7 Questions with Pete Slaney

Name: Pete Slaney

Current title: Principal

Current organisation: Manukau Christian School

I have been involved in Christian education for almost 20 years, following 7 years teaching physics and science at two large state high schools. Prior to this I worked as a landscaper for three years. I also took a year out of education to work as a ministry intern at a church and to study at bible college. I have one wife and two adult sons, all of whom are a delight to me. A month ago I gained a lovely daughter in law! I enjoy occasional preaching, leading a young adults homegroup, doing DIY projects, playing sax and guitar, reading and attempting to catch smallish waves on my stand up paddle board.

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1. What have you found most challenging as a Christian school leader?
Weighing up conflicting priorities and deciding what is the best thing to do, when there are various plausible opinions.

2. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?
I get up, dress and get into my car. I drive and pray for 40 minutes then read my bible over breakfast at work, before anybody arrives. My day begins with a review of what I achieved the previous day and I make a list of what I need to achieve in the time I have available. Then I check my appointments and check I have not overlooked anything and then I check my emails to see if anything urgent has just landed on my plate. If so, I see if it will fit within the plans I have for the day.

I normally attend a team meeting at 8am to mix with staff and keep a finger on the pulse, so to speak. The rest of the day follows the plan, not withstanding the tyranny of the urgent such as phone calls, unannounced meetings, discipline issues, issues with staff, popping into classrooms to watch what is happening etc. Every second day I leave school early to get home and get some exercise. Every other day I stay till about 6:15. After dinner I sometimes do more work but often do not have the energy. Some evenings involve homegroup or music practise for church.

3. What's the most recent significant leadership lesson you've learned?
Build trust within the leadership team. Once trust is built, leadership becomes a lot more straightforward.

4. What one book has had the most profound impact on your Christian school leadership so far? Can you please briefly tell the story of how that book impacted your leadership?
Not a book. Personality profiling and analysis of our leadership time by a Christian psychologist. A really useful book was ‘Visible Learning Feedback’ by John Hattie.

5. How do you find and keep great Christian teachers?
Have a clear school vision and you attract teachers who are attracted to that vision. Keeping them - I think this is about treating each teacher with respect, showing appreciation in ways they ‘hear’ and being available to listen to their concerns and address them whenever possible.

6. What's most important as a Christian school leader for developing a culture of wellbeing in your staff and students?
Getting the leadership team functioning properly is the first step. Building trust (Lencioni etc….). This flows down to the rest of the team.

7. If you had to pick just one story, what would be the most meaningful story from your time as a Christian school leader so far?
Apparent failure and actual failure are two distinctly different things. Failure in the eyes of the world can be success from God’s perspective if we have the eyes to see it and the heart to accept what is counter to our culture. I led a school that ended up closing its doors. Wrestling with the perception of failure whilst also recognising the leading of God through that process was illuminating and challenging.