From the Principal

This week I would like to reflect a little on our identity as a Lasallian school and what that really means in 2015 and beyond.

The timing is quite handy as it ties in nicely with our current period of Year 7, 8, 9 and 10 Retreats. Next Friday 14 August is also our first Staff Lasallian Formation Day, where we reflect and plan in relation to our role as Lasallian educators in a Catholic College. While learning and academic development, improvement and progression are our primary focus it is critical we engage in dialogue, programs and activities which not only maintain our Catholic identity but actively promote it and enable it to flourish. We are indeed fortunate to have our Lasallian principles and philosophy of education, our traditions and guidelines to rely on to ensure we remain true to our mission.

Last Sunday’s Gospel from St John also offered a neat parallel with the message we as a College deliver to our young men as part of their Lasallian education. Following the story of the feeding of the 5,000 last week, the focus of Sunday’s Gospel reading was to provide clarity in a long discussion about bread in the Gospels: Jesus himself is the gift from God that gives life. “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.”

Rather than giving his followers a list of ‘works’ to do, Jesus speaks in verse 29 about a single “work of God.” St John Baptist de La Salle often reminded the early Brothers of their obligation to do the “work of God” i.e. that which God desires. To put this in a contemporary context, with some direct relevance to our work here in Malvern, de La Salle implored his followers to live the Gospel, as the first step in accomplishing the work God wanted him to do. He identified two key themes in doing God’s work – presence and possibility. All of us at De La Salle Malvern follow this in our everyday actions. We are present with our young men — as they are with their peers and staff — in class; in the corridors; supervising in the yard; in the co-curricula program in the arts, sport, debating and myriad others. Under our theme of achievement and challenge, pushing students to be the best they can be we awaken our young Lasallians to the possibilities available to each of them through hope, endeavour, empathy and kindness.

Various Lasallian institutions across the world have their own versions of the Core/Guiding/Essential Principles of Lasallian education and I am working on a version to adopt as our own here at Malvern. Faith in the Presence of God, Gospel Values, Quality Education, Concern for the Poor and Respect for All — An Inclusive Community; these build the platform which supports and informs all we do at the College. Our identity as a Catholic school comes from our belief in God and the structures, symbols, stories, rituals and ethics emanating from and surrounding that belief. That enables us to channel our energies into — as de La Salle instructed — the “human and Christian education” of each young man in our care. Respect, positive relationships, provision of strong role models and the inherent value and dignity of all in our community are what makes our Catholic, Lasallian environment a safe and productive place for us all to grow.

We are part of an extraordinary network of educators across Victoria, Australia and internationally, attending to the academic and spiritual needs of over one million students in 81 countries in 2015. My recent course in Lasallian Studies enabled me to connect with Lasallian leaders from 12 countries and share ideas and strategies. Staff at all levels interact formally and informally with St Bede’s, St James and St John’s Colleges here in Melbourne in relation to professional learning, student leadership and Lasallian Formation. Our four Melbourne schools also operate in partnership with Lasallian schools in Adelaide and Perth to build and share our charism – all with the express intention of preserving tradition and devising strategies for the spiritual, academic/professional growth and wellbeing of students and staff.

Year Level Retreats

Third Term is a busy time for Year Level Retreats, with Years 7 – 10 involved in workshops covering reflection, discussion and planning as a Homeroom. The central themes are again our Lasallian ethos and our Catholic identity, with the Retreat Leaders directing conversations and ideas whereby students may consider their role in the Homeroom, their friendship circle, in the school, family, Church and society. The topics and themes are designed to be age appropriate for the respective year levels and boys generally walk away feeling a deeper sense of self and awareness of who they are as a young, Catholic, Lasallian man and where they’re going. SOS: Service. Opportunity. Sacrifice is the theme for Year 10 students for example and the students have the opportunity to clarify and exercise their sense of social justice and plan how they may serve others, even in a small, low profile manner. A sense of unselfishness helps build character in our boys.

A strong sense of community was absolutely central to St John Baptist de La Salle and that is also intrinsic to the style of College we aim to be at Malvern. One of the most striking features of the Year 7 Retreat experience has been the commitment of a team of Year 11 students, working as Lasallian Youth Leaders supporting staff running the activities for their Year 7 peers. I would like to acknowledge and thank the mature, collegial and thoughtful contribution the following Year 11 students made to the program:

  • Tim Fierenzi 11B
  • Lachlan Bulman 11S
  • Jarred Fissenden 11R
  • Charles Joseph 11D
  • Liam Moore 11D
  • Karan Vasudevan 11D
  • Kyle Williams 11H
  • Daniel Poloni 11J
  • Tom Ponissi 11J
  • Keelan Tambimuttu 11V
  • William Wright 11D.

This cross-age tutoring and peer support goes a long way in developing links between the year levels and our sense of community.

Year 7 Mother & Son Time & Space Evening

On a similar theme, on Wednesday night this week we held our second annual Year 7 Mother & Son Time & Space Evening. Following the success of last year’s inaugural event, we had 246 mums and sons in attendance. This is one of my favourite community events on our calendar here at De La as Bill Jennings guides a panel, the audience and then mothers and sons through a series of activities and discussions culminating in a special one-on-one conversation with the mums and their Year 7 sons. This truly is a wonderful family, community event, now well and truly entrenched in the College calendar. Many of the mothers spoke to me afterwards and said how much they’d valued and enjoyed the experience and wished we’d had the event in earlier years when their older sons were in Year 7. Thank you to Personal Development Coordinator Ms Jo Dickson for her enthusiasm and organisation, and the many staff who gave up their evening to support the program and run small group discussions.

Term 3 Community Mass

This term our De La Salle Community Mass will be held at St Roch’s, Burke Road Glen Iris, at 9:00am on Sunday 13 September. These occasions are becoming a well-patronised community event so I’d encourage any and all De La families — past and present — to come along. Families who came to us from St Roch’s will receive written invitations and an offer for the students to be part of the Mass but it would be tremendous to see as many families as possible on Sunday 13 September.

Parent Network Race Day – Last Chance To Book

Another significant community event is our Parent Network Day at the Caulfield Races on Saturday 15 August. This was a fantastic occasion last year, and given the effort put in by the De La Salle College Parent Network, it promises to be the same this year. Bookings close on Friday 7 August, so if you have been thinking of coming along, book now! There will be gourmet finger food, a complimentary drink on arrival and plenty of entertainment.

Father’s Day Breakfast – Wednesday 26 August

After the 420-plus crowd at the Mother’s Day Breakfast we are expecting a huge crowd for the Father’s Day Breakfast on Wednesday 26 August. Guest speaker will be North Melbourne Assistant Coach Darren Crocker and it promises to be a popular and hugely entertaining opportunity for dads and sons to spend some time together and get an early start to Father’s Day. I believe very strongly in creating these community events and encouraging families to come together, so I hope to see a great many of you here on the 26th.

Staff news

Congratulations to Shardul Kaneria and wife Drashti on the birth of their baby boy Shiv on Monday 3 August at 4:00pm.

School Improvement Plan Survey – Make A Valuable Contribution To The Direction Of The College

Finally, a request for parents to make a genuine and valuable contribution to the strategic direction of the College. Several hundred families received a letter inviting them to contribute to our School Improvement Plan survey, but the completion rate has been quite slow so far.

We urge families to take the short time necessary to complete the survey. This year the survey is available to families to complete online. Instructions were enclosed with the letter, including an individual login and password.

Online surveys can be accessed from Monday 20 July to Friday 7 August (this week!).

The College is fundamentally committed to using the information from the surveys to develop our De La Salle College Improvement Plan. The surveys will help lead to improvement but we need a strong response rate from parents to get a comprehensive picture.

We certainly want to hear about the areas where you believe we could improve. We also want to hear where you feel we are going well. Sometimes with this sort of survey, a potential respondent might feel that being generally happy with the school, they don’t need to complete the survey. Please give us the good news as well!

Mr Peter Houlihan

Back to The Duce Issue 2015 11 - 6 August 2015