Michele Lafferty and Celeste Hastings
Those involved in Catholic Education in Wellington were delighted to learn of the Queen’s Service Medal awarded to their colleague, Jacqueline Dromgool, in the New Year’s Honours List.
The public recognition of her over 30 years’ contribution to Catholic Education is well deserved despite Jacq’s own dismissal of her achievements as being no more worthy than those of anyone else.
This is by no means the case.
Jacq, currently Principal of Holy Cross School in Miramar, is loved and highly respected by all who know her. There is so much that can be said in praise of her, but in an article such as this, we will concentrate on two aspects of her leadership that will not be widely known.
She has been a principal for a number of years and remains one of the most caring, informed and innovative educational leaders in the country.
Over the years, through her connection with Catholic Social Services, she has fostered and taken in numerous children in need, most of whom she and husband Chris are still in contact with and still caring for and loving in many different ways.
Within the school community, she reaches out to all families in a way that reflects pastoral concern, but those who are in special need in any way attract Jacq’s loving concern and practical assistance.
She has found housing, furniture, clothing and food in emergencies for refugee and other families, and she has opened her own home to those who need it.
Not only does she provide extensive support, she will often give of her own resources if she cannot source them from elsewhere. For example, on one occasion, she gave her own mobile phone and prepaid cards to a family who could not afford to have their own phone connected and needed this form of communication.
We are sure that everyone who has met Jacq could tell a story about the support they have received from her. Her friends know that it is dangerous to even hint at a problem as she will immediately put her own needs aside to help with yours.
In education, Jacq does not wait for the Ministry of Education’s new ideas to improve the learning and teaching at Holy Cross School. For example, in 2002 the school successfully applied for a literacy grant which provided an excellent beginning to the school’s literacy journey. Jacq, however, thought beyond the proposal and searched the internet for successful literacy programmes outside NZ. She found information about CLaSS, Children’s Literacy Success Strategy, which the Catholic Education Office in Melbourne had developed. Over the past four years, the school has been involved in an intensive professional development programme, part of which has involved staff self-funding two trips to Melbourne during their school holidays to visit classrooms and participate in literacy workshops.
The school’s development in this area, we believe, can be directly attributed to Jacq’s outstanding leadership. She had the vision, located the information, and shared her findings with staff who readily came on board. Jacq then worked tirelessly to contact the right people, set up the trip, which included using her own airpoints to support two staff members who otherwise could not have gone, and, finally, with staff, she reviewed progress and decided to continue with ongoing development to ensure the project’s success. The Education Review Office is now recommending teachers go to Holy Cross to see the school’s programme in action.
We rejoice in this award, which reflects the love and respect in which Jacq is held. She brings great mana to Catholic Education in New Zealand. There is no more worthy recipient.