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Grafton’s loss is Taree’s gain with the appointment Frank Jones as principal of St Joseph’s Primary School despite the move being a baptism of fire. 

Described as a “strong educational leader” Bishop Bill accepted the recommendations of the panel for the appointment of Mr Jones to the position after which a bushfire ravaged move ensued.

Mr Jones was attempting to sell his Grafton home, and negotiate the purchase of a property in proximity of Taree, both of which were threatened by the bushfires.

“We’ve settled-in on the outskirts of Wingham now,” said Mr Jones. “Fortunately, in an unravaged area. But the fires were a worry while I was negotiating the purchase.”

Mr Jones was principal of St Joseph’s in South Grafton from 2011, and from 2016-2018 he was also principal of St Mary’s in Grafton.

In a statement the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle said Mr Jones has “demonstrated over a long period of time his skills in introducing pastoral and pedagogical approaches by journeying with both new and experienced staff, students and parents”.

His mark as a person was no better evidenced than his efforts after bushfires around Grafton towards the end of last year devastated the lives of 12 families in his school community. Mr Jones spent a week in November helping them access services and accommodation.

“My Grafton schools drew from communities such as Coutts Crossing, Nana Glen and Nymboida,” he said, “and the fires pretty much ravaged those communities. Twelve families ended up living with another 12 families.

"We organised the donation of all types of things such as washing machines, fridges, mattresses and bed and meals. And we sorted out uniforms. Just the things that Catholic communities do very, very well."

While the bushfires were creating havoc in the Grafton region, Mr Jones was monitoring their impact on the mid-north coast. He noted with interest the community spirit on display in the area in which he is now ensconced.

The retirement of Mark Mowbray created the opportunity at St Joseph's in Taree, and Mr Jones said the decision to leave South Grafton after more than 10 years was "a family one". His wife and seven-year-old son were invested in the school and community.

But transitions have been a focus of Mr Jones’s career.

"I have a few passions in education,” he said. “Transitions are very important to me, from preschool to Kindergarten and from Year 6 into Year 7.

As such, Mr Jones is ready to support students as they transition from St Joseph's Primary School to St Clare's High School.

"If you look to the transition from Year 6 to Year 7, it's a difficult time for students,” he said. “It's very important the journey doesn't start on the first day of Year 7, that it starts halfway through, if not at the start of Year 6.”

As the Diocese recommendations panel noted of his efforts in Grafton, Mr Jones “provided strong links between the school, family and parish and articulated the mission of the parish school at every appropriate opportunity”.

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