Principal's Update Week 1
Posted: 05-Feb-2020

Welcome to Damascus College for 2020!! Last Thursday, we welcomed our Year 7 and 12 students and on Friday, we welcomed students across all year levels. As so frequently happens, the return to school heralds hot weather and the College community certainly had a hot start this year. I congratulate all those who are new to our community on your efforts over recent days to make a positive start at Damascus and I thank families for your support. It was great to see so many families throughout the Teacher Advisor and Family interviews last week. To see the growth in our young people over the summer is another of the great joys of being in a secondary school.

Damascus News comes out weekly across the year, typically on a Wednesday. It has information from the Principal, members of the College Leadership team and general school community events and news. It can be accessed through the College App or the website and the link is shared via email.

Naturally, the return of the school year brings with it higher levels of routine for school families following the more casual summer months. It does take a week for students to get back into routine. I cannot understate the value of plenty of sleep, a healthy diet and exercise to fuel good learning and assist your student/s to establish sound routines from the start of the year. If there have been any concerns over the initial days of your student’s schooling, please talk with your Teacher Advisor, and they will support you to try and navigate solutions.

Each year the College chooses a theme to frame our prayer, reflections and liturgies. This year our theme comes from the prophet Micah around 700 years before Christ’s ministry.

Do Justice,
Love Kindness,
And walk humbly with your God! (Micah 6:8)

This was from text that Jesus would have been familiar with, text that guided his ministry and actions. We too are invited to look at ways that we can ‘Do Justice, Love Kindness and Walk Humbly with God’. There are many expressions already of each of these actions within our community and we are invited to reflect, acknowledge and look to extend these as we progress into 2020.

We welcome many new staff to the College; some staff will have their first experience of the College this week, while others have been a part of the community for over 40 years. Damascus College has a wonderful mix of committed people that makes up the staff team and I will introduce our new staff over the coming weeks.

On Friday afternoon, under very trying conditions, we celebrated our 2019 graduates’ and senior students’ achievement with our Academic Assembly. Damascus College 2019 Dux, Imogen Brown achieved an ATAR 96.95. Shining Light Award Recipient and former student Dr Cathy Vaughan returned and spoke to students of her journey post-secondary school and of her contributions to public health. As an inaugural winner of the Damascus College Shining Light award, a video of Cathy’s accomplishments can be found here. It was great to have Cathy back and wonderful to be able to celebrate the academic successes of our senior students.

This afternoon I am finishing the newsletter from Anglesea, where our Year 12 students are gathered for their Retreat experience. This time with these young men and women as they move into their final year of schooling and stand on the fringe of adulthood is a truly privileged experience. I thank Year 12 families for getting their students ready for camp so early in the year.

Tomorrow there is an open morning at the College for prospective future students. If you are a current family who has a child in Grade 6 this year and are seeking a Year 7 placement in 2021, please get your enrolment in as the demand for places is high. The closing date is February 14th. More information about the Open Morning can be found here.

2019 families will receive their Damascus Year Book over the coming week. I congratulate Korina Hegert and the students who developed the content for the magazine. It is an excellent publication – Well done!!

We have commenced our works on the Gathering Space and Examination Centre. These works are designed by Laws Architects, undertaken by Magellan builders and funded by the Damascus community. The project is scheduled for completion for the start of Term 4 and will be a great asset to the College community. To gain a sense of the finished product, please click here.

Can I remind families that for the duration of the building program, we need families to be patient in traffic and movement around the College. Car parking is available off Jones Avenue and can be accessed from Jones Avenue or past College administration. Families seeking to leave the College and head in the Buninyong direction are encouraged to use the loop by the John Shannon Centre. Families seeking to exit the College and head back towards Ballarat are encouraged to come past the administration office and head out via Jones Avenue. We must ensure student safety, and I ask parents to be conscious of this as they drive around the College. I also ask families to respect the parks reserved for people with disabilities and not to use these spaces.

Next Tuesday 11th February is the House Swimming carnival. The carnival will be conducted from the Eureka Swimming Pool and involves the entire student body. Students are to arrive at school as usual in the morning and they will be transported to the pool from the College. The swimming sports, as with every weekday, is a compulsory school day for all students. The sports are an excellent opportunity for students to live life to the full. Not everyone is a talented swimmer but there are a diverse range of activities to encourage student participation. It is not uncommon for students to put pressure on parents and guardians to not attend school on these days but it is imperative that parents stand firm and point out that community events are an important opportunity to learn and to build both team and school spirit.

Our focus throughout our sports program across the College is on participation. The team that has the greatest level of participation has invariably been recognised as the overall winner at the carnival. Students that do not attend school on Tuesday without a legitimate reason will not be eligible to participate in College formals or extra-curricula activities such as ski trips. Non-attendance will preclude senior students from leadership positions in 2021.

Parents are very welcome and encouraged to attend at any time throughout the day. Students will be dismissed from 2.45pm but if they are to leave from the pool, they are required to have a note from their parent in the morning. All students must report to their TA when they arrive at the sports. Given the levels of UV at the moment, please ensure students have adequate skin coverage, sunglasses and a hat for throughout the day. We will provide sunscreen on the day, but please ensure that students have good access to their own refreshments and sensible sun protection.

It is important to point out to families that in the case of extreme weather, the College may re-schedule the carnival.

For all families who have a student in a VCE and VCAL subject, there is an information evening next Thursday, 13th February from 6.00 pm. More details can be found here. This is important information about the senior certificates and all families are strongly encouraged to attend.

Preparations are well underway for Opening Mass next Friday, 14th February at 11.30am in the John Shannon Centre. Parents are invited to be a part of all liturgical celebrations throughout the year. Please find the invitation here. Please do not feel intimidated or awkward if you are not a Catholic parent or regular Mass attendee. Our College liturgies are inclusive and the lived expression of our life as a faith community. We would love to welcome any member of our College community to this important gathering.

If your son or daughter missed school photos this week, there will be a catch-up section next Monday 10th February at 9.00am

I congratulate all the Damascus students who rowed at the Wendouree Ballarat Regatta over the weekend and wish them well for their competitions this weekend. There were some great individual and team results, as well as generous contributions to volunteering activities. Well done and thank you to all involved.

No doubt, the cycle of life has seen families lose loved ones over the summer. Where I am aware of loss and families are happy for me to share news of that loss and prayers for the family, I do so each week. Along-side our prayers for those who have been touched by grief over the holiday period, this week I include prayers for all those affected by fire over the summer. May the God of peace be with them.

We pray for Jake Birkett (Year 8) and his family on the passing of his beloved grandfather. May the God of peace be with them.

We are at an exciting time in the College’s history, 2020 being 139 years of continuous Catholic Education in Ballarat. I look forward to working with all our families in 2020 – have a great year!

Until next week

MATT

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