Principal's Update Week 3
Posted: 30-Jan-2019

Welcome to Damascus College for 2019!! Tomorrow our Year 7 and Year 12 students will commence their school year. On Friday all other year levels will start. It has been fantastic to see so many families throughout the Teacher Advisor and family interviews yesterday and today. To see the growth in our young people over the summer is another of the great joys of being in a secondary school.

No doubt there will be some natural anxiety around starting a new year. If you are the parent of a student starting at Damascus, it is important to validate that new experiences bring unease. Hopefully, our TA interviews and Early Start/Orientation programs help alleviate the concerns and provide a platform to reinforce with your young person their success already. The Damascus staff team are here to support each student as they commence in 2019, so please do not hesitate to talk to your TA, House Leader or member of the Leadership team if you have a concern.

Each year the College chooses a theme to frame our prayer, reflections and liturgies. This year our theme comes from Luke’s gospel, and it is a question posed by Jesus to the Disciples; “Who do you say that I am?”

As a learning community, we have a responsibility to educate. In using a question as our theme, we know that the young brain responds to questions in ways that we describe as social, emotional, and cognitive development. Questions create the challenges that make us learn.

The way we ask questions fosters students' alternative and more complex representations of stories, events, and circumstances, and their ability to process the world in a wider range of ways. If we ask our questions well this year, we will invite young people to a broader and deeper understanding of Christ and of their place in God’s beautiful creation!

We are also invited when considering the question posed by Jesus, to be self-reflective. In considering who God is and if we are each the face of God, we are invited to reflect on who we are; on our strengths and the less developed parts of our human person. We are asked to respond to Jesus question “Who do you say I am?” Christ is the foundation of our community, and in posing the question, we hope that we will stimulate members of the community to deepen their experience and understanding of the divine. I invite all members of our community to ponder Jesus question “but who do you say I am?” this year.

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. It is a wonderful mix of committed people that make up the Damascus staff team.

For Year 7 and Year 12 students, they will have TA and then a day of classes tomorrow. On Friday there is a full plan with all students returning. As part of our return to school processes, we are practising our evacuation procedures at approximately 12.30pm. Students will be alerted to this in TA to alleviate any anxieties this may cause.

We are also celebrating the success of our 2018 senior students in our Academic Assembly in the last two lessons of the day. On Monday we will settle into the rhythm of a regular day!!

There are a couple of matters that I wish to draw family’s attention to over the next week. Monday is student photos – students are to be in full school uniform on Monday. Students in Year 10 Group 3 who have PE with Gavan Walsh will need to come in their PE uniform and change for their photos at recess. All other students should be in full uniform at the start of the day, and if they have PE later, they will need to bring their PE gear to change. Year 12 students will be called for photos from 9.00am. Students are to bring their envelopes with them to the photo session – they do not need to hand them into the office before this, please.

If you are a current family who has a child in Grade 6 this year and are seeking a Year 7 placement in 2020, please get your enrolment in as the demand for places is high. The closing date is February 15th.

2018 families should have received their Damascus Year Book over the past week., If you have not received your copy, please contact the College office. I congratulate Korina Hegert and the students who developed the content for the magazine. It is a great publication – Well done!!

We have commenced our works on the refurbishment of the Science laboratories and the Music room. These works are designed by Laws Architects, undertaken by local builders; Searle Brothers and funded jointly by the Damascus community and the Federal Government. The project has staged completion dates but is due to be finished by August.

Can I remind families that the student drop off at the College is the round-about between the College oval and the JSC Stadium. Please proceed left when you come through the traffic lights at the College entrance. The student drop off zone is not at College administration and using the designated drop off does assist with traffic movement within the College grounds. 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 parks reserved for people with disabilities and not to use these spaces.

A special welcome to new staff joining Damascus in 2019;
• Ally Forsyth who will be joining the Languages team
• Brett Stone is joining us as Health and PE Learning Area Leader
• Laura Quick will join the Learning Support team
• Stephanie McDonald will join the English Team,
• Hannah Muirhead will join the Humanities team, teaching Legal Studies
• Kayla Robson returns to the Science team from maternity leave, and
• Laura Kimm also returns to the H&PE and Maths team from maternity leave

We welcome back Vicki Rowe, Michael Bennett, Trish Rowe, Sally Balson and David Boadle who each had leave at the end of last year.

Since the start of last year, we have welcomed a number of staff into our ranks who commence their first full year with us;
• Tamzin Perkins in PE and ESTEEM
• Marcus Probert in the Wellbeing team
• Dan Cook in the Office Manager role
• Sarah McKnight and Catherine Richardson to Mathematics and Science teams
• Beth Carroll and Daniel Conway in the IT team
• Ryan Leaney and Sarah Lamanna as Learning Support Officers.

Having such vibrant additions to our team in 2019 is great!

One of our 2018 graduates, Anthony Arragon has been critically unwell over the holidays. Anthony has a long road to recovery ahead of him, and we keep him, his sister Sarah (Year 9) and his parents Aline and Daniel in our thoughts and prayers.

We remember the Sisters of Mercy. Sr Emma (Emmanuel) Cooke passed away on her feast day, Christmas day. Emma had a beautiful ministry in education here in the Diocese of Ballarat, and her life and vocation were beautifully celebrated by the Sisters and her family.

We extend our condolence prayers to Sally Murphy (staff) on the passing of her father following the end of the 2018 school year.

We also remember and pray for the family of Adam Jenkins, a young Emmaus Primary School parent whose brother and sister Sam and Kim are Damascus Alumni; Adam passed away unexpectedly in January.

We also remember Greg Dean who passed away unexpectedly in early January. Greg worked for a short time at Damascus, and his son Lachie attended here (2017). We keep the Dean family in our prayers.

We also remember the McDonald family, Emma (Year 8) lost her aunt, Ruth Strauss (class of 1989) and we keep the extended McDonald and Strauss families in our thoughts and prayers.

We pray for Bindi Phillips (Year 9) and her family on the passing of her maternal grand-mother this week.

I received news yesterday of the death of former St Martin’s and Damascus staff member, Bernard Bradbury. Bernard was a long term staff member of St Martin’s and Damascus, he filled a variety of leadership roles and was highly respected within the school community. Bernard was also a Director on the Damascus College Board. Bernard was a great servant of Catholic education in the Mercy tradition. We pray that he finds his eternal reward with his loving God.

No doubt several other families are grieving at this time whom I am unaware of, so we keep all those who have lost loved ones in our prayers and ask that our loving God provide eternal care to those who are no longer physically present. Amen.

We are at an exciting time in the College’s history approaching nearly a quarter of a century of Catholic Co-education in Ballarat. I look forward to working with all our families in 2019 – have a great year! 

Until next week.....


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