Principal’s Update – 15

In this final Principal’s Updates of the term, I take the opportunity to wish students and families well for the coming school holidays, and to particularly wish the graduating class of Year 12 2017 all the very best in their final preparations for graduation and the Higher School Certificate Examinations.

Congratulations to the new 2017-2018 College Student Executive on the Years 6-12 Campus. The elected students are:

College Captain – Daniella Abal

College Vice-Captain – Kaitlan Merhi

SRC Captains – Kate Coyne and Rafqa Touma

College House Captain – Patricia Schwarzkopf

College Committees Captain – Alexandra Witting.

This is a very capable, strong team of young women who have been elected by fellow students to lead and inspire them over the coming year. We wish them the very best in their leadership journey, and offer them our wholehearted support.

They will be joining us this Saturday as we welcome new students and parents of the incoming Years 6 and 7 to a family picnic. This event is an early opportunity for families to engage with the College community before school begins next year.

The generosity and warmth of our community was on full display at the Santa Sabina Fair last Saturday. Blessed with perfect weather, families were able to enjoy student performances of dance and music, treat themselves to a diverse range of delicious foods, and to shop to their hearts’ content. For the little ones (and the Principal), the petting zoo and pony rides were a hit, as were the child-friendly rides. Access to this year’s HSC Design & Technology, and Visual Arts, major works was an added bonus. A fair such as this requires incredible amounts of planning and preparation by our P&F, so we owe them deep appreciation, particularly to our Fair committee led by Domonique Roach. The Fair committee was given significant support from the College’s Property, Community Relations and Human Resources Departments, as well as the Business Office.

Fair Video

Last week’s IB Primary Years Programme Learning Exhibition was outstanding. Congratulations to students and teachers alike for the quality of both the final product but also for the evidence of the research process. The overall topic was conceptual – “Change is an inevitable part of Life” – and the lines of inquiry that different groups pursued were diverse and challenging. They included “Entropy”, “Genetics”, “Social and Emotional Wellbeing”, “Homelessness”, “Physical health”, “Social Justice Issues” as well as other significant inquiry challenges. Students communicated their understanding clearly and eloquently. They displayed creative and critical thinking in their modes of presentation. It was an exceptional exhibition of learning and collaboration.

PYP Exhibition Video

In order to continue the impetus of the PYP, our Middle Years will reflect different aspects of the IB. Our Middle Years Program will comprise Years 6-8, and include distinctive programs that are both academic, as well as focused on social justice and service. The importance of STEM/STEAM will be highlighted in the core curriculum but also in the research projects. Middle Years will also have their own distinctive leadership positions. The language and implementation of the IB Learner Profile will be explicit in the Middle Years.

Our Year 12 students graduate from the College next week, and we will look forward to acknowledging them at the Final Assembly next Thursday, and at the Graduation Mass and Dinner on Thursday night. For some students, this represents the completion of 13 years of schooling at Santa Sabina, and possibly even earlier years at Mary Bailey House. For other students, it could be eight years from the commencement of Year 5, six years from the commencement of Year 7, or perhaps just two years from the commencement of Year 11. No matter when they commenced, each of these young women is a Santa girl and always will be. We congratulate them on their significant and varied range of achievements including their recent major works across different subjects, and the nomination of a group of the following Drama students – Alana Chapman, Jessica Cirignano, Emily McCloskey and Isabella Simmonson – for the HSC OnSTAGE program. Some students have already completed their final HSC exams in the speaking component of Languages, as well as performances in Music and Drama, and the submission of major works.

The message of the guest speaker, ex-student and designer Rachel Vosilla, at last week’s Design & Technology, and Visual Arts Exhibition was particularly apt for our graduating students. She spoke about the sheer courage and persistence it takes to pursue something that you are passionate about, and the willingness to set ambitious goals (in her case to design and make a new chair every week for 52 weeks), and to seek alternative pathways along the way. We should encourage and support our students to embrace uncertainty at this stage of their lives, and to trust that doubt and uncertainty can yield curiosity, wonder and speculation that is fruitful rather than frightening.

HSC Exhibition Video

The end of term sees Santa 1 and 2 Hockey teams compete in the grand finals on Saturday. Good luck to these girls. Our Santa Tap Dancing troupe were placed third at the CGSSSA Championships on 13 September. Congratulations dancers. On Friday 22 September, our Rugby Sevens squad will compete in a Gala Day at the College against other schools. Finally to show the diversity of sporting talent in the College, Sabah Chamoun, Year 11, competed in the Commonwealth and Oceania Weightlifting Championships held on the Gold Coast. She won the Youth under 17 and Junior under 20 Commonwealth Championships. She also placed second in the Senior Oceania championships. She is an amazing athlete and one to watch.

As a Catholic community, we continue to be inspired by the words and actions of Pope Francis. Whether it is on Twitter, or face to face, Francis challenges us about what it means to be Christian in today’s world. During his recent visit to Columbia he told a crowd of more than a million that being a Christian is not about how closely you follow doctrinal laws or precepts, but rather how you live out the essential values of the faith. In a homily during an outdoor Mass in the northern Colombian city of Medellin – famous as the site of a landmark 1968 bishops’ meeting that called for a “preferential option for the poor” – the pontiff said Christians should not be “paralysed by a rigorous interpretation” of the law.

“Jesus teaches that being in relationship with God cannot be a cold attachment to norms and laws, nor the observance of some outward actions that do not lead to a real change of life,” Francis told the crowds. “Neither can our discipleship simply be motivated by custom because we have a baptismal certificate,” said the pope. 

“It is not something static, but a continuous movement towards Christ,” he told the mass of people, which stretched farther than the eye could see. “It is not simply the fidelity to making a doctrine explicit, but rather the experience of the Lord’s living, kindly and active presence, an ongoing formation by listening to his word.”

Catholic Social Teaching is probably one of the best kept secrets of the Catholic Church, and Pope Francis embodies this teaching in his passionate and practical approach to contemporary social issues. These teachings form part of our Religious Education programs for students, and can inspire all of us in our Mission of education for justice. If you are interested in reading more about Catholic Social Teaching, the Caritas Australia website is a great place to start.

On 10 September 1867, the first Dominican Sisters travelled to Maitland to set up their first Foundation. While we celebrated their arrival on St Dominic’s Day this year, let us remember to give thanks during this anniversary week for their faith and courage. The gave up “all they held most dear” to bring the Gospel message and Dominican tradition to a burgeoning Catholic population. Let us give thanks.

Dr Maree Herrett
College Principal