By Bonny Burrows
Former Pakenham Secondary College math and science teacher Ray Squires enjoyed his time at the school so much, he returned a decade later as principal.
A teacher of the school from 1987 until the late 1990s when he relocated to Lyndhurst Secondary College, the opportunity in April 2008 to head back to the school in the top job was too good to pass up.
It was his dream.
“Being principal was something I was striving for as a career goal, and working here previously I formed an attachment on the place. It had a huge impact on me professionally,” Mr Squires said.
Now leading the school through its 50th year of operation, Mr Squires admits a lot has changed since his time as a teacher, when he was responsible for year level co-ordination and timetable and teacher allotments.
“I think one of the biggest obvious changes is the transition from a rural school with rural clientele where students were bused in to other areas, to Pakenham now becoming outer suburbia and much more multicultural,” the principal said.
The school has had to change over time with population growth and now boosts an enrolment of 729 students.
However, Mr Squires said its core focus has always remained the same.
“You adapt to support the different nationalities, but still fundamentally, we have a strong focus on making sure the young people have a good pathway and outcomes upon leaving school,” he said.
“Kids are still kids. They still have the same aspirations and our challenge is to develop their aspirations into good outcomes.”
While becoming principal is Mr Squires’ ultimate professional highlight, he is extremely proud of the progress the school has made in recent times.
“We’ve seen really good improvement in our academic results, especially in the last two to three years, and in the last seven to eight years you can really notice the general overall improvement,” he said.
“It’s been a lot of hard work from a lot of people who have a strong level of commitment to the school.
“Staff working many long hours with incredible work ethic; our team has gone through a lot to support our young people.”
He’s also proud of the thousands of ex-students who have moved on into thriving careers in their chosen fields.
He sees many of them down the street, or through the school doors as parents of current students.
“A lot of ex-students still reside in Pakenham; the amount surprises me,” Mr Squires said.
“You may not always remember the face, but you always remember the name.”
Many of these past students are expected to celebrate the school’s golden anniversary at a community event on 30 May.
“It’s certainly a big deal with the school and broader community. The celebration will be a good thing for the community and school,” Mr Squires said.
His vision for the school moving forward is to continue to improve learning opportunities for all students, regardless of their ambitions.
“Whether its university, TAFE, an apprenticeship, whatever students are looking to next, we want to continue to provide for that wide range of aspirations,” Mr Squires said.
“We’ve come a long way in 50 years, and I look forward to seeing where we’re headed.”