Tags:SLPPIn Conversation

5 min read

"I don't remember being hit by lightning" - Paul Cartlidge and Mel Jones in conversation

Continuing our series of reflections on the year that was, we’re thrilled to present a conversation with Paul Cartlidge (Principal, Waimate Main School) and volunteer Capacity Partner Melanie Jones (Waitaki District Council) about visioning, meeting new people and – of course – their recent celebration to complete the Strategic Leadership for Principals Programe!

PAUL: It was nice to be able to stand up and talk about our plans at the celebration. It was a great group of people, Mel and I got along really well!

MEL: I felt so proud of Paul doing his presentation, he did it so well, it was so compelling. I know you’re not supposed to feel like this but I couldn’t help being like, ‘my principal was the best!’.

PAUL: We obviously know each other really well now, Mel and I. I went in deep with some of the other principals too, the networking and relationships were great.

MEL: That’s a really nice point, we did all bond so well! I came away feeling like wow, I’d love to catch up with everybody again.

PAUL: We planned a BBQ together, didn’t we?

MEL: Did we?! I could see us all doing that! Over the programme, you just really get to know the whole holistic person, way beyond who they are in the school.

PAUL: I’ve bumped into a few of the other principals at education things in Timaru, we have a bit of a Waimate (District) group too – the ongoing catching up has been so great.

MEL: That personal progress together, alongside the professional stuff, that’s been so nice to see. How was it presenting to them all?

PAUL: I’m used to presenting – mainly in board meetings – but this was the first time I’ve had a plan on a page, per se. I do a bit of it at the school, but it’s not at the same level as this presentation. The work I put into making it innovative, even attractive to look at – I felt like there was an expectation, it being a Springboard thing and not my own, that I had to bring my A-game!

MEL: I felt that for myself too! It’s intimidating at the outset – not the programme, but more that I’ve never done this kind of coaching in this context before. Am I going to get along with them, do I know what I’m doing? Then our first meeting, Paul did you come to my house?

PAUL: I think I did, yeah.

MEL: Did we start with wine? Or did we have a coffee first time around? It didn’t take long to switch!


Paul (left) and Mel (fourth from left) in the celebratory mood with their cohort!

PAUL: I think we were really good with that keeping in touch. You were great at keeping me accountable, caught up on the programme, but keeping it fun – it was a good partnership.

MEL: That extra catching up we did was important I think – if we hadn’t sat down and had those sessions with just us, we might not have had the same output. You have to put in a lot of work, and it’s my job to challenge the thinking – and we both have to just keep going at it!

PAUL: Yeah I need a bit of that – I see a pile of paperwork and I’ll be like oh look, a canary is outside and get distracted. Teaming up overcame a lot of those barriers.

MEL: Particularly iterating the vision. I think you started with Think, Care, Achieve and we tried to iterate it, but it was really hard. The learning for me was to go through the programme, then come back to the vision. Which I think is what you did!

PAUL: Yeah, and I ended up with Treasuring Taonga -

MEL: Which is perfect! It’s exactly what your school does. And what a school! It was so helpful for me to visit the school – if you don’t see the environment your partner is working in, take the time to understand what the kids are going through, it just doesn’t work.

PAUL: Another part of the vision that was great for me personally was the review – realising our old vision wasn’t a vision, but a value. Then getting to reach out to the marae and community, and the marae gifted the school a whakatauki which was so special.

MEL: That was superb, yes. The relationship building and bringing the marae on board – not everyone does that, it was as you said, something special. Was finding Treasuring Taonga a breakthrough moment for you?

PAUL: Sortof – through our conversations we spoke about pastoral, pastoral, pastoral – my heart is with the kids of this school. We brainstormed and it always came back to why do I do this, and one day I just said they’re our treasure. I don’t remember being hit by lightning, just finding what we were digging for!

MEL: The tools we got to do that work were great – really effective for helping us deliver. Nicholas (Williams, Springboard Programme Manager) put so much great stuff on the internal forum that I was printing off, reading, using all the time. It’s been valuable knowledge for another trust I’m working with too!

PAUL: Agree on those resources – sometimes you feel like you need a dictionary for all the acronyms though! Mel, a thought – do you think our work would’ve been different if COVID didn’t happen?

MEL: I’m not sure! We had that combo of face to face and online which I thought worked.

PAUL: I wasn’t worried about it, but I was grateful that COVID didn’t end up being a barrier to this happening. People were probably apprehensive, but it ended up being business as usual for us!

MEL: In a manner of speaking! As someone relatively new to the area, it was a totally different and new way of looking at my own backyard, so to speak. But the insight into schools, families, teachers and communities was just amazing.

PAUL: I should mention too, you’ve put me onto a lot of people and groups in the community -

MEL: And vice versa!

PAUL: That I wouldn’t have otherwise considered. The connections, the learning, it’s all been great. And now I have a new person to see out and about, like when I saw you at the Christmas tree lighting.

MEL: That was so cool!

PAUL: You feel like family to me now, so it was great for you to meet mine.

MEL: The journey continues for both of us!

Paul and Mel have recently completed the Strategic Leadership for Principals Programme with Springboard Trust. If you’d like to know more about it, get in touch with our team!

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