March 2020

CaSPA President’s Message



Dear Colleagues

Welcome to our first CaSPA Newsletter since the launch of our new website. I hope you are enjoying the new features of the website and its associated SZ App which can be used on all mobile devices. On behalf of the Board, I would like to welcome our two new Directors Andree Rice and Paddy McEvoy.

At this time, I am also conscious of the health crisis brought upon us by COVID-19. The challenges that change everyday to keep our country safe are mounting on all of us. At the same time, as principals, I know you and your staff are trying to maintain the usual well-being and learning for your students. Along with caring for your families you currently have an enormous task!

At this time we need to continue to follow the advice and measures from our governments but can I please urge you to take good care of yourself during this demanding time.

I am pleased to inform you that the Education Department has been consulting with all National Principals Associations in recent weeks regarding the COVID-19 impact on schools. It is extremely pleasing that the Principal Voice is being heeded at this critical time.

The Education Department, ACARA and the Australian Government have been consulting with stakeholders in regard to key education matters such as the NAPLAN Review, The Direct Measure of Income amendment to the Education Act and National Architecture Review. The CaSPA Board has taken the opportunity to submit a response to all these matters.

In addition to these consultations, CaSPA has been meeting regularly with key staff at the Education Department, ACARA, NCEC and AITSL to ensure our Catholic Principal Voice continues to be heard in the education landscape of Australia.

For the months ahead I wish you, your family and your community God’s blessings in this difficult time for the world.

Loretta Wholley

CaSPA President

CaSPA Key Activities (March)

  • Bushfire response and support for schools with Commonwealth Government.
  • Consultation with Education Department regarding COVID-19 response for schools.
  • Finalising CaSPA Strategic Plan 2020- 22.
  • Review CaSPA Office Structure & Field Officer role.
  • Planning for CaSPA Conference 2021
  • ACARA Stakeholder meetings regarding NAPLAN and MySchool Review.
  • AITSL School Leadership workshop.
  • Meeting with the other 3 National Principal Associations (ASPA, APPA, AHISA).
  • Principals as Stem Leaders (PASL) reference group.
  • LaTrobe University Research into Principals’ work.
  • Commonwealth Bank Teacher Awards.
  • Catholic Education Stakeholder Forum (CESF) Meeting with National Catholic Education Commission (NCEC), Catholic School Parents Australia (CSPA) and Catholic Primary Principals (ACPPA).

Please support CaSPA's Platinum Partners:


‘Smiles Are Infectious’: What a School Principal in China Learned From Going Remote

By Leland Anderson    20 March, 2020

As students left our boarding school in Shenzhen on 17 January for the long-awaited Chinese New Year vacation, none of them expected that an epidemic brewing in Wuhan would spread rapidly across the nation, preventing them from seeing their teachers and friends at school for the foreseeable future.

Some students didn’t even take their books home.

Now, 415 students and scores of teachers are in self-quarantine and haven’t seen each other face-to-face in over 60 days—but, gratefully, they are still interacting and school is progressing.

In fact, approximately 180 million Chinese students are currently engaged in distance education. With varying success, Chinese educators are continuing their teaching through distance education methods and tools.

As the principal of a Chinese secondary school that successfully transitioned to distance education in early February 2020, I have been encouraged to share tips for educators and parents for when a school closure affects you:

  1. Be optimistic. Smiles are infectious. During stressful periods when there are more questions than answers, having a positive mental attitude can serve as a “breath of fresh air.” Optimism and cheerful spirits can create an environment where learning can take place in particular—and it is also good for mental and physical well-being generally.
  2. Keep routines. Ask teachers and students to continue school routines at home (or their current location) according to your school’s regular timetable. Your routines and schedules will provide structure (and the comfort that is derived from structure) to the school community as you carry on class meetings, discussions, office hours, and messaging.
  3. Keep assignments simple. Assignments should be described very clearly so that students can succeed. It can be tempting for teachers to assign lots of independent work. However, teachers should give assignments that are bite-sized and similar to what they would assign on-campus. It is wise to avoid assignments that are complex or require materials or tools that are uncommon in homes.
  4. Use video. Students prefer video-based mini-lessons in addition to written instructions. Most students are accustomed to hearing and seeing their teachers’ lessons and demonstrations. Therefore, encourage teachers to create videos using screen capturing software or simple cameras (e.g. mobile phone cameras) to explain and demonstrate lesson content or assignments. Videos by others may also be useful, but never underestimate the value of your own audio and visual messages. Students love to hear their teachers’ voices!
  5. Hold virtual class meetings, but make them optional. Virtual meetings 1 or 2 times per week can help students feel connected to their teachers and classmates, but it is helpful to make them optional, due to potential time differences or internet accessibility issues. Also, it is helpful to record meetings and post them for those who could not attend.
  6. Carefully choose digital curriculum …When students do not have printed textbooks at home, digital curriculum can fill the gap. Some digital resources are “open” with few or no restrictions. Others require licenses. Be sure to follow licensing laws and agreements.
  7. … but limit screen time. Excessive screen time can have negative side effects. Although there are many wonderful online tools and e-curriculum resources, teachers can reduce screen time by assigning book reading, handwritten work, or hands-on physical activities. When appropriate, handwritten assignments and hands-on projects can be photographed and submitted in place of typewritten work.
  8. Focus on healthy living. Especially during times of quarantine or isolation, educators should give attention to the whole person—body, spirit, mind, and social relationships. Principals should encourage all—students, families, and employees—to practice wellness, self-management, goal-setting, as well as adopt an optimistic sense of perseverance. Regarding social contact, I think we will all discover that one does not need to be physically present in order to be personal; we can create a welcome sense of “contact” through phone and video calls, texting, and emails.
  9. Involve parents. Each positive interaction that parents have with their children can be a memorable one. Encourage parents to become involved with their child’s learning at home. On a weekly basis, teachers could (and I would say should) publish a week-long learning plan for the coming week. With a learning plan, parents and students have a sense of course expectations, which will greatly reduce the anxiety of all concerned. It also conveys the professionalism of the teacher and school. Educators should welcome parents’ suggestions and respond to parent input.
  10. Consider a learning management system. If your school does not already have a learning management system (LMS), now is a good time to familiarize yourself with some of the options available. You should consider adopting an LMS that allows your teachers to do the following:
  • post files, videos, and links;
  • accept file submissions;
  • provide comments and feedback on submissions;
  • administer and score quizzes;
  • keep scores in a grade book; and
  • share assignments, scores, and comments with students and parents via a mobile app.

Most important to online and distance education is a culture of kindness, interaction, and responsiveness. Teachers and students thrive in such an environment.

We eagerly await the end of the COVID-19 epidemic and take hope in remembering that storms pass, night turns to day, and winter gives way to spring. Eventually, this epidemic, too, will pass.

Leland Anderson is Principal of RDF International School in Shenzhen, China


'There Is No Guidebook': Being the Principal in the Age of Coronavirus

By Denisa R. Superville 18 March, 2020 

Virtual calming corners for students. Online staff hangouts instead of in-person team meetings. Student advisory groups on Zoom. Video morning greetings for students.

This is what the principal's job is looking like right now in the age of coronavirus.

"These are things that pop into our heads when we are trying sleep at night," said Kelly Corbett, the principal of Otsego Elementary School in Otsego, Minn., listing of a stream of ideas that she and her staff are knitting together to keep their colleagues and students connected while schools are closed because of the coronavirus pandemic. 

"What else do we need to do? How can we make this better? Because there is no guidebook."

With nearly 40 million K-12 students across the country out of school, principals will play a pivotal role in ensuring that student learning can continue in some form—and there are vast unknowns with that—and that students can still get some of the mental health and social-emotional supports they would have had access to if they'd been in school.

It's unclear when students will return to school. While most have declared initial closures of two to three weeks, that is likely to change. Kansas has announced that students will not go back to school this academic year and governors in Ohio and California have said that their students are unlikely to return before the summer.

For Corbett, being principal and an instructional leader at this moment means being calm. Yes, she is working on making sure that teachers are developing high-quality lessons, answering questions about content and teaching, and helping trouble-shoot along the way when teachers start using a digital platform they've really only used for short periods, mainly snow days.

But being that calming and motivating presence is essential, she said.

"I think that's the most important thing that leaders need to do right now," she said. "We need to be prepared.  We don't need to panic. We have the resources in front of us. We have great educators. We just need to plan."

"There will be bumps in the road; there will be glitches. Things happen."

But school leaders have to be open and ready to share information as the situation rapidly evolves.

"That's kind of my main job—to make sure that the information is accurate and timely," she said. "When people have access to information, their anxiety level goes down and they are able to plan better."

A Sudden Pivot to Online Learning

Kerensa Wing, the 2020 National Association of Secondary School Principals Principal of the Year, was in her school this week with the instructional leadership team helping teachers get up to speed on some of the technology they would need over the next few weeks. Some needed help making video lessons and how to conduct video chats.

"It's new territory for me," Wing, the principal of Collins Hill High School in the Gwinnett County, Ga., district, said of the shift to full-time online learning. "One day I'm suddenly in charge of an online campus, with students and teachers who haven't done this for more than two days. We're all going to learn and grow together and come out at the end at a better place."

Before students left, the high school surveyed students to find out how many don't have access to the internet or a device at home.  Five families called to ask for books or alternative assignments to the online courses that most students would take while schools are closed.

Most of the lessons and activities will be accessible on a cellphone. Students can also use an Xbox or a PS 4 gaming console if they have internet access, and cable providers like Comcast are providing free internet service.

Cognizant that students may also be sharing devices while at home, lessons have been pared down from 55 minutes to 30 minutes. (Wing said she knows that's not enough for an Advanced Placement class. Those students have additional readings and other work assigned.) Students also have the ability to watch a video assignment, complete it in writing, and send a photo of the completed assignment back to the teacher.

"The teachers are trying to be considerate of the fact that they are sharing technology during the day," she said. "We are being flexible with the submission times."

If students do not sign on for any virtual work for three days, school staff will reach out to the parents. They're also encouraging parents to ask their children to show them their work, and not just take the student's word that they are completing their assignments online.

"That's the teachers' biggest fear—it's that the kids don't get online and do [the work]. If we are doing this for several weeks, what happens when they return?"

Teachers will also try to arrange digital "office hours" and video chats with students so that they can see and interact with each other in a live setting, she said.

For her part, Wing is also trying to keep in touch with the school community with daily updates. And she sent out a "messenger" laying out expectations for students, what parents can do to help, and where students can pick up meals during the closure. She said she'll try to do one every week.

"We want to continue the learning," she said. "We want to keep it positive, be patient with folks. We are going to be patient with their learning curve. We want them to be patient with the students' learning curve. This is the first time they will be online for more than two days in a row."

Virtual Mental Health and Social-Emotional Supports

Attending to student's mental and emotional needs will be challenging when students are outside of their reach and surrounded by news that's scary for adults.

While few schools have had to amass instructional digital content for months on end—many districts had to experiment for shorter periods, for snow days and hurricane closures, for example—meeting the non-academic needs can be a harder task during prolonged closure.

Corbett said she's been working with teachers on creating engaging lessons.

"The teachers can have the most beautifully designed lessons, but if it's not engaging, it really doesn't matter," Corbett said.

Student engagement is a focus at Corbett's school. There's lunch with a teacher day, lots of small group instruction to help students and teachers get to know each other. Corbett also has lunch with students once a month so they can ask her questions.

Mindfulness and self-regulating practices are built into classrooms. Students have access to calming corners where they can take a time out to play with a squishy ball, water globe, or relax.

They've tried to build in those practices into the virtual lessons planned during the closures. Teachers plan to greet students with a video message in the morning, similar to what they would have heard in the classroom. The school day will follow a familiar schedule, including with mindfulness breaks built into the schedule.

"It could be everything from counting your breaths, different ways to regulate your breathing, physical activities," she said. "We'll have to figure out the best way to keep those experiences going when the students aren't here."

The school's two social workers and counselors are coming up with self-regulating activities that students can do at home. The physical education teacher is also crafting a list of activities for parents. Students will also have the ability to message their teachers directly.

A Keeper of Hope

At Elk Grove High School in Elk Grove Village, Ill., teachers were spending this week preparing lesson plans for students—while maintaining social distance.

While students are out of school this week, there's no online instruction planned, giving teachers additional time to prepare for when it starts later in the month, Principal Paul Kelly said.

On Tuesday, the school's student advisory group met on Zoom, a video conference platform, and they had a lot of questions for Kelly and Associate Principal Arturo Senteno about what could be ahead.

A senior, who planned to play softball in college, wanted to know what's going to happen to the softball season. Another had questions about a friend who does not have internet access at home. How was she going to do the assignments? Another had questions about what happens if they needed personal attention. What if their grades dropped as a result?

In many cases, Kelly didn't have all the answers. He told the student that he was unsure whether the season would continue, but his contributions were valued.

"It's hard when you're not able to answer the question, 'Is my career over?' " Kelly said.

"You could sense it in these kids' voices—it all comes down to, 'How can I make life normal?' " Kelly said. "It's really sweet that these kids would ask us questions about life, but they would be asking their teachers those questions."

But he tried to reassure them that the staff will be understanding.

"We really do use the word grace," he said. "People are going to operate with a lot of grace. We know that our staff truly cares about our kids. They are going to understand that this is a challenge, unlike any we've faced before. It will require everyone to work extra hard to ensure that the young people meet the expectations that have been set and be flexible about when something is completed." 

Kelly hosted an online meeting for the staff, and they too have tons of questions. "How can we make this right for students? How can we make this work?"

He said he's confident that teachers will do their best for students, but his message for them now is to take care of their own emotional health.

"You are only going to be able to help the kids if you are in the right emotional space," he said. "Take care of the stresses in your home, with your family, and we will work together to make the e-learning work for kids."

For him, being a principal right now means inspiring hope.

"I think my role shifts completely into this symbolic keeper of hope," he said. "My role in this family is to make sure that we know that we are trying to get them whatever they need, having staff members feeling like we care about them as humans and as families, and all of the details of their professional lives will get resolved."

It's a similar message for students.

"We are here," he said. "We are still going to be here. We're going to pick up the phone. We're going to answer the emails. School is such a critical cornerstone of a stable society, and... a principal needs to be a big part of that... ."



Read Less

Over the next two CaSPA Newsletters there will be profiles of the 8 Directors. Hopefully you will enjoy getting to know your CaSPA Board better. The CaSPA Board Profiles will also be available on the CaSPA Website shortly.

Name: Andrée Rice

Current School: Xavier Catholic College, Wurrumiyanga NT


Previous Position: Deputy Principal Boarding, Stuartholme School, QLD

First Year as a Principal: 2019

The hope for my current school is: that it becomes a lighthouse school for remote education.

The Joy of Principalship is: seeing students and staff grow and thrive.

A Book I would recommend: Dare to Lead, Brene Brown

Fun Fact about me: I am the mother of three boys who has spent most of my career in girls’ education.

My valued Well-Being Strategy: Early morning jogs and prioritising sleep!

Advice for a Beginning Principal: The chaos will settle, take it a day at a time and focus on building strong relationships.

Inspiring Leadership Quote: “Imagine a world where people wake up every day inspired to go to work, feel safe while they are there, and return home at the end of the day feeling fulfilled, by the work that they do, feeling that they have contributed to something greater than themselves”. Simon Sinek

What Title would you give to your TED Talk or Book: We rise by lifting others.



Name: Paddy McEvoy

Current School: St Aloysius College, Adelaide

Previous Position: Deputy Principal, St Mary’s College, AdelaidePaddyMc.jpg

First Year as a Principal: 2013

The hope for my current school is:

That St Aloysius College will continue to educate young women who are confident,

capable and willing to act for change.

The Joy of Principalship is:

Working with talented staff who are committed to empowering young women to pursue their own paths with passion.

A Book I would recommend:

Educated, Tara Westover

Fun Fact about me:

I am the youngest of eight children.

My valued Well-Being Strategy:

Spending time with my three beautiful grandsons.

Advice for a Beginning Principal: I love this excerpt from John O’Donohue’s Prayer For A New Position:

Be fair in your expectations,

Compassionate in your criticism,

May you have the grace of encouragement

To awaken the gift in the other’s heart,

Building in them the confidence

To follow the call of the gift.

Inspiring Leadership Quote: “Resolve to be good today, but better tomorrow.”

Catherine McAuley, founder of the Sisters of Mercy

What Title would you give to your TED Talk or Book:

Supporting young people to create a more just world.

Stephen Kennaugh

Current School: St Andrew’s College Marayong

Previous Position: Principal De La Salle College Ashfield

First Year as a Principal: 2014


The hope for my current school is: That both staff and students continue to realise the potential in this wonderful community.

The Joy of Principalship is:

Seeing the middle leaders and staff you help form grow into leaders and move in their own direction.

A Book I would recommend:

The Power of Habit - Why We Do What We Do In Life And Business by Charles Duhigg

Fun Fact about me:

I go to the beach every weekend of the year.

My valued Well-Being Strategy: Sleep, Exercise, Good Food and Faith.

Advice for a Beginning Principal:

Organisation is essential as well as making time to develop relationships and trust at work and making time for yourself as well as relationships in your personal life. Work out early what works for you and make it a priority.

Inspiring Leadership Quote:

“The standard you walk past is the standard you accept”

By David Morrison who attributed it to former CDF & Governor of NSW David Hurley

What Title would you give to your TED Talk or Book:

Empowering staff is the secret to a great school, but how do you do it?


Name: Loretta Wholley

Current School: Merici College, ACT

Previous Position: Deputy Principal Curriculum, Mercedes College, WA

First Year as a Principal: 2013Wholley_Loretta.jpg

The hope for my current school is:

Being the principal of all-girls school, it would be that every woman who graduates is empowered to be a confident, courageous woman who can make an impact on the world.

The Joy of Principalship is:

The students – especially when they accomplish something, they never thought they could. Big or small achievements.

A Book I would recommend:

Daring Greatly by Brene’ Brown

Fun Fact about me:

I like to knit scarves.

My valued Well-Being Strategy:

Prayer and Music (and a good glass of Shiraz)

Advice for a Beginning Principal:

It’s all about the relationships. You can’t transform the culture of a school or improve student outcomes until you get to know your staff, students and their parents/carers. Do this first.

Inspiring Leadership Quote:

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart. Never rely on what you think you know. Remember the Lord in everything you do, and he will show you the right way.” Proverbs 3:5-6

What title would you give to your TED Talk or Book:

Try – (Fail) – Learn – Succeed – Celebrate