When Worlds Collide

The Herald Sun has an article just out on VCAA’s CEO, Stephen Gniel, based upon an ACARA media release from a couple days ago:

Mr Stephen Gniel will join ACARA as its acting Chief Executive Officer from Monday 20 November 2023, following the recent resignation of Mr David de Carvalho.

Mr Gniel has been seconded into the role from Victoria where he is the Chief Executive Officer of the Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority. He has also served as a member of the ACARA Board.

ACARA will start the search for an ongoing CEO in the new year, and Stephen’s secondment into the role extends until that process is complete and a new appointment commences.

The secondment to the ACARA CEO role follows the unanimous approval of the ACARA Board, and in consultation with the Australian Education Minister and the Australian Prime Minister.  

All things considered, it is difficult to think of a better choice.

21 Replies to “When Worlds Collide”

  1. Ships don’t sink because of the water around them though, it is the water that gets inside which causes the problem.

  2. 1. The ACARA Board
    appears to consist exclusively of “nominees”.
    The ACARA Charter
    says nothing about how it is to be governed, and makes no mention of its “Board”.

    2. It is quite hard to get a handle on Mr Gniel. I merely note that he has been President of ACEL since 2016, and that the list of Presidents (since 2002)
    “2002–2004: Jenny Lewis
    2004–2006: Ken Avenell
    2006–2008: Patrick Duignan
    2008–2010: Neville Highett
    2010–2016: Jim Watterston
    2016–Present: Stephen Gniel”.
    This is confirmed by Mr Gniel’s LinkedIn page, which declares that he has been President for 7 years 3 months.
    Yet the ACEL Constitution
    reads (page 30):
    “14.4 President
    (1) The President is appointed by the Board. The President is an Independent
    Director and will serve for a term of three years with a maximum of two
    consecutive terms and be eligible for reappointment after a period of 3
    years of not being the President. ”
    So arithmetic does not seem to be Mr Gniel’s strong point.

    3. However, Mr Gniel does appear to understand that “B.Ed. (Canberra)” needs a little padding out, so we read:
    “Steve holds a Bachelor of Education, Master of Business Administration and has further study through both Harvard University, the Australia New Zealand School of Governance Executive Fellowship Program and the Australian Institute of Company Directors.”
    The use of “both” suggests elementary grammar may also not be a strong point.

    4. And if life were not too short, I might be tempted to write and ask him what constituted “further study through Harvard University” in his case.

    1. Thanks very much, Tony. (I corrected one typo while approving: the links triggered the filter.)

      God only knows how these people climb. In terms of the Board, i had the sense that each of the States basically get to choose a member, and the Feds get to choose a member, but I’m not sure why I think that.

    2. It’s lucky that sitting and passing the LANTITE is not a requirement for being appointed acting Chief Executive Officer of ACARA. (Although you can sit it multiple times until you pass).

      @Tony: Perhaps Harvard On-Line, which “brings learners an extensive catalog of courses built on global expertise and research. Curated series of courses combine faculty and disciplines from across the University to extend learning opportunities.”

          1. The media seem to think that Gniel is the \displaystyle former “CEO of the VCAA who will be seconded to Acara (sic) as acting CEO from 20 November”. Given his qualifications, perhaps he’ll have more luck overseeing error-free NAPLANs than VCE exams.

            And if Gniel is outgoing, I wonder who the acting VCAA CEO will be (while the DET casts its net far and wide, leaving no rock unturned, to find someone competent). They surely can’t come from within the ranks. Then again, acting is what the VCAA seems to do best.

            1. Ah, a very good and very concerning point:

              “Mr Gniel has been seconded into the role from Victoria”.

              I missed that (even while quoting it three times).

              So the idea on its face is that Gniel is supposed to return to head VCAA. I don’t see how that can work if there is to be any meaningful reform. In particular, I don’t see how any temporary, acting CEO would be in a position to do much of anything, or probably be in a mind to do much of anything.

    3. Hi Tony – all those courses are a very very standard bureaucratic path for public service execs (though he actually is a qualified teacher – unusual these days they’re often far more generic than that and unusual that he has no experience at KPMG, PwC etc). Harvard will be a leadership course – that’s what it’s particularly known for.

      As Marty says, the ACARA nominees will be one for each state as it’s a national body. It’s only acting appointment and will be a deal between the politicians most likely.

      Is the ACARA acting a promotion or getting him out of the way? VCAA appears to have twice the staff of ACARA (very rough metric). Methinks this may not be coincidental with this blog.

        1. I don’t have any bodies on my side.

          But back to why Gniel is getting such pressure, I’m happy to take some credit, with Burkard. But a hell of a lot of credit should go to the teacher who complained to VCAA, put his neck on the line and made a parliamentary submission.

          While the Heads of Maths group did sweet fuck all.

        2. Nothing much I’m afraid. The exams are a publicly obvious debacle – so something will need to be seen to be done (and given the scale probably actually done).

          The rest of the stuff has multiple stakeholders behind it and will take years to change (think how long phonics has taken to come back – we’re yet to see a ‘Science of Maths’). It’s also an international trend.

          eg – convo with politicians who say “Marty we get the times table stuff, but which stakeholders do you have on your side and which ones against you? Sounds ‘courageous’ to me” (courageous is about the only bit of Yes Minister still relevant these days).

          1. Not quite sure what JJ’s reference to “Yes Minister” was meant to say.

            When Sir Humphrey responded to the Minister by saying: “That would be very courageous Minister …”
            he was (manipulatively) describing the action as highly principled, but suicidal: “Are you *sure* that is an outcome you would welcome??”

            In most settings the only responsible option is to try to get the official system to function slightly better, so I would encourage Marty and the rest of you to keep pressing. When things are a mess, there is no “playbook” to follow, and those who suggest one should “tone it down” are almost always defending the indefensible (and set on making sure nothing happens).

            1. Hi Tony – sorry I didn’t express it very well at all.

              What I was saying was that going for things beyond VCAA exams such as ACARA and much of the other nonsense affecting maths teaching is a long term campaign that the Minister will not be interested in. He would see it as ‘courageous’ to even engage in that debate, even if he agreed with it (which I find most adults I speak to do – they get that their kids should learn times tables/be able to calculate $ change in their heads, etc etc rather than open-ended inquiry problems).

              So I’m saying keep up the VCAA exam work, but the necessary taking on of ACARA etc is a separate long term exercise, in which the Minister is a less relevant player. If you can convince him fine, but focus on the exam stuff in this exercise.

              1. Given that Gniel will be acting Chief Executive Officer of ACARA from Monday 20 November 2023, I don’t think gunning for ACARA is a bridge too far. In fact, the time might never be riper. And following the recent resignation of de Carvalho, who knows where he’ll bob up next. Maybe VCAA? Everything is connected by incestuous webs.

  3. (Because of a glitch, a comment I made disappeared. It is important to give credit, so here it is again.)

    I don’t have any bodies on my side.

    But back to why Gniel is getting such pressure, I’m happy to take some credit, with Burkard. But a hell of a lot of credit should go to the teacher who complained to VCAA, wouldn’t be fobbed off by VCAA’s crap, put his neck on the line and made a parliamentary submission.

    While the Heads of Maths group did sweet fuck all.

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