Not farewell, but see you later, Sue Walsh

18 December 2019
Catholic Education Diocese of Parramatta Deputy Executive Director and Director Learning Sue Walsh (centre) is farewelled by colleagues. Image: Catholic Education Diocese of Parramatta.

 

Catholic Education Diocese of Parramatta (CEDP) Deputy Executive Director and Director Learning Sue Walsh has resigned from her position emphasising it is not “goodbye, but I will see you later.” The popular leader has decided to take a step back from her role after more than 45 years working in Catholic education.

Sue began her teaching career at St Joseph’s Primary, Kingswood, in 1973. By 1988, she was rising through the ranks with an appointment as Assistant Principal of St John Vianney’s Primary, Doonside. She became Principal of St John Vianney’s Primary in 1989 and St Thomas Aquinas Primary, Springwood in 1991.

Sue joined the Catholic Education Office as an Area Administrator in 2002 and later served as Team Leader in the Quality Review and Development Division and as Head of School Services. In 2011, she became Director Learning and in 2016 was also appointed Deputy Executive Director.

As Director Learning, she has had responsibility for the portfolios of Mission, Leadership Development, Vocational Education and Training (VET), Catholic Trade Training Centres, the CAPTIVATE Creative and Performing Arts Program, the Jarara Indigenous Education Unit, the Learning Exchange (video and audio-visual resource support), Learning Innovations, beginning teachers, implementation of government policy and compliance as well as High Support Learning Centres (Wiyanga and Kirinari).

During his speech at Sue’s formal farewell at Bankwest Stadium, CEDP executive Director Greg Whitby recalls the conversation he had with Sue when she announced she was resigning.

“When Sue came to see me to tell me she was resigning – not RETIRING, she echoed the theme for the 1972 Labor party campaign for Federal elections that year! Her opening words to me were `Greg its time!’” Mr Whitby said.

“I’m happy for Sue and her family that it’s time. Personally and professionally, I wish it weren’t time, but I saw in Sue’s face and heard in her voice that this was the right decision. Her decision is a powerful reminder to us all that matters of the heart are the things that matter most.”

Mr Whitby described Sue as someone who loves people, and is someone who gets her inspiration, energy and drive from being with, and working with, people.

“Secondly, Sue is a learner. There is nothing she will let beat her. She always sees a challenge as an opportunity in disguise, a moment to learn something new so she can contribute more widely and deeply,” Greg said.

Director of Performance Christine Howe said Sue has been a change leader. “She has an energy and passion to encourage everyone to do the very best they can for every student. She would not only say we have got to do it differently, but we have got to do it better!” Christine said.

Director of Enterprise Mark Holyoake said he found Sue to be a great thinker and challenged the way the Directors thought too. “She continued to play the role as teacher and always had an affinity and innate sense with all the teachers,” Mr Holyoake said.

Director of Performance Debbie Buscall said Sue’s leadership, professionalism and the trajectory she has created in literacy and numeracy had been phenomenal. “Her passion is infectious. She has the ability to bring people together and work with them in a respectful and humble way,” Mrs Buscall said.

Sue will always be remembered as the provocateur, with her ability to use data, evidence and research to contest ideas and challenge prevailing norms. Under her stewardship, the outcomes of national literacy assessments for students in the Diocese have improved significantly, particularly for the most vulnerable students.

In partnership with Marist Australia, she has also championed the Marist Learning Zone project, an alternative education setting for young people with a challenging school attendance history. The project has been very successful, delivering meaningful learning opportunities to students who would otherwise not be at school.

However, nothing sums up Sue better than the quote Greg Whitby shared from the great American writer and social commentator Hunter S Thompson, who once made an observation on how you should live your life.

“Your professional life should not be a journey to retirement with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty well preserved state; but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming, ‘Wow! What a ride!’” Mr Whitby said.

Sue’s work and advocacy has transformed the lives of thousands of young people and families. On behalf of all who have been fortunate to work with such an extraordinary leader, Catholic Education Diocese of Parramatta thanks Sue wholeheartedly.

With thanks to Catholic Education Diocese of Parramatta.

 

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