Principal's Update Week 6
Posted: 21-Aug-2019

Yesterday we celebrated McAuley House and Catherine McAuley. It was a great showcase of student gifts with great performance pieces form all levels of the College. One of the great components of the assembly was the contribution of Eli Spielvogel, who relinquished his extensive locks for the Leukaemia Foundation through - Shave for a Cure. I congratulate Eli and all the McAuley House members on a great event and thank Rachel Wallbank and Isabelle Miller for their preparation.

Catherine McAuley was the foundress of the Sisters of Mercy. The Sisters established the schools; Sacred Heart College and St Martin’s in the Pines that grew into Damascus. They have serviced education in the greater Ballarat area for the past 138 years. In May 2011, I had the opportunity to travel to Ireland to walk in Catherine’s footsteps, and Assistant Principal Ashwin Pillai has just returned from doing the same. It is that sense of complete commitment that Catherine displayed to the poor and to her God that has stayed with me since I returned from Dublin, and I was enthused by Ashwin’s sharing of his experience. I was and continue to be struck by Catherine’s own life and the challenges that it contained. The personal tragedy within her own family, the tensions associated with leadership that are reflected in her letters, the struggle to manage resources and the challenges of church and social politics of the era. Challenges that I am sure resonate with most of us in one way or another. They are challenges that influence the ministry of education. It was comforting for me as a school leader to appreciate Catherine’s humanity and that through her love for God she could achieve so much good.

This week we pray for all those who have been touched by Catherine through the Sisters of Mercy and thank our loving God for their care and guidance.

 “Water, water everywhere and not a drop to drink” my Dad has always quoted from the Rime of the Mariner, when the ocean has opened up before us in her vastness. The quote came to my mind on Monday morning as we were greeted with a hydronic heater that had failed over the weekend and the auditorium, Music and Science rooms were inundated as a result of the hydronic heater fitting that failed. We relocated classes throughout the morning, and Paul Jans, Daniel Cook and Andrew Curran worked with our Laboratory Technicians Fiona and Barbara and our cleaning company to clear water. I am very appreciative of their efforts. Students were back in and able to use the majority of the spaces by recess, but it did disrupt the planned learning activities of the morning, and I was very appreciative of the flexibility with which staff and students responded to the situation.
From Friday this week, I am taking leave until the start of Term 4. Chris Grant (Deputy Princip-al) will backfill the Principal role, and Tony Haintz will step up to Deputy Principal. Martin Ryan will become Assistant Principal-Catholic School Culture for the last four weeks of term.

I am looking forward to the break to spend some time with family and to deepen my learning on corporate governance and law.

This Friday our school Snow Bunnies head off to the annual trip to the snow, and we wish all those attending well for a safe and enjoyable trip. I thank Adrian Newman in anticipation for his organisation over a twelve-month period for this event.

The Damascus Sustainable Racing Team will compete in Bendigo this weekend in a Human Powered Vehicle race, and we wish them well for the competition.

This week we welcome Paul Blanchfield, who joins the Damascus team as the Rowing Logistics and Technical Support Coordinator. Paul has extensive rowing leadership experience in schools and clubs, and we look forward to his invaluable role in our Rowing program. Concurrently Sharon Waters heads off on maternity leave this week, and we wish her and her partner, Luke well for the pending arrival of baby number three.

Tomorrow, Damascus College has a team of shooters venturing to Noorat to take part in the school's Clay Target championships. We wish our young shooters well and hope they shoot accurately.

Next Tuesday at 6.00pm there will be a VTAC briefing session here at the College for families of Year 12 VCE students. All Year 12 VCE students are encouraged to apply for a University place, and an information session to support families in entering into this process is being offered by the College.

This Sunday 25th August is Open Day here in Ballarat. Federation University and Australian Catholic University are opening their doors to showcase the many pathways and study options that are available. More information can be found on their respective websites.

Can I remind families of the Fathers’ Day Mass and Breakfast that will take place here at school on Thursday 29th August from 7.30am. More information regarding bookings can be found here.

Eliza (Year 12) and Mia (Year 10) Lepair will represent Damascus College at the Australian Cross-Country Championships in Wollongong this weekend. We wish the girls well in their respective races and hope that their extensive work in preparation is justly rewarded.

The dismissal of the appeal by George Pell today will re-kindle festering wounds for all those affected by the abuse scandal. I remind families of the support available through agencies such as Lifeline. If you feel your student is vulnerable as a result of the media attention, please speak to your TA, House Leader, or Assistant Principal of Student Wellbeing, Andrew Robertson and we will connect students with the appropriate support. Copies of statements released by Bishop of Ballarat Paul Bird and Director of Catholic Education within this diocese can be found here.

There have been a number of bereavements in the community this week. We keep Barbara Kelderman (staff) and her family in our thoughts and prayers on the passing of her Father in Law in New Zealand. We also keep Tully (Year 11) and Jasper Heenan (Year 9) and their family in our thoughts and prayers on the passing of a loved cousin. Tiarna Parry (Year 9) has lost her great grand-mother this week, and we keep the Parry/Foster family in our thoughts and prayers.

The sisters of Mercy mourn the death and celebrate the life of Sr Ursula Caine this week. Sister Ursula was known as a gifted teacher and dedicated to helping disadvantaged people, especially children. She had been a Primary and Secondary teacher since 1950 in various locations in the Diocese, including Ballarat, Ballarat North, St Arnaud, Birchip, Edenhope, Manangatang, Donald, Dooboobetic, Charlton and Ballarat East and was a well-loved personality in the St Arnaud area. Sister Ursula lived with her sister, Angela RSM, in St Arnaud from the mid-1980s until 2018 when they moved to Ballarat. We pray for Sr Ursula this week.

Members of the leadership team will contribute to the newsletter over the coming weeks.

Until next term … God bless

MATT

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