Primary school principal, Doug Vickers, has spent the past 20 years at the helm of Bairnsdale West.
And he must enjoy it because he’s signed a contract for another five.
“It’s a positive and successful school and people want to be part of our community,” Mr Vickers said.
“Working in a good school is the best job in the world. It’s all about the people, facilities don’t make it good.”
As principal, he’s a man of action and makes a point of backing up the things he says.
“Words are meaningless unless there are actions to support them. Our primary consideration is the students, and that has to be the reality on a daily basis,” he said. In the context of East Gippsland’s recent bushfire disaster, Mr Vickers said some of the school’s community had been directly impacted but everyone in the community had been impacted in some way.
For him, support is about being available. “People need to know they’re listened to and supported, not necessarily a generic response, it has to be specific to that person.
“Our school can be known as caring, learning and welcoming but if that’s not modelled it loses the focus.
“You have to listen carefully and respond. Be available to listen and talk.”
Mr Vickers began his teaching career as a 21year-old in Melbourne.
In 1981 he became principal of a Catholic primary school for eight years before leaving the profession to work for the Richmond Football Club recruiting players and as football manager.
But he wasn’t the hands-on father he wanted to be so returned to education, moving to Benambra Primary School where he spent two years, before transferring to West as a senior team leader for a year.
He then progressed to assistant principal for two years at Bairnsdale Primary before returning to West as principal in 2000.
“This place has made me a better person from the experiences I’ve had and the people I’ve met,” he said.
He aims for his school community to be inclusive of kids, staff, parents and carers.
“In my time we’ve had extremely caring school councils and presidents,” he said.
One such person is Jan Bromwich who sent her eight children to West, and spent 10 years as school council president.
Jan’s grandchildren now attend West, with one in year one and the other in prep.
“Doug goes out of his way to form a rapport with every child,” Mrs Bromwich said.
“That’s pretty amazing. The atmosphere at the school is very friendly.
“He also expects the best out of his staff and that’s why he has such good staff, they perform to their absolute maximum.”
Mrs Bromwich said Mr Vickers’ kindness and generosity were always evident.
Mr Vickers values the strong relationships between staff and students.
“I enjoy the interaction with kids and I’m inspired by seeing the interactions between teachers and kids learning.
“We teach inclusiveness, we respect, embrace and encourage difference.
“A child’s needs don’t change whether they receive additional funding or not – it’s important we provide the support to ensure all children can reach their potential.”
He said the school had about 80 koori students in its midst and the koori community were key people within the school setup, also listing the deaf and Asian communities as other important elements.
Making sure his staff members are challenged, motivated and connected leads on to strong relationships between staff and students with a high emphasis on positive teaching and learning.
He said no matter what, students were put first and his people were willing to work hard to get the best outcomes.
Bairnsdale West Primary School has 310 students and 66 staff on the books.
Mr Vickers said the management of people required acknowledgement and support for development when required.
At his interview for the position of principal, Mr Vickers said he was asked how he would judge his success in 12 months’ time.
“I said I would like us to be known as a caring and learning community. A few years later we made that our motto,” he said.
“Words need to be lived.
“Why the organisation exists needs to be honoured – which is all about the kids,” he said.
IMAGE: Bairnsdale West Primary School’s Doug Vickers has been principal for 20 years. K1511-744 (2019)