Principal's Update Week 8
Posted: 27-Nov-2019

It is hard to believe that we are in the last full week of 2019 with students and that the end of the learning year is so imminent. The Christmas tree has gone up in our house this week, in anticipation of advent and it has brought home the reality of 2019 drawing to a close.

On Saturday I had the privilege of attending the Energy Break Through event in Maryborough and to see our Sustainable Racing Team working so collaboratively on our three vehicles was fantastic. Alan Strange and Rachel Beardall nurtured an amazing learning opportunity for the young Damascus team. Students really rose to the challenges of the event and produced some fantastic outcomes and learning over the three days of their experience. I extend my appreciation to all the parent helpers over the weekend. It was great to see such a committed team supporting their children, and the event just could not happen without the level of support that was shown.

I particularly acknowledge the ongoing commitment of Alan and Anne-Marie Strange, Caroline Nolan, Trish Rowe, and Rachel Beardall. Congratulations to all our students on their part and on a top 3 finish in the ‘full electric vehicle’ class. Overall it was a fantastic weekend, and I congratulate all involved.

Our senior rowers competed well at the Head of the Yarra in Melbourne over the weekend, and I congratulate them on their success. This week junior and intermediate rowers head to Nagambie for the Carey Regatta, and I wish them well for their first “away” competition of this season.

Next week will be the final week for students. Students will undertake their final day of classes on Thursday 5th. Existing students have a student free day on Tuesday 3rd, while we welcome our 2020 Year 7 students for Orientation Day. Wednesday 4th will be the final day of the Early Start Program, and Thursday will be Mass and Ball games for the first House event of the 2020 Ron Mathews Shield. I remind families that this is a compulsory day and that non-attendance will result in exclusion from non-core activities such as formals and socials next year. I encourage families to join us for Mass at 9.30am in the John Shannon Centre next Thursday 5th to conclude the year in the spirit of our tradition. Students are encouraged to wear PE uniform next Thursday given the active nature of the Day.

I remind families with students going into Year 10 that students need to hand back their device on Wednesday complete with case, charger and stylus to avoid being invoiced for the full cost of a replacement device. Families of 2019 Year 12 students should have returned devices by now.

Last Wednesday night the graduating class of 2019 gathered for Mass at St Patrick’s Cathedral before moving to Bray Raceway to celebrate the end of their secondary schooling. It was a great event reflective of the young people and their families. I extend my appreciation to Adrian Newman, Cathy Prunty, Martin Ryan and Tony Haintz for their organisation of the Mass and Matthew Hallowell and Tom Inverarity for their organisation of the dinner.

We had a lovely evening on Friday as we re-launched the “Mud Hut” following its refurbishment by CPDA and VCAL students. Mary Darcy provided entertaining insights to the foundations to the project, and William Smith and Natalie Boland echoed the value of the space to their learning today. I thank all those who attended and Sarah Boswell, Korina Hegert and Natasha Adam for their work in preparation and David Neate and Neale Thompson for their work to give life to the project and facilitate the student engagement.

A number of staff are taking different directions with their contributions to Damascus College in 2020. Tom Inverarity concludes his term as Applied Learning Coordinator with our students, and I commend the energy and commitment he has brought to this role. The Damascus VCAL program has grown significantly under Tom’s leadership, and students have expressed a strong engagement with the program. I extend the appreciation of the community and the Applied Learning students to Tom as he steps aside from this role.

David Neate will finish up with the Position of Responsibility as Sustainability Coordinator at the conclusion of 2019. David has been a key contributor to ensuring that Damascus College honours the spirit of the papal encyclical – Laudato Si’ -Care for our common home. Some lasting elements of David’s leadership in this space is our beautiful Murnong trail and an appreciation of our school community of this indigenous yam within our beautiful bush, our recycling programs for paper, staff organic waste, cartridges and phones. The Green Group and the refurbishment of the Mud Hut as a resource to support Horticulture and sustainability. David has also done extensive work to establish a Sustainable Environment Management Plan for Damascus College. I acknowledge and thank David for his work in the space over many years.

Kirsten Phyland is also stepping aside from the role of Assistant House Leader of Rice House to assume the Year 7 Transition and Year 7 Diverse Learning Team role from 2020. I thank Kirsten for her commitment to and care of the students of Rice House over the past four years.

Nick Yandell will assume the role of Sustainability Coordinator from 2020, Belinda Dwyer the role of Applied Learning Coordinator and Matthew Edwards the role of Rice Assistant House Leader. Nick is well known within the Damascus staff; however Belinda joins the Damascus team having been in the role of VCAL Coordinator at Phoenix College. Matt Edwards is joining the Damascus staff too, moving from Salesian College in Sunbury where he is a House Leader and VCE English teacher.

Other staff appointments for 2020 include Finian Augustin who will join the Damascus team to teach Indonesian and Mathematics. Finian is moving from Balwyn High and joins us with a wealth of experience in these subjects. Sharon Hayes has accepted the appointment to the role of Educational Resource (Library) Leader. Sharon is joining the Damascus team from Marian College in West Sunshine where she has led their Resource Centre for the past 15 years. We will also welcome Michelle Tapera who will join the revised Careers function. Michelle joins us with strong experience in school based careers support from the Department of Education. Shaun O’Loughlin and Hamish Walsh have both regularly provided support to the Damascus team, and both have accepted employment at the College for 2020.

Peter Sartori is taking Long Service Leave in first semester of 2020, and Carley Young is replacing him for first semester. We welcome Carley.

On Wednesday night we will gather at Wendouree Performing Arts Centre for the Awards and Achievements evening. Family’s will have received correspondence if a student in your family is receiving an award and instructions on booking tickets is available in that correspondence.

I acknowledge Mia Lepair, who was recently awarded the Kwong Lee Dow Scholarship by the University of Melbourne. I also recognise Sara Abu Abesh who received an award for her Arabic recently.

Damascus has a team of boys and girls heading off to the Nationals Basketball from Monday in Melbourne. Shaun O’Loughlin is coaching this team, accompanied by Nikki Hexter and Tamzin Perkins. I wish them well for a week of strong competition played in good spirit.

Tomorrow night from 7.30pm in the Valda Ward Auditorium will be the final Performing Arts showcase for 2019. This event will be the showcase of student work from the Drama and Music classrooms from across the College, and all are welcome to attend.

This Sunday in the Church calendar is the first Sunday of Advent. It is the beginning of the season that herald’s the birth of the Christ child and it marks the time when Christmas trees and lights and festive decorations come into full swing. We are also reminded in the Gospel’s this week to use this time of preparation to ensure we are exploring our ultimate dreams and realities and not to be distracted. We are encouraged to focus on the important things and not to be taken away from the people that we love as an expression of God’s love in the world. There is so much to do over the coming weeks, but if we can distil that busyness to completing the things which build up the love around us, we may find greater joy in the season.

Until next week…. 

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