Here we are in the last week of what has been the singularly most unusual term of my career. As I look back, it is with enormous pride of what our community has achieved during Term 2 of 2020. Our student population have embraced a change that they could not have anticipated, and they have done so responsibly and with care for those who have supported them. Our families have worked with us, the staff of the College, to navigate this time of uncertainly and to continue learning and teaching. The Damascus College staff have been committed and hard-working in their efforts to provide the best opportunities for our students and families.
The priorities for the Damascus community right throughout this situation have been;
• Maintaining the safety of the entire Damascus community
• Ensuring we remain connected and support one another
• Ensuring continuity of quality learning and teaching
• Being willing to adapt, change and try new things, recognising that we will make mistakes at times.
All members of this community deserve to look back with pride on what has been achieved and acknowledge, that while this crisis is not over, we have the tools and the strength of community to manage the challenges we encounter.
Throughout it all, our community has been underpinned by the Catholic faith tradition grounded in the relational Jesus. The relationships between school, student and home over this extraordinary period have been the lived expression of the faith tradition and the relational Jesus. My prayer, as the term comes to a close, is one of gratitude for this community’s care of one another. I pray that it is care and empathy that we can continue to extend across the rest of 2020 and I thank God that we are safe, able to continue to learn and work and be together here at school.
As we move into this holiday period, I encourage families to support your student to turn off from school as much as possible for the next two weeks. This will hopefully be a time for rest so that students can return next term, refreshed. There is still significant community uncertainty about what we will and will not be able to do next term, but hopefully, we will return to learning onsite with confidence in community safety.
As this week draws to a close, students have a casual day this Friday and are asked to support the Vinnies Winter Appeal with a $5 donation. Families are asked to note the earlier dismissal time on Friday of 2.17pm.
Staff will return to the College Monday 13th July and students will return on Tuesday 14th July. Staff will take the opportunity to continue to develop adjustments for students with additional learning needs on the first day back and will have a block of time for preparation.
Teaching staff are finalising assessment feedback and preparing reports for parents and guardians. These will be completed by the end of this week and be ‘live’ on the Parent Access Module (PAM) from Tuesday of the 2nd week of the holidays. I encourage you to set aside some time to take in the information provided on PAM and to invite your sons and daughters to reflect with you on their learning during the first semester. Learning is a life long journey, and one that we all need to bring a focus to continually. It is important at home that you reiterate that success is about improvement, not just an end result and affirm your student for their efforts to see better results. Never is that more important than now, as you reflect on student achievement over this period of remote learning. Grades for assessment tasks do not tell the story of the real challenges of this period, and I encourage families to moderate the written grades by your lived experience and celebrate the ‘new learning and independence’ that our young people have achieved while learning remotely.
Office hours over the holidays will be Monday to Friday from 9am – 4pm however at this stage we have a scheduled power outage for Wednesday July 1 therefore the office will be closed on this day if it takes place.
This week in TA students have been provided information to focus conversations for TA interviews and pathways and subject selection for 2021. Given the uncertainty around community gatherings next term, the College has taken an altered approach to the subject selection process. Teachers will be working with students here at school between 20th July and 25th July through a Subject Selection expo during lunch breaks. More information will come from the College this week.
The College Leadership Team have needed to make decisions about our Teacher Advisor interviews in Week 3 of next term, and we are planning to conduct them remotely again using Microsoft Teams.
At this stage, there has been no further clarification about camps or excursions for next term, and as that information becomes available, I will provide it to families.
This week we acknowledge and thank staff members Ally Forsyth and Jason Harrison, who are both moving on from Damascus College as of the end of the term. Ally and Jason have both brought energy and commitment to French and Indonesian language studies respectively, and both have contributed positively to the full life of the College. On behalf of the entire Damascus community, we thank you both and wish you well with your next endeavours.
Carley Young is also finishing up at the end of the term. Carley has been with us for the period of Peter Sartori’s Long Service Leave, and I thank and acknowledge her contribution too as she concludes this week.
The following teaching adjustments have been made to accommodate the staff changes this term:
• Finian Augustin will teach Year 12 Indonesian
• Brendan Bawden will teach Year 11 Indonesian
• Anna Rowland will join the Damascus team for second semester to release Finian and Brendan from junior Indonesian classes to allow them to teach these senior classes. Brendan Bawden and Anna Rowland will co-teach Year 10 CLIL Indonesian Humanities. Melissa McLachlan and Stephanie Hoey will co-teach the Year 10 CLIL French Humanities.
• Liam Downie will teach the junior Humanities classes formerly taught by Jason and Ally. Sally Wright has recently returned from Maternity leave to assume Laura Kimm’s load as she began Parental leave. Sally will relinquish the Physical Education classes at the end of Term 2 to a new staff member, Jade Collins, for the rest of the year. Sally will take up Melissa McLachlan’s Year 9 English class.
I thank these staff for their flexibility in working with these changes and assure families that here have been well-considered hand over between teachers and that the semester break provides the appropriate time for these changes to occur.
Just as there are changes within the teaching team for legitimate personal reasons, there have also been recent changes to our College Board. Board Chair, Paulene Barton concluded as director and Chair recently, and Brendan Maher has returned to the College Board as director and Board Chair. Paulene has been Chair in 2020, Deputy Chair in 2018 and 19, Chair of the School Community subcommittee and director for the past six years. Joe Cahir has also tended his resignation; Joe has been a servant of the Damascus College community as a director since 2011. Joe has been Board Chair (2017), Deputy Chair, and subcommittee Chair of Wellbeing. As a school community, we thank Joe and Paulene for the gift of their voluntary service and leadership within our community. The Board has also recently welcomed Pauline Gleeson to directorship. Pauline has a long association with the Sisters of Mercy and brings qualifications in education and law to the Board.
Board Chair Brendan Maher has also provided a letter of congratulations and support for families over the period of remote learning on behalf of the Board and its Directors. The letter can be found here.
In ensuring we can provide the support families need if your family is experiencing financial duress, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org. Young people’s education must not be a victim of this global pandemic, and we are here to help.
Thank you for the privilege of working with the wonderful young people that make up the Damascus community this semester and for your family support of our College. If you are travelling over the holidays, do so safely.
We pray this week for Judith Potter. Judith concludes her Principalship after 15 years of distinguished service to the Loreto Ballarat community. Judith has always been a great supporter of and partner to this school community. Judith lost her Dad on Monday, so at this time which should have been filled with such joy for her achievements, we remember her and her family in our prayers as she grieves her father’s death and celebrates his entry into eternal life.
We also keep in our prayers this week Emma McDonald (Year 9) and her family on the passing of her loved grandfather, Peter McDonald. Peter and his wife Cath are great stalwarts of the St Peter and Paul’s community in Buninyong and great supporters of Catholic education. We remember and pray for the McDonald family at this time.
Until next term …. God Bless