QELi is an innovative not-for-profit organisation committed to delivering excellence in leadership by supporting education leaders to establish a strong vision, improve student outcomes and lead change in their school context and wider school communities. We support educators at every level and also corporate services and school support staff through the provision of high quality professional development programs and learning opportunities. Our leadership programs harness evidence-based research, provide access to nationally and internationally renowned facilitators and coaches, and model the critical skills, knowledge and practical application to support educators to develop leadership capabilities, maximise their potential and reach their leadership goals.
QELi was established in September 2010, as a direct response from a review commissioned by the Queensland government into the state’s 2008 National Assessment Program – Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) performance. The Queensland Government engaged Professor Geoff Masters AO, Chief Executive Officer, Australian Council for Education Research, to review education in Queensland, and his report, A Shared Challenge: Improving Literacy, Numeracy and Science Learning in Queensland Primary Schools contained five key recommendations, among them increased support for school leaders. The organisation was established as the first institution of its kind in Australia, representing a unification of the interest of all three schooling sectors in Queensland – state, Catholic and independent – with the premise to lay the foundations for a new generation of skilled, visionary leaders for 21st century schools.
CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER & BOARD DIRECTORS
Chief Executive Officer
Neil McDonald has over 25 years of school and educational leadership experience, as a Queensland state school teacher, principal, and Assistant Regional Director. Before commencing as Chief Executive Officer at QELi, Neil was Executive Director, Organisational Transformation and Capability, Department of Education and was instrumental in leading the Department of Education’s Teaching and School Leadership program. As acting CEO of the Queensland Studies Authority (QSA), Neil transitioned QSA to the Queensland Curriculum and Assessment Authority (QCAA), and was a key leader in the development of Queensland’s Curriculum Into the Classroom (C2C).
BAppSc, GDip Teaching, MEdu (Hons), PhD
Professor Donna Pendergast is Dean and Head of the School of Education and Professional Studies at Griffith University. She commenced her career as a secondary trained classroom teacher. Her expertise includes student engagement and teacher professional learning. Donna led the team preparing Queensland government schools for the introduction of Junior Secondary phase and the shift of Year 7 into secondary in 2015. She undertook similar work in South Australia across sectors for the shift in 2022.
Donna works at state and national levels in education policy shaping including as: a member of the Board of AITSL; Chair of the Teacher Education Expert Standing Committee of AITSL; Chair of QELi; Chair of the Queensland Council of Deans of Education and Vice President of the Australian Council of Deans of Education. Donna is also on the National Council for Be You.
Donna has been acknowledged for her leadership impact and is the recipient of the Vice Chancellor’s Research Supervision Award for Excellence (2016) and in 2018 was awarded the Australian Council for Educational Leadership Miller-Grassie Award for Outstanding Leadership in Education.
Kris Isles’ career spans 20 years in consulting with significant experience in the education sector, where he has been involved in extensive transformation and other projects across early childhood, schools, vocational education and universities. Kris brings a broad range of expertise around program and change management blended with a good understanding of financial management and a practical and collaborative approach to making change stick in an organisation. He holds a Bachelor of Commerce (Accounting) and is a Member of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in Australia and New Zealand.
Sheridan Fisher is Independent Schools Queensland’s Assistant Director (Teaching and Learning) with responsibility for supporting ISQ member schools in the areas of school improvement, leadership development and teaching and learning.
With over 25 years’ cross-sectorial experience in both national and international school contexts, Sheridan has a proven ability to lead the strategic direction and improvement agendas within and across highly competitive schools.
Sheridan has previously held the positions of Senior Advisor (School Improvement) at ISQ, Head of Education (Middle East) and Student Wellbeing Manager (Asia) for a global schools group with over 85 schools across ten countries.
From 2016-2018, Sheridan held the position of Assistant Head of School at the Australian International School in Singapore. Sheridan holds Masters and Post Graduate Level Degrees – Leadership, Education, Psychology & Career Guidance and Counselling; and, a Bachelor of Music from the Queensland Conservatorium of Music.
BTch ECE, BEd, MEd, GAICD, FACEL
Stacie Hansel is the Assistant Director-General State Schools – Performance, Queensland Department of Education. She leads teams responsible for the implementation of the Department of Education’s School Improvement Model, including the implementation of the Australian Curriculum, the QCE System, as well as targeted initiatives to lift outcomes for students across all Queensland State Schools. Her 27-year career has taken her across Queensland as a teacher, Deputy Principal, Head of School, Director, Executive Director and Principal. She has worked with school communities across Queensland in rural and remote locations, distance education, and small and large primary and secondary schools. Stacie was recognised for her educational leadership with an Australia Day Medal for service to State Schools. She received a National AADES Gold Leadership award for her work with distance education leaders across Australia and was recently awarded an ACEL QLD Fellowship. As a leader, Stacie has a focus on building the knowledge and capability of others to guide student and school improvement across Queensland State Schools. A career highlight was working with her school team to win a Queensland State Showcase Award for excellence and more recently accepting a International Award from the Carnegie Foundation for demonstrating quality in continuous improvement efforts in education (2019) on behalf of the Queensland Education Department.
Dip Tch, BEdSt
Deborah Dunstone is a leading educator in the Department of Education and is currently the Assistant Director-General, Early Learning and Development in the Early Childhood and Educational Improvement Division where she is focused on ensuring all children from birth to 8 years are engaged in high-quality early childhood programs and services that support learning and development and successful transitions.
With over 30 years of educational leadership Deb’s previous role was as the inaugural Assistant Director-General, Disability and Inclusion, where she led the cultural reform and implementation of the 17 recommendations of the Queensland Disability Review across the agency to ensure every student is included and supported to access and achieve against the Australian Curriculum. Her experience as Regional Director in Far North Queensland focused on a ‘crayon to career’ strategy ensuring innovation and collaboration across early year’s settings, schools and training providers. As a passionate educator Deb has enjoyed all of her roles as teacher, school leader, Principal (11 years), Executive Director School Improvement, Assistant Regional Director (4 years), through to her most recent senior executive roles in the department.
Highlights in Deb’s career have been accepting a United Nations Zero Project award for the DoE: Innovative Policy in Inclusive Education in Vienna (February 2020), receiving an ACEL Excellence in Educational Leadership Award (2019) and being awarded a Queensland’s Australia Day Award (1999) – in recognition of outstanding service within Education Queensland. She proudly continues to provide executive educational leadership to early childhood and state education.
LLB (Hons), BCom, GAICD and GCert
Yvonne Ries is Director – Education at the Queensland Catholic Education Commission (QCEC). Immediately prior to joining QCEC, Yvonne was National Social Policy Manager for Goodstart Early Learning. Prior to her work with Goodstart, Yvonne was Director, Strategic Policy and Intergovernmental Relations with the Queensland Department of Education. Yvonne has also held various roles in the Queensland Department of Education, including TAFE Queensland, with over twenty years experience in leading strategic policy reforms and successfully negotiating desired outcomes across the education, training and early years portfolios. Yvonne has significant expertise and experience in successfully negotiating national partnership funding agreements, state and federal policy and legislation, and working effectively with diverse stakeholders. Yvonne holds a Bachelor of Laws (Hons), Bachelor of Commerce (Public Policy), Graduate Certificate in Management and is a Graduate of the Australian Company Directors Course.