent school sector and most recently was head of Academics (deputy headmistress) at St Catherine’s School in Sydney.

Lauren Brooks

Lauren Brooks was appointed the new principal of Saint Ignatius’ College in April last year and after working alongside Barbara Watkins in Term 4, she commenced the role this year. She was previously deputy principal of Pedare Christian College, where she was deputy principal – Teaching and Learning (R-12). She has held executive leadership roles in junior, middle and senior schools in South Australia and the Northern Territory.

Darren Pitt is the new principal of St Columba College and Paula Bacchiella will lead Edmund Rice Education Australia Flexi Schools.

As reported in December, Brian Schumacher has been appointed principal of Nazareth Catholic College.

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