Principal’s Update 2017 – 8

The biennial Dominican Education Conference was held at Siena College in Melbourne last weekend, and involved Board, Executive and staff representatives from Dominican schools in Australia and New Zealand. The theme of the conference was Truth-Searching – such a compelling idea for our times. We were privileged to have Fr Timothy Radcliffe OP as the guest presenter – Timothy was the Master of the Order of Preachers from 1992 to 2001, and is internationally recognised for his work in the areas of social justice and human rights. He spoke about igniting the hearts of young people to venture on a “beautiful, exciting adventure of truth”. He referred to truth in all its forms – scientific, historical, religious, political and artistic, and to the idea that to really study something, to investigate the truth, is to be changed by it. This is why teaching young people is such a challenge and a joy – it can change people’s lives. According to Timothy Radcliffe, “the most beautiful expression of hope is teaching”.

In one of his lectures on “truth and love”, Fr Timothy spoke about the Dominican love of disagreement. “To love the truth is to love difference – diversity, difference, disagreement”. In contrast to the “echo chambers” of social media where we “like” and “follow” those with the same opinions, truth searching invites genuine dialogue where we can discover “the joy of being wrong”. For a school with the motto, Veritas, we are compelled to engage with difference, and consider the possibilities that others can be right!

As well as the lectures and workshops, student videos were interspersed throughout the conference. They were asked to present their ideas about truth. It was such a delight to see Santa Sabina represented by Del Monte students who took us on a tour of the school to explore the meaning of truth. It was very well received by the audience, and I’m sure would have won the “People’s Choice” award had there been one.

Last week we had a very positive verification visit for the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme. The two consultants were overwhelmingly positive about our preparedness but more importantly about the values of the College reflected by all participants – parents, students, teachers and Board Directors. They spoke about the collegiality of the staff, the understanding of the IB by parents and students, the evidence of social justice involvement by students, and the leadership of the programme, particularly that of Ms Helen Bitossi, the DP Coordinator. It was very gratifying to have that external mirror held up to us, and for it to be such a wonderful reflection. We have to wait some weeks to receive a formal response from the IB, but feel quietly confident following the visit.

The quality of our staff, as I often stress, is the single most important contributor to school improvement and student outcomes. It’s therefore important to recognise particular achievements of staff that have positive impacts on all of us. Ms Danielle Abbott, Coordinator of Music P-5, has made a tremendous contribution to the quality of Primary School music education generally through her involvement as a mentor in the National Music Teacher Mentoring Program. She was recommended for this by Richard Gill AM and began the program in 2016. She has now been asked to continue participating this year, and is mentoring two teachers based in the Riverina region.

Mrs Emma Macaulay, PYP Coordinator, has been successful in joining the IB team as a workshop leader and team member for authorisation visits for other candidate schools. She will be travelling to China for training at the end of June. This is a remarkable achievement given how recently the PYP has been authorised at Del Monte, and is testament to Emma’s passion, and commitment to this programme.

The Santa Sabina community continues to be enriched by the generosity of our ex-students. At Tuesday night’s Beyond Year 12 event, there were many impressive young women who have pursued a range of different study and career options, and returned to offer advice to our current students in Years 10, 11 and 12. The focus of this year’s event was on students finding their passion and strengths as the starting point for life beyond school. There were also very important and practical strategies provided by the panel of current university students, and university lecturer, Dr Chris Walker (Head of School, Social Sciences, UNSW). Dr Walker provided three strategies that students could employ to ensure success at university. The first was to attend open days at different universities and get familiar with the campuses, so that those early days aren’t as unfamiliar and strange as they might otherwise be. The second was to ensure that you understand the requirements and expectations of different courses. The third was to make the effort to join in the wider university life, join different clubs or societies, to ensure you feel a part of the university and not just a visitor. Chris said that all the research suggests that the majority of students who drop out of university do so in the first 10 weeks of the year. So if you survive those first weeks, you are most likely to complete your degree.

To conclude I share this wonderful video given to us by ex-student Wendy Fraser, Class of 1957. The footage of the 1955 Santa Sabina Sports Carnival was shot by Wendy’s father, and found only after his death. It will be shared at the Golden Girls’ and Boys’ Reunion next week. Check out just how fast these girls can run in the uniforms of the day. Enjoy!


Dr Maree Herrett