The boss spoke to the converted at the Wollongong Education Forum for Principals.
But principals such as Alison Rourke from Fairy Meadow Demonstration School liked what she heard from Department of Education secretary Mark Scott on Wednesday.
Mrs Rourke especially enjoyed hearing the secretary say working towards freeing up the time of time-poor principals was of utmost importance.
Mr Scott also told the Mercury that there were few more complex leadership challenges than running a school.
"All those students, professional staff, demanding parents and legitimate community expectations....so we are talking [today] about how we can support principals in their leadership," he said.
"The kinds of resources that they want to be able to access from the Department and how they can develop their own strategies for ensuring every student for every teacher and every leader is improving at their school every year."
Principals from 120 schools in the Illawarra and South East area attended the Wollongong gathering at Novotel Northbeach.
It was the first of 12 forums to be held across regional and metropolitan NSW in the next four weeks.
Mrs Rourke, Keira High School principal David Robson and Christopher Speirs from Jamberoo Public School, also took part in a panel discussion moderated by Mr Scott.
Mr Scott said the Department was working on reducing principals' administrative workload.
"We want to free up our leaders to lead and our teachers to teach. So we are interrogating carefully some of the excess bureaucracy that can befall school principals from time to time," he said.
"We want to free up their time. The time of a school principal is the most valuable asset in the school, so how to we liberate that."
Mr Scott told forum participants the state's 2200 public schools were making solid progress towards the department's vision of being "Australia's best education system and one of the finest in the world".
"Our shared purpose is to put students at the centre of everything we do," he said.
"We have to make sure that every child is known, valued and cared for.
"We are working to ensure that every student is successfully prepared for further education, training and work, and that our education system reduces the impact of disadvantage.
"I applaud your determination to lead schools that achieve these goals and contribute to the fulfilment of our public education vision."