Sydney Morning Herald: 14 September 2018

As a stand-out leader in the state education system, Jenny Parrett was recently chosen to learn from the best at Harvard University’s Graduate School of education.

Parrett, principal of James Fallon High School in Albury, jetted off to the US with three other outstanding principals from NSW. Alongside more than 150 education leaders from around the world, they participated in the seven-day Art of Leadership Program.

Parrett says the experience was ‘‘extraordinary’’ and focused on adaptive leadership styles, managing change, building psychological safety in teams, designing strategy, evidence-informed practice, literacy learning, and supporting young people with traumatic backgrounds.

Sessions included one with Harvard’s Deborah Helsing, who discussed our natural immunity to change, and how we can test assumptions and feel more comfortable and empowered when change occurs. Another was led by Monica Higgins, who used the 1996 Mount Everest disaster to highlight complex systems, building team safety, and adapting with the changes in the mountain.

‘‘The case study is something I have immediately used,’’ Parrett say. ‘‘It’s universal and interesting. I was so fortunate to be part of this learning.’’

Discovering the ways education leaders work in various contexts around the world gave perspective and insight. Parrett had the opportunity to visit schools in the north-east of the United States where big picture design has been embraced and says this was ‘‘a revelation’’.Parrett says the experience taught her that she’s on a good path in leading her community, while picking up some handy tips and actions that will improve that leadership. Long term, she has a vision for her work in public education, for leading personalised project-based learning and moving learning into the wider community.

Since returning to Albury, Parrett has built into her schedule time to read, reflect, and explore different systems, methods, research and ideas. She says she feels the ‘‘honour’’ of attending such a prestigious program and looks forward to the future.

The program was offered by the Public Education Foundation’s Teachers Mutual Bank Scholarship and Parrett says she is enormously thankful to those who made it possible.

‘‘It affirmed for me that NSW Public Education is a forward-thinking system that is looking to genuinely improve the learning of young people,’’ she says. ‘‘The positivity around leading education across the world is high. Those in the room felt valued and passionate about their role in the lives of young people.’’