Aussie school principal found dead at her desk

So sad.

It was not unusual for Laverton School principal Trish Antulov to stay at work until late at night, even on weekends.

So when she did not come home on February 11, her husband John did not become too concerned until several phone calls went unanswered.

About 10pm, he went to the school where he found his partner of 35 years had died at her desk.

The coroner found the cause of death was coronary artery atherosclerosis.

Mr Antulov said the long hours his wife worked had contributed to her high stress levels.

“She just didn’t have time to look after herself properly,” he said. “She was under a lot of stress and terrible pressure just to be successful in her job.”

The latest Principal Health and Wellbeing Survey, released today, identified unrealistic and increasing job demands as the biggest source of stress taking a toll on school leaders.

Report author Philip Riley, from the Australian Catholic University, said most principals worked too many hours to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

“On average, 53 per cent of principals worked more than 56 hours per week during term, with 27 per cent working upwards of 61 to 65 hours per week,” he said.

WA Primary Principals Association president Ian Anderson said the report confirmed its concerns about increasing job demands, working hours and stress affecting principals’ health.

“Tragically, one of our regional principals passed away recently while working at her desk at school late on a Sunday night,” he said.

“WAPPA strongly believes that something needs to be done to reduce workloads and the need for school principals and deputy principals to work these excessive hours.”

Mr Antulov said his 65-year-old wife, who had been principal at Laverton for the past two years, was devoted to her profession.

“It was always about the kids,” he said. “Trish had an incredible talent to teach and make students think they can do it.”

Education Department director-general Sharyn O’Neill said while she had only received the 134-page report late yesterday, everyone knew that public school principals worked very hard leading children’s education in an increasingly complex world.

“Every principal I’ve met has their students’ learning and wellbeing at the heart of what they do,” she said.

“Like many other professions, being a school leader is not a job that you can switch off from easily when the bell rings.

“Principals are juggling priorities including curriculum, pastoral care, facilities, the needs of their staff and expectations from parents.

“We are doing everything we can to support them in their work. We rolled out a new health and wellbeing program last year.”

This article originally appeared on The West Australian.

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