Goodbye Vicki, and thank you

Vicki Baylis is set to retire to her rural Far North Queensland birthplace.

The department's outgoing Chief Executive is leaving a 40-year classroom-to-boardroom career, optimistic the Territory's education system will continue to improve students' outcomes, staff development and wellbeing.

The top job was unsought, but her guidance of the department has been consistently underscored by the parental philosophies that have signposted her life.

“My mother said: ‘As long as you’ve done your best Vicki’ and my father said: ‘You do your job, do it to the best of your ability, and then you do a bit more because you are part of a community and you have to give back’,” she said.

“It’s a tape that plays in my head, and it’s been fundamental in bringing my best effort to this work.

“There are times in my life when I sit and think: ‘God, how did I end up in the job I’m in?’ I never intended to be a chief executive, but that’s happened because someone saw something in me that I didn’t see.

“In your professional life when somebody sees something in you, and offers you an opportunity, you have to think deeply about why you wouldn’t take that chance.”

Vicki Baylis believes she is stepping away from the helm on an education high point.

“I don’t think I could have scripted a better end to my time as an educator than the 2019 results for kids,” she said.

“Our year 3-5 NAPLAN cohort gains for 2019 show more improvement than any other jurisdiction in every domain.

“Regarding our NTCET completions, we see that despite a declining population in the Territory we’ve retained our kids in secondary education, and we’re getting strong results.

“And we’ve seen the results of falling suspensions, increased engagement, and there’s movement towards greater attendance too.”

She believes staff, student and parental surveys have created the novel perspectives needed to forge new directions in the department.

“There was an extraordinary response to the Teacher Wellbeing Survey, and we’ve got really good information and a policy that will build on work ensuring principal, leader and teacher welfare.

“If I look at the staff survey we did at the end of last year … we are continuing to strengthen where people are, where their confidence is in the organisation, and their contributions.

“And the results from our 2019 student staff and parent opinion survey show we have one of the highest percentages of kids saying that someone knows me, cares about me and my learning in the school environment.

“But we still have plenty of work to do. My advice is stay the distance. There’s plenty of evidence that shoots of green are growing on the branch of education.

“The agenda has always been to be the most improving education system in Australia; we are well on track to achieve that.

“I’m blessed that I’ve worked with incredibly clever people, cleverer than me, and that’s why I could do my job. They know stuff I don’t know, they can do things I can’t do, and my skill has been to access, facilitate, connect, and make it happen.”

Retiring to the Atherton Tablelands after a 30-year absence will bring its own challenges.

“I don’t know if I’ll fit there anymore; that’s going to the next part of my learning,” she said. “I know my family is there, but I don’t know what my place and my role and my purpose will be in the next part of my life. But I’m ok with that; for the next little bit.

“In my new life I will be learning who I am without a bloody big team of people I can draw on. The new house is an acre and no gardens, so that will occupy my nurturing and growing skills, I’ll study, and I may go back to work part-time or volunteer.

“The single biggest factor in my work has been my connection with Aboriginal communities, kids and their learning. I don’t know if there will be something I can continue with. I’ll explore that, but there’s no rush.

“I’m not fixed. I won’t have to live to a timetable, but I will have a plan and I will have a set of things I need to do to keep myself in routines.”

Asked about her feelings on leaving the Territory she was quick to decry the weather, and celebrate the people.

“I will not miss the heat and humidity,” she said. “What I will miss most are the amazing people all across the Territory.

“The Territory is an absolutely fascinating place, and it’s a mindset and a disposition, and that’s the people.

“People here will come together and have a red hot go to make things better. It’s the way they go about living their lives, and the sense of the world around them. It’s such a United Nations of diversity; that’s the bit I will miss.”

Vicki Baylis with outgoing Gunbalanya School principal Sue Trimble.
Vicki Baylis with outgoing Gunbalanya School principal Sue Trimble.

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