Last year I received something odd in an envelope. It was a piece of what looked like black string, sent by a parent of a student who had left the school six years earlier. I remember the child well; he was a challenged boy and we worked closely together. His biggest dream was to work with animals. The parent thanked me for believing in his son and getting alongside him when he needed it most. He then told me with great pride that his son had completed a Masters in Zoology and now travelled Australia and the world caring for animals. And the piece of black string? It was strand from a giraffe’s tail – a symbol of the fact that what we do changes lives.
Earlier this year Paul Beacham took over the reins of Southern Hills Christian College. Enjoy reading his candid perspective on the road forward.
I’m a local boy, I grew up in Gosnells and have lived in the Byford area for the past 11 years. In fact, I attended this very school for a few years when it was Emmaus Christian School, before doing my Year 11 and Year 12 at Swan Christian College.
At 6ft3 (and the shortest of his three brothers), he describes himself as a quiet child and a peacemaker who enjoyed his school experience. People who know Paul will say that he is a reliable, generous and adventurous man. Paul himself says that the most important things to him are his family, his love of sports and a sense of space, one of the things he loves about the Southern Hills Campus.
After my double degree in Design and Technology, I joined Southern Hills Christian College as a teacher back in 1998. Aside from our incredible librarian, Jean Tidy, who has been here for 30 years, I am the second longest serving staff member. My teaching journey here has been varied and interesting; from teaching aquaculture (we once had a semi-commercial trout farm at the school), to VET courses, media studies and Christian education studies.
A missions-hearted man, Paul has participated in basketball missions and lead construction missions to the Philippines. He also instigated what is now a highly successful, SCEA-wide, program called Leavers 2 Leaders, back in 2009.
What has kept me here all these years is the hope and potential of the school. There is no doubt that the effect the school has on its parents and students is significant and we have a great reputation for dealing with kids in need.
Looking ahead, Paul is focusing on the following key areas:
1) Culture: Reinforcing a culture of trust amongst staff and with parents, including being transparent about where the school is at and ensuring everyone's contributions are valued.
2) Community relations: As a semi-rural community, Southern Hills relies heavily on healthy and fruitful community connections.
3) Academics: A literacy and numeracy intervention program has been implemented to address the academic needs of the school.
4) School improvement plan: Nearly 60 different improvements have been implemented at the campus over last eight weeks.
5) Structure change: Recently appointed Head of Curriculum, Andrew Johnson, and Dean of students, Joel Vallance, ensure a flatter management structure. Andrew comes from the UK with an exceptional educational pedigree, and Joel has a real gift for dealing with challenged kids.
If we can maintain our excellent pastoral care and underpin it with a solid academic program where students can be the best they can be, I see us being a school of choice again. The hope that has kept me here all these years is alive and well. It is not about the size of a school but about what we can produce. The work you put into a child will somehow come to fruition, whether you see it or not.