When Derrinallum P-12 College students return to classes next week, they will welcome a new face at the helm, with Caitlyn Fitzgerald taking the reins.
After 10 years teaching at Katanning, about 300 kilometres south east of Perth, the Camperdown export is thrilled to be back in the area and named as principal for the Derrinallum school.
A graduate of Ballarat University, Mrs Fitzgerald’s first appointment was at the Katanning Senior High School which boasted 420 students, 120 of which were Aboriginal.
“It was very multicultural with 27 nationalities and 32 languages represented,” she said.
“I started as a Health and Physical Education teacher for the first three years and then went into a leadership position as part of the ‘Follow the Dream’ program to help encourage aspiring Aboriginal students to achieve their goals.
“There were some really amazing kids in the program and seeing them develop and accomplish was hugely rewarding.”
Mrs Fitzgerald then took on an after school program as a tutor under the Polly Farmer Foundation based on establishing pathways for students and mentoring them.
The role saw her manage about the same number of students and staff levels at the Derrinallum school.
Along with her husband Tim, the couple quickly established wider community connections through their involvement in football, cricket, netball and basketball.
“That’s something I’m keen to grown here at Derrinallum – a good relationship between the school and the wider community,” Mrs Fitzgerald said.
“The biggest thing for a school is to work with the wider community and to develop strong partnerships.
“I’m really looking forward to meeting not only the students, staff and parents, but all the locals.”
Taking up the reins at the start of Term 2 next week, Mrs Fitzgerald said she did not envisage introducing sweeping changes in the near future.
“Derrinallum College is a great school with great facilities,” she said.
“My initial intention is to see all the processes in place and the programs on offer and get an understanding of the needs of the staff and students.
“Valerie (outgoing principal Valerie Lobry) has left a good foundation here.
“I’m really excited to be back in this area with our extended family and I’m really excited about what I can bring and the connections we can make with the wider community.”