10 May 2023

Mapoon principal loves the Cape York lifestyle

| Cape York Weekly
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MAPOON’S school has just about doubled in size since Jo Ross arrived a little more than six years ago.

However, it’s still a small school and a tight-knit community, which suits the principal just fine.

Technically, Jo’s title is head of Mapoon campus at Western Cape College, but in effect she’s the boss of four teachers and five teacher aides at the remote school.

While it was the job that brought Jo to Mapoon, it’s the Cape York lifestyle that has her entering her seventh year at the school.

“I just loved the look of the place from the very start,” she said.

“I love that the bush and the beach are so close together.”

A keen angler, days off mean time out on the water.

You’ll see Jo’s picture in Cape York Weekly’s brag board often, usually holding a massive jewfish from the Wenlock or Ducie River.

“To have access to those wild rivers on your doorstep is a real privilege,” she said.

“When it’s flat out front it’s great to catch trevally and fingermark.”

Mapoon is the eighth small school that Jo has been in charge of and her journeys have taken her to every corner of Queensland.

Birdsville, Horn Island, Mount Surprise, Cherbourg and a few places in the Darling Downs – Jo has seen more than most.

“I love working in rural and remote schools,” she said.

“I even did a stint as an advisory principal for a lot of little schools out west.”

But for now, Mapoon is her pride and passion.

“We have a tidy little school and it’s grown quite a bit,” she said.

“When I started there were 36 kids and now there are 64.

“You can put that down to the new homes that have been built there and the families who have been created.”

Jo said she doesn’t have a dedicated class each day but spends about three-quarters of her day with students, either in a classroom or in special groups.

“Small schools are great for tailoring education,” she said.

“We also need to prepare them for high school.”

Mapoon’s school stops at Year 6, which means students then have to move to Weipa or head off to boarding school.

“No matter what school it is a big change from primary to secondary. We talk about it a lot and early,” Jo said.

“A lot of work is around the readiness – being independent, reliable, responsible, focused on your learning and knowing not to be shy to speak to new people.”

It’s a system that works, judging by the feedback from Weipa teachers, who say that Mapoon students are among their best.

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