WA Secondary Principal of the Year 2021

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Inspiring the next generation

Mitchell Mackay, John Curtin College of the Arts
WA Secondary Principal of the Year 2021

Driven by his belief in the public school system and dedication to pursuing excellence, Mitchell Mackay’s reach in education has extended far beyond those at John Curtin College of the Arts where he is principal.

Working extensively with the Department of Education, he has set up supports that “reach every student, in every classroom, every day”.

Making education across the State a priority, he has helped lead and develop system-wide initiatives and the implementation of department policy to further education in WA.

Mitchell also mentors other principals and led his staff to establish John Curtin College of the Arts as a highly effective mentor school, providing online learning materials for secondary teachers throughout the WA public school system.

“I love helping others build capacity in their own leadership and sharing the joy of success,” he says.

“I would like to continue to share my extensive leadership knowledge and experience with many other principals in our education system and inspire them to be innovative in building cultures of excellence.”

With a management style that builds leaders and has been described as “cultivating passion and goodwill,” Mitchell supports John Curtin College of the Arts staff to gain a deep knowledge of their students, promoting a culture of both high performance and high care.

“As educators, we have an enormous responsibility to help develop our next generation of young adults and bestowed upon us is this greatest privilege of leading,” he says.

“When you are in charge, take charge. Many people are too frightened to make decisions for fear of things going wrong.

“When you make a decision in big organisations, then also take the responsibility for everyone else who made it with you and accept that things will not always work perfectly.

“Mistakes drive the innovation and encouraging other leaders to feel safe in their decision making, helps them build their own capacity.

“When you really build capacity in the leaders around you it is then that the organisation can do amazing things.”

Mitchell describes success as when a school is able to ensure its students are “ready to face the challenges ahead of them, contribute to build a better society and continue a love of learning throughout their life”.

“Success for our most difficult children should be equally valued and celebrated as much as the success of our brightest,” he says.

Praised for his “no one size fits all” approach to education and leadership, he has also established the college as one of the consistently top academic performing schools in the State while catering for the unique needs of more than 200 children with diagnosed individual educational differences.

His many roles include identifying and selecting gifted students from across WA, receiving more than 1500 applications annually from students keen to attend.

“I am proud that I have been able to create one of the top performing academic schools in the State with a culture of kindness, excellence, creativity and innovation,” Mitchell says.

“It is the most unique school in WA, with over 100 evenings of performance each year, in seven different areas of the Arts.

“Our staff and students are amazing. It never ceases to surprise me how talented people are and how, given the correct culture and support, they can achieve outstanding things in their lives.

“I was always attracted to doing things that were purposeful and made a difference. I knew from my first day of teaching that I had found the right profession and have loved every day of my 38-year career.”

As well as running a large top performing academic and arts secondary school, Mitchell manages two theatres with operating budgets and staffing requirements that are larger than those of some medium-sized schools. This sees the college operate seven days a week, 51 weeks of the year, with 108 evenings of performances and over 35,000 theatre patrons.

The Public School Review, undertaken in March 2021, highlighted the effectiveness of his management, with all areas of the college found to be exemplary.

Life-long learning has been entrenched as a core value at John Curtin College of the Arts under his leadership and Mitchell clearly leads by example. He actively engages in the growth of himself and others.

With a background in maths and science, he has developed into a leader through completing a Masters of Education in Business and Administration.

Since beginning at the college, Mitchell has continued his journey of self-improvement, becoming a Harvard Fellow and assisted in the development of future Fellows. He is also learning guitar.

Secondary principals take the lead in bringing their schools and communities together, and are well respected by their colleagues. They guide staff and students with insight and inspiration.

This award is proudly sponsored by Teachers Mutual Bank.

  • Mitchell MacKay, John Curtin College of the Arts
  • Lesley Street, Mount Lawley Senior High School
  • Mike Morgan, Shenton College
  • Sue Gilchrist, Morley Senior High School