Schools Keilor Downs on the up

  • By Rachel Power
  • This article was published more than 9 months ago.
  • 3 Oct 2023

When AEU organiser Calvin Tran recently visited Keilor Downs College for a sub-branch meeting, he spoke to some very happy members. It was easy to find out why: principal Linda Maxwell has implemented the VGSA 2022 with great success, beginning with her commitment to fully fund camps and TIL as well as fewer than 18.5 hours of face-to-face teaching a week.

“I’m a 41-year member of the AEU,” Linda said, matter-of-factly. “I treat staff the way I want to be treated.”

Sometimes you have to spend in order to save. “The biggest thing with TIL is you spend the money and keep your staff happy, or you save money and alienate your staff. We decided our staff wellbeing and staff morale was more important so we’ve implemented it in the most supportive and generous way we can.

“It’s probably going to cost me sixty to seventy thousand this year. To keep my staff happy, I’ll happily pay that.”

When faced with uncertainty about how to implement the VGSA 2022, Linda immediately turned to her staff. 

“We weren’t sure how to run the TIL at first. We had a discussion with the staff about what’s fair and reasonable. We are still running the full camps program. We are not cancelling anything; still running our formals, Grade 6 open nights, parents’ information nights. 

“It’s money that I’ve had to find out of staffing. But the impact is no tension with staff, lots of open communication. It doesn’t need to be a damaging issue that risks putting staff off-side. I do it as if I was a teacher; how would I feel if I was a teacher being told to do unpaid overtime?”

The difference for Linda is in the framing – she puts staff morale first and works the rest out from there.

“You can use industrial issues to constantly reinforce to staff that you care about them and increase staff morale. There’s more than a monetary price if you do it the other way – a cost to morale and good faith.”

And no one is getting what they’re not due, Linda points out. “It’s just for years and years people weren’t paid for this work.” 

“I’ve been a principal for eight years, an AP for eight before that, I still well remember what it was like being a teacher. I still see things through the eyes of what it would be like being a teacher,” she says. ”Doing the right thing by staff, you reap the benefits in morale.”

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