Principal’s Update – 14 March 2019

Education for Justice has been central to the mission of Catholic Dominican Education at Santa Sabina for 125 years. It extends beyond the classroom into all aspects of the College environment. A College strategic plan for social justice formally began in 1997 with the objective to “nurture an environment that encourages the expression and celebration of the core values of social justice”. Specific initiatives that have been developed from that model have been our immersion programs to South Africa, the Solomon Islands and Central Australia. As well, outreach projects such as Night Patrol, Christmas Hampers, Homework Help, and Matt Talbot are just some of the more visible actions arising from our commitment to social justice.

The challenge in 2019 is to continue to foster the Dominican charism for the future through a renewed commitment to education for justice. This is why we are setting out on our “Justice Journey 125”. We are consulting with a variety of groups of staff and students and will meet as a whole staff this afternoon to review, refine and update our particular school model of Social Justice education that began in the late 1990s. We will invite parents to be involved in informal discussions about relevant justice issues for our times.

I have begun my Principal’s Update this week this way as it contextualises our approach to the education of the whole child at Santa Sabina. Consistent with education for justice, our approach to creating codes of conduct for students, staff and parents is guided by Catholic values of justice, truth, forgiveness and reconciliation. Just as students learn about Mathematics, English, Science and all other academic disciplines, so too do they need to learn about respectful behaviour. Hence we take a problem-solving approach.

When things go wrong, students will be supported to rectify their mistakes and to address any hurt that their behaviour may have caused. There are consequences associated with breaches of discipline. Our new Student Code of Conduct has been jointly constructed by students and staff right across the College. It defines both their rights and responsibilities, as well as the process involved when the Code of Conduct is breached. Please discuss this Code with your children so that we can build a shared understanding of acceptable and respectful behaviour and relationships throughout the College. The Parent Code of Conduct developed with the College Board is located on the Parent Page of Veritas Online but is highlighted here for easy access. Be assured that staff also have a Code of Conduct that outlines College expectations and legal responsibilities. It is something we take very seriously.

As part of our education for justice, Santa Sabina students participated in International Women’s Day activities last week, both through attendance at the annual breakfast hosted by UN Women Australia, as well as through an engaging panel discussion at assembly last Thursday. Our 6-12 Student Executive chaired the panel which included Santa students and teachers as well as leaders from St Patrick’s College Strathfield. They raised challenging issues, were eloquent in their opinions and assured those of us listening that the future is in good hands with these young people. Sr Jill Shirvington OP is representing the Asia Pacific Dominican Sisters at the UN Commission on the Status of Women, held in New York. Our Dominican Sisters continue to inspire us with their commitment to speak truth to the world community and to participate in the ongoing discourse on social justice and human rights.

Our students also inspire us daily with their achievements, behaviour and care for each other. I received the following email from a member of the public this week acknowledging our students for their well-mannered, considerate behaviour on public transport:

I wanted to express my compliments on the conduct of students from Santa Sabina College on the 450 bus towards Hurstville today.

Students who were seated got up from seats to offer them to children and adults who got on the bus further along the route and were generally conscientious and considerate of others. I wished to bring this to your attention as I recall from my time as a high school student who utilised public transport, the public were quick to advise my school of misbehaviour among students in the public but seldom brought positive actions to their attention.

Santa’s Volleyball girls continue to shine. Congratulations to Beach Volleyball girls, Chloe Devine, Kate Morgan and Lara Zeppieri, who won the NSW Championship, Division 3. Santa Sabina remains the number one ranked girls’ school for Volleyball in Australia.

Congratulations also to the following students – Olivia Radford and Tanisha Chari of Year 7, Preethika Mathan of Year 8, Bella Merlino of Year 9, Jacqueline Leung and Rachel Frecker of Year 10, Elle Carmichael of Year 11 and Alex Witting of Year 12 –who will be speaking in the Catholic Schools Debating Association Public Speaking Competition zone final at Santa Sabina this Friday night. Best wishes, girls, and thank you to Ms Jane Sulis who expertly coaches them.

The College is undertaking a master planning project with PMDL, the architects who designed the Siena Centre, and other projects in the school, including Prep on the Primary campus. The master planning process will focus on how we can re-purpose and update existing facilities on both sides of The Boulevarde to support contemporary teaching and learning. It also involves eventual completion of the Siena Centre. With these plans in mind, the College is most appreciative of the donations that families have made and continue to make to the Building Fund.

As part of our Lenten journey, students across both campuses have engaged in daily prayer and support of Caritas initiatives. On the Primary campus, the Social Justice Leaders initiated a link between Lunar New Year and Caritas. Students were asked to bring in a gold coin in the Lunar New Year red envelope. The focus was on giving rather the receiving. The coins were collected and over $300 was raised and donated to Caritas. On the Secondary campus, students have focused on feature stories from Caritas Australia with prayer and the shared story. The theme of Caritas’ Project Compassion, “Give Lent 100%”, beautifully captures both the idea of fundraising but also personal giving. Our students’ spiritual growth is pivotal to their Catholic education.

Loving God, whose son Jesus Christ called all who were thirsty to come to him, believe and drink, look in mercy on your people living in dry lands, and struggling to survive without access to safe drinking water. Forgive our selfishness in life and our misuse of our natural resources. We commit ourselves to value and care for your gifts to us. May rivers of living water and practical compassion for all who suffer flow out from our hearts. Refreshed by your Spirit, and following in the way of Jesus Christ, we will continue to serve you in the people and creation entrusted to our care.

(Adapted from a prayer by Rev Canon Paul Robertson 2004)

Dr Maree Herrett