Au revoir, David!

True leaders really are in the service of their people. True leaders act with integrity and in doing so they establish trust. True leaders genuinely value their people and in doing so they create loyalty. True leaders are in the business of assisting people realise their full potential and in doing so they inspire excellence. Greg Phillips, IIDM Global.

At the end of Term 2, the Woodleigh community must bid farewell to a true leader.  After five and a half years of inspired leadership at Woodleigh, David Burton has been invited to join Independent Schools Victoria (ISV) where his skills and leadership will influence the direction of the independent education sector into the future.  And we know he is the perfect fit for a role with such significant responsibility.  

At his first Homestead Night in 2015, David shared with families a little of his background. He had been happily ensconced at the Paris International School, when he learned that Woodleigh was in need of a Deputy Principal. In his own words, ‘Woodleigh was the only school for which he and his family would be prepared to move back to Australia.’  He was completely committed to Woodleigh’s philosophy and values, and his commitment to the School has been deep, broad-reaching and unwavering ever since. 

David brought to Woodleigh a fresh perspective on the direction of education, and this has positioned our School on the path to authentically becoming ‘A Global Leader in Personalised Learning.’  He is himself a global leader in learning, having been invited to present at conferences and workshops all over the world, at the same time seizing opportunities to share Woodleigh’s unique story. He has led the School through the complex process of becoming an International Baccalaureate candidate school, and we have received enormous support from the IB network because of the esteem in which David is held.  Woodleigh, as a result, has continued to build upon its reputation as a progressive, agile and courageous school, due in no small part to David’s visionary leadership. 

A leader, however, cannot implement change on their own.  It is his devotion to developing trusting and collaborative relationships within the community that has been a hallmark of David’s approach, and the reason why the school has been able to make the necessary paradigm shifts in order to keep pace with our changing world. It is a legacy for which all of us at Woodleigh should be grateful. 

David’s leadership has been underpinned by a number of non-negotiables.  Schools exist for their students, and this is his guiding principle. Every decision, every program and every challenging conversation has been founded upon what is best for our students. His work with the Woodleigh Committee, stewardship of our School Assemblies and active involvement in our signature programmes has enabled our students to have a genuine voice at the school, while illustrating David’s absolute commitment to their holistic growth and development as they journey from Year 7 to Year 12. 

David has truly acted in the service of the people of Woodleigh. Devoid of any desire for acknowledgement or acclaim, David’s unfailing support and encouragement of staff has enabled us all to flourish.  His eternal optimism and positivity has enabled teams and individuals to rise to the challenge of change. Being David’s deputy, I have worked alongside him when managing the most challenging situations that any school could face.  Time and again, his integrity, transparency and genuine compassion for others created the environment where open and trusting discussions and decisions could take place, and where everyone could emerge feeling respected. And who could forget the way in which he calmly guided our school community through the challenges wrought by the onset of COVID-19? His ability to combine strategic thinking with operational management ensured that all bases were covered, and this was complemented by clear and timely communication that was of great reassurance to all in our community throughout such an uncertain time. 

In a world currently beset by confusion, frustration, anger and political point-scoring, David has done everything possible to show our young people and community the value of positivity, integrity, empathy and respectful discourse. Our world is in great need of transformative leaders like him, and we wish him well as he steps out to make what we know will be an enormous impression on the wider educational landscape.

Best wishes, David.  The value of your leadership and influence at Woodleigh is inestimable, and we will do our best to continue on the path to excellence that you’ve inspired us to establish.  ‘Au revoir’ and please stay in touch. 

Deputy Head of Senior Campus.