Principal/CEO of GEMS Royal Dubai School gives me the freedom and accountability to lead and manage a school of significant size, at a high performing level for a company that is a leading K-12 provider in the global education marketplace. While GEMS Education is a large multi-national business, each CEO within the organisation maintains individual control of their business unit with governance provided by the corporate entity. In the five years I have lead the school, this opportunity has allowed me the scope to realign staffing structure, implement self-review, and significantly improve budget efficiencies, along with developing and promoting the school’s vision. This has been made possible via a committed team of educators to meet the ambitious targets we have set ourselves.
Last year the school was independently audited for its performance by the Dubai Schools Inspection Bureau and as a result, the school was upgraded from ‘Good’ to ‘Outstanding’, bypassing the ‘Very Good’ level. This ‘double jump’ is a very rare event, and this recognition is a tribute to the work of the staff and the senior leadership team, as well as resulting in a royal visit to the school.
When defining what works in managing aspirations and behaviors, I learned early on in my career that a teacher must first and foremost be a good listener, have clear expectations, follow through on issues, care for all, work from an evidence base, and be consistent. As a leader, I have reflected often on how these basic relationship constructs are in fact fundamentals of effective leadership. Paramount to my leadership style is my ability to listen first, process the implications and/or opportunities, and then facilitate actions.
As a CEO in my current setting I have developed an international mindset that is built on a mix of cultural awareness, an understanding of the importance of context, looking for and examining possible approaches and solutions, and all the while predicting and analyzing possible outcomes and expectations.
I have worked with various forms of governance from corporate accountability at all levels, to elected parent boards of governors, to external regulators that oversee schools across Dubai. What I bring to all of these situations is a 'passionate calm' and a methodical approach that lets parents, regulators and corporates alike, know that the school is in safe hands and that we are shaping the lives of young people to take on any number of influential roles in their communities that require leadership, passion, and capability.
I started my teaching career in Huntly New Zealand, after training at Waikato University, School of Education. I then travelled to the States where I worked in Michigan, a few hours out of Chicago before moving on to London. I worked in London for 11 years, moving from the classroom to work in the behaviour field, specialising in the design and development of specialist provision to support all learners.
After starting a family we moved back to New Zealand where I worked briefly as a Resource Teacher of Learning and Behaviour, before taking up my first principalship at the beautiful rural Kaihere School. After four years of work and growth at Kaihere, we packed up again and headed for the Middle East. Initially, I worked in public sector reform as an SEN/ICT consultant and then moved to my current role leading a large multi-national school of 1250+ kids in Dubai.
My personal foundation as a school leader is that children only experience their childhood once - therefore, every school has the opportunity to support, teach and inspire young people as they strive to find their place in the world.
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