Peta Sparkes, Principal of Penola Catholic College Emu Plains
Penola's Leadership team: Charlie Thomas (Vice Captain), Ben Norris (Captain), Peta Sparkes, Imelda Wright (Captain) and Montana La Rosa (Vice Captain)

Local students heading back to school this week may have noticed a few new faces in the office, with two new principal's staring in the area.

Gabriela Osterlund is swapping a five-storey building for acreage, coming to Emmaus Catholic College Kemps Creek from Santa Sophia Catholic College in Gables.

Formerly, Osterlund's role was Head of School - similar to an Assistant Principal - but she said she's always wanted the top spot.

"I've been aspiring to be a principal for a little while, and I feel that I can lead a school well," she said.

"This particular school took me by the heart, because I I have worked in the western suburbs before in Mount Druitt and Marayong, and I just love the community out here."

Osterlund said her main goal for the school in 2024 is to encourage growth in all areas, nurturing the uniqueness of her students whilst also pushing them to fulfil their academic potential.

"My priorities are having high standards and that pursuit of excellence, but I think that excellence is multi-dimensional - it's not just about academic excellence", she said.

"It's about students getting to their personal best, seeking and embracing different challenges, being courageous, and trying to get to what is possible as far as academics, but also as far as their personal nature."

Brand new to the school and the area, Osterlund said she can't wait to get into the year and build relationships within the school community.

"I'm most excited to meet the new community, I think that's always really important," she said.

"You've got a lot of feeder primary schools, all the parents, all the students, so I'm really looking forward to day one and having everybody return and meeting all the students."

Over at Penola Catholic College in Emu Plains, the new principal is a much more familiar face, with Peta Sparkes starting her first full year in the job after being an assistant Principal at the school for six years.

"I feel really proud, and I feel it's a great privilege, having been a child that grew up in this area and had all of my schooling and my sporting background in Penrith," she said.

Noting that she has big shoes to fill, Sparkes said she can't wait to bring her long-term visions for the school to life.

"I've had great leaders in the past in Jim Fanning and Tania Cairns, and there's been about 12 principals here in the time of McCarthy and Penola," she said.

"There's a great sense of care in the school community, so I stand on the shoulders of those great people who have always shown great care of the kids, the families and the staff. That's something I absolutely am taking forward, but we absolutely need to keep growing and lifting our kids."

Finding this balance between care and challenge is a key goal for Sparkes in 2024.

As an advocate for western Sydney, she added that she has big dreams for the school and its students, coming along with a restructured leadership team, and a new pilot program for mental health.

"When I first went to university people would say, 'You're from the west? How did you get into uni?'," she said.

"I want kids in this community to continue to believe that they deserve a seat at the table, that everyone's got gifts, and it's our job as educators to bring forward those gifts and those talents.


Written By

The Western Weekender

The Western Weekender
Penrith's leading provider of local news and community updates.

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