New connections

AT the end of last year Taree Public School welcomed new principal Karen Clark to the school community.

With decades of teaching experience behind her, in both classroom and principal roles, Karen is excited, eager and positive about her new position, new school and new life here in the Manning.

She assumed her new role in December last year and has been working hard since to better all aspects of Taree Public School right from the students through to the staff and the overall learning environment.

Karen comes to Taree following a consultancy position with the Department of Education, however she was previously principal at both Walhallow Public School and then Willow Tree.

"It's been a real sea change for me and I just love it," explained Karen.

"It was time to move on, time for a new challenge and I just love the school, the staff and the community."

Karen has come at a time of transition and change for the school, with four new teachers also joining the ranks this year, while Taree Public School is now part of a 'connected community' with Taree High School.

"We're all aware of where we want the school to go," said Karen.

"We've got a shared vision for Taree Public School, from academic achievement in all areas, through to improving attendance and cultural recognition.

"We aim for excellent outcomes for all the students and we're working darn hard to implement these changes," Karen added.

Not only is Karen assisted by her supportive team at the school, she is also backed up by Taree High School's new executive principal, Alison Alliston.

Alison had been in a deputy principal and then an acting principal role at Taree High, before taking on the new executive principal's role in 2013.

She was one of 15 executive principals appointed across the State and the new role has performance targets around the success of the Aboriginal students and their families as well as the whole school.

There is now a school reference group of elders, community members, parents, P and C representatives, deputy principals and interagencies, that come together to work out what the kids need and then seek funding to get it.

"We've got a direct line to the ministry," explained Alison.

"I have appraisals from the minister for education, Adrian Piccoli and Director -General of the Department of Education and Communities, Dr Michele Bruniges."

Alison's role will see her lead and co-ordinate existing programs run by other government agencies, non-government organisations and communities themselves.

Health and preschool services would be shifted into schools where appropriate and the communities would be encouraged to see schools as a seven-days-a-week resource rather than facilities that shut their gates at 3pm.

Adrian Piccoli has said the focus needed to be on engaging local communities and responding to their needs as directly as possible, with Aboriginal languages becoming an integral part of the curriculum in every school.

"It's not about what we can do for you, it's about what you want us to do," said Alison.

As part of her new role, Taree High School and Taree Public School are now a connected community and this will see Alison interacting with students from their first days of kindergarten and through their entire school lives.

"We work together with families, we work out outcomes that might help with something at home, so that the children's learning experiences can be enriched, it's a holistic approach to learning and education that is tailored to suit the students and their families," Alison added.

While Karen said Alison's help and support had been invaluable to her transition.

"Alison is a fabulous partner to have," said Karen.

The women are working closely for better outcomes for both schools and the wider community and it's clear from their passion and enthusiasm that these schools are in very good hands.

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