Principal's Update Week 7
Posted: 19-Nov-2019

Today students commence the Early Start Program with students progressing to their next year level and new class groups. It is a time of nervous anticipation, and it is very natural for students to feel challenged by the change that new groupings and experiences bring. I encourage families to support students by looking positively at the opportunities that change brings. This is the rich space for learning and growth – of course if you feel that your student is excessively anxious please talk to us to look at mechanisms for support.

The work covered in these classes over the next ten days will be assessable as part of Semester One work of 2020. Within the College’s Strategic Directions document, the Learning and Teaching focus for 2016 to 2020 is for “Progressive and innovative learning and teaching that maximises student outcomes.” In line with this direction, the College understands that learning is an ongoing process, and each year level/unit is connected to the next. These two weeks allow us to make those links and create a new energy for learning at a time when enthusiasm for learning can drop off.

There are always some challenges with staffing at this time of year as a proportion of staff finish their time at Damascus and a new staff commence. We have been fortunate to welcome new staff member Carley Young who will commence her teaching appointment with the Early Start program. Where staff are not available we will have qualified, and experienced staff fulfil the teaching load, and they will hand over to new staff ahead of the new school year.

Tomorrow begins an exciting weekend of competition for the Damascus Sustainable Racing Team (SRT) in Maryborough. Alan Strange has provided great leadership, and Rachel Beardall has capably supported him. The student population have been exceptional in their enthusiasm and commitment, and if you get a chance this weekend, I encourage you to visit Maryborough and offer them your support. We wish our competitors well as they gear up for this great event.

I congratulate all those students who took part in the Year 9 camp last week or Year 10 CPDA preparation or Work Experience. These were rich learning opportunities, and I thank the committed and hard-working staff who facilitated them. Year 9 and 10 students then had a great chance on Monday to prepare for their new year level with presentations on study techniques relevant to the next stage of their learning. This was complemented by further literacy testing for Year 9’s and driver education for Year 10’s with all students participating in cyber safety and sexting education delivered by Police Officer, Des Hudson. I thank Des for his support of Damascus College.

Today’s Indonesian exam is the last exam for the Year 12 students. At 5.30pm this evening the graduating class of 2019 will gather for their final Mass at St Patrick’s Cathedral before progressing to the Ballarat Trotting Club for the Graduation Dinner. I congratulate all the Year 12 students on their completion of formal studies and examinations and wish them well with their future pursuits.

This Friday afternoon from 3.00pm will be the opportunity to participate in the re-launch of the mud hut following refurbishment by students. Our guest speaker is Mary Darcy, who as a Sister of Mercy here in the late 1970s and early ’80s, was instrumental in the construction of the house along with students of the Sacred Heart Senior Campus, St Martin’s in the Pines. Damascus families are encouraged and invited to attend, particularly those students who through the CPDA or VCAL contributed to the refurbishment. More information about the event can be found here
 
This weekend our senior rowers will venture down to Melbourne to complete a 3.5 km race on the Yarra – I wish them well for what will be a great experience to be rowing through the State capital!!

Can I remind families of 2019 Year 9 students (starting in Year 10 this week), that devices are to be returned to the College (with Charger, Case, Stylus, etc) during the week commencing the 2nd December and no returns will be accepted after Wednesday 4th December. Students are encouraged to make sure any work that they save is stored in their ‘OneDrive’. Any other personal data that they have on their hard drive will need to be removed prior to returning the device. Students will receive a new device at their TA interview at the start of 2020.

Year 12 students’ devices are now to be returned to the St Martin’s Resource Centre by this Friday, 22nd November.

As we move into these final weeks of teaching for 2019, I acknowledge four staff who will be farewelled at the conclusion of this year. Karen Simpkin retired earlier this year after 41 years of service and leadership at Damascus College and Sacred Heart College.

Loretta Kaval will retire at the conclusion of the 2019 school year. Loretta has been a teacher for the past 42 years in Catholic and state schools. She has been Teacher Librarian at Sacred Heart College and then Damascus College for the past 25 years, serving many of those years as Head of Library Services. Loretta has been a passionate Librarian, Mathematics teacher, and she has facilitated many Damascus College students to progress as public speakers and debaters proudly. Loretta has been a strong voice for women and laypeople within our diocesan community serving multiple terms on the Bishops Advisory council. I acknowledge and thank Loretta for her contribution over the past 25 years to this community.

Nancy Meiklejohn has been a teacher in Australia for the past 46 years working across Catholic and state schools. Nancy has worked at all three secondary Colleges in Ballarat, and she did a year at St Martin's in 1985 before joining the newly amalgamated Damascus College in 1995. Nancy’s past 25 years of service to this community has been characterised by her sense of fun and engagement with students and her absolute commitment to their best outcomes. She has taught across English, Drama, Humanities and RE and she has always been respected by her students and students have appreciated the high levels of engagement in her classes. We celebrate Nancy’s contribution and thank her for her service.

Noelene Ward will conclude her service at Damascus College at the conclusion of 2019. Noelene is affectionately known as Bu Ward in recognition of her contribution to the Languages Learning area and her teaching of Indonesian. Noelene has taught Indonesian, Humanities, English and RE over her time at the College. Noelene first started in Catholic education 35 years ago, and she has been a valued member of the Damascus team for the past 16 years. Her love of Indonesian has characterised her commitment to Damascus College, and as a community we acknowledge and thank her for her service.

My prayer this week is one of appreciation of the many and diverse gifts that surround us all each week in the people of this Damascus community. May you find God’s blessing in the people around you this week.
We pray for all those who are experiencing loss or grief.

Until next week …

MATT

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