40 years of memories at St Paul's Catholic College

This story was originally published in the Newcastle Herald. 

FOUR decades of fond memories has seen six principals steer the ship of St Paul's Catholic College in Booragul.

As the school celebrates its 40th year in 2024, the Newcastle Herald sat down with its past and current leaders to get an insight to memories and milestones.

Born in Sydney, raised in Narrabri, David Moore was the founding principal at St Paul's from February 1984 to 1988, following a three-year stint as assistant principal at St Jospeh's Aberdeen.

The high school opened with just 240 pupils and 16 lay teachers, coinciding with the restructuring of the Catholic Secondary Schools in the Newcastle area.

"I had a major impact in fast student and staff growing, we had approximately 700 people by the end of '88," Mr Moore said.

In his time as principal he said there were challenges of establishing a new culture for years 7 to 10 students and he was always making yearly policy adjustments.

"Working with those 7 to 10 students in those dramatic formative teenage years was mostly extremely satisfying. I still fondly remember playing trumpet in the put band for the school's first stage performance," he said.

Mr Moore said being principal at St Paul's had been "extremely impactful" and he was "truly grateful".

As a young and relatively inexperienced principal there were many formative learning experiences, some hard but most truly valuable in life since St Paul's," he said.

Mayfield's Father Kevin Kiem was the next principal of St Paul's from 1989 to 1994.

During his time he saw year 10 students receive credit on their school certificate for Religious studies, the replacement of the library from a demountables building and the introduction of house names; Polding, Mackillop, Chisolm and Therry.

Looking back, the now 80-year-old felt gratitude for making a difference.

"I'm grateful for the privilege of continuing and supporting the good work of others and hopefully making a difference," he said.

He said some of his fondest memories were seeing painting of murals on school building walls by the art teacher and students and being part of a school community, making memories..

"I have happy memories and I'm grateful to the current principal for making an effort through celebrations to recall and reflect and continue to build the St Paul's community."

Gerard Mowbray from Warners Bay was next in the leadership seat from 1995 to 2005. He was part of the transition in 2000 that saw years 11 and 12 added to the school.

"It was only a junior secondary school from 1984 to 1999. The extension was a critical development of an academic culture and dimension with the addition of senior students," he said.

Mr Mowbray said he always enjoyed the camaraderie of staff, their commitment and the support of parents and carers in the school.

"The spirit of family in the school... the privilege of sharing the joys and sorrows of staff and families," he said.

"Being principal of St Paul's was an immense privilege, to lead a team to support the lives of young people was a profound joy."

"It was the most fulfilling period of my school leadership."

Anthony Stevens was the next to be appointed principal in 2006 and worked until he retired in 2013.

He helped to establish a cafe for staff and senior students, increase enrolments and worked to implement a new library, administration office and student toilet amenities.

"Following suggestions from my assistant principal and senior students we also introduced the concept of school leaders in place of school captains and vice captains," he said.

Mr Stevens said having visits from a Japanese sister school was one of his fondest memories as principal along with working with dedicated staff and students.

"Japanese sister school visits were a highlight of my years at St Paul's culminating with an opportunity for me to visit Japan in my last year as principal," he said.

He said while he loved his role it came with many long and lonely hours.

"Having said that, my pride and joy in being the principal of the 'Jewel on the Lake' outweighed any personal sacrifices made along the way," he said.

Graeme Selmes was the next appointed principal before current principal Nicholas Wickham took over the reins in 2022.

Now in 2024 with less portables, new buildings and technology in the classroom, things have changed over the past 40 years and Mr Wickham is proud of how far the school has come.

"The way the college comes together as a community to celebrate St Paul's Feast Day in June each year, it is a wonderful example of what it means to be a member of a Catholic school," he said.

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