I am very pleased to let you know that I have finally resumed my role at Nossal after almost exactly six months of sick leave while contending with a serious medical condition which is now almost resolved. I sincerely thank students, staff and parents for their messages, cards, gifts, and goodwill during this rather challenging time.
I had never been in hospital prior to this and spent a significant amount of time in several different hospitals while the doctors tried a range of (unsuccessful) treatments prior to some serious emergency surgery over Easter. I have spent the past month in recovery and trying to regain strength and stamina after a long period of enforced inactivity. It was much more difficult than I thought and I’m still not 100% but am very happy to be fit enough to return to school and will spend most of this week catching up on what has occurred here during the past six months.
I strongly endorse every positive thing that is being said about the frontline medical professionals in our hospitals in my (now quite extensive) experience. The care, attention, patience, and dedication the doctors and nurses provide (often while contending with horrendous workloads and responsibilities and reprehensible behaviours) is truly inspiring and they deserve much greater respect, appreciation, and support, particularly under the current circumstances.
During Gratitude week, I also offer my gratitude to the many staff who took on additional leadership roles and shouldered increased workload during my absence; Ms DeZylva and Ms Warriner in particular in the new Assistant Principal roles.
Ms Tracey Mackin did an exceptional job as Acting Principal during a very challenging time in schools and I have received nothing but glowing feedback from staff and students about how well she managed under quite trying circumstances.
I have returned to a school that continues to perform very well and has been managing the travails of the teacher shortages, and widespread illness and absence, with minimal impact on student learning and support. Compared to what I hear from colleagues in other schools and the media, Nossal staff and students have been able to continue with most programs and classes with minimal apparent disruption, although, as is often the case, this is because many people are making huge behind-the-scenes efforts to ensure this occurs. There is no doubt that it is taking a toll and I also see a school community that is exhausted due to these ongoing challenges and the cumulative impact of the previous two years of COVID disruption. Sadly, I don’t think things will miraculously improve in the short term, and as we are seeing in many other parts of the community, we are facing increasing and unexpected consequences of the global pandemic, war, climate change, and workforce and supply chain shortages. This impacts right across our community, and we see it reflected in the changing needs and demeanour of our students which required increased and different expectations and responses from teachers. Many of you will be contending with similar challenges in your workplaces.
I had hoped to be able to spend some time this week meeting the Year 9 students who I have not yet had any opportunity to get to know, the new staff members who have joined us this year, and of course renewing my acquaintance with everyone else, however the week seems to have disappeared very quickly and I will have to do this early next term. I have been surprised and heartened to observe how positive staff and students appear to be in spite of the current challenges and cumulative exhaustion. This time of year is always difficult (more so this year) but I was pleasantly surprised and uplifted by the positive and energetic vibe in the school.
I thank the School Captains, and everyone involved in Gratitude Week – I received a delightful letter which was most appreciated and affirming and I know that many others did too. There were many other activities and events to recognise and celebrate the things we are all grateful for. It is this type of thoughtfulness and empathy that sustains and builds a strong and vibrant community.
Year 9 Camp
Unfortunately, I was unable to attend the camp this year (I think it is the first one I have missed since Nossal’s inception) but Ms Mackin made the long trek to the Grampians and the reports I hear from staff were that it was (unsurprisingly) highly successful – if a little cold and wet at times. A big thank you to Mr Labrooy for his leadership and to all staff who attended – especially as it was near the end of term and while reports were being completed.
It appears that Nossal has been less heavily impacted by absence and infection than we might have expected, although absence rates have been quite high and have significantly increased over the course of the past term. This mirrors what has been happening in the wider community and we have been very grateful for the way our community has adopted the recommended safety procedures that have obviously helped to limit the transmission, although colds and flu are now rampant and will likely increase during term 3.
DET and the Health Department have just announced changes to the regulations around vaccinations and as of June 25 staff in schools, visitors and volunteers will no longer be required to meet vaccination requirements, and household contacts (without symptoms) will be able to attend school.
We will still be encouraging the wearing of masks, distancing, hand hygiene, RAT testing, vaccination boosters and flu shots; and no-one should be in attendance if they are exhibiting any symptoms.
We will still need to be vigilant about this and community infection levels are still very high with new variants continuing to emerge.
Parent Contributions and School Fees
I see that Sharon has recently sent out reminders about this through Compass. Can I sincerely thank all who have paid the fees and voluntary contributions. You may have seen recent articles in the Age newspaper about the low collection rates in Government schools following the rewording and changes to the policies which have been implemented this year. Victorian Government schools are some of the worst funded in the country and any reduction in fees and voluntary levies has a significant detrimental impact on our ability to run programs, maintain facilities and equipment, and provide more than basic educational experiences. Our collection rate is currently significantly less than in previous years and we are having to consider where we may need to cut staff and programs to save money. For Nossal the amount of Government funding we receive is not enough to fully fund our current level of staffing and programs so like many other government schools within a community of relatively high socioeconomic advantage we are running in deficit. To enable us to provide high quality programs, resources, and facilities we have to rely on locally raised funds to make up the shortfall and the bulk of this comes from the voluntary contributions from our parent community. The PFA does a wonderful job in raising much needed revenue to purchase equipment and support programs, but it is a drop in the ocean, and much more is needed. Many of our students have previously attended non-government schools with fees well over ten times our levies and charges, but we also have families who are struggling financially and there is provision to waive, assist and implement payment plans to for those in our community who are in greater need.
I urge you all to please go onto Compass to check and pay your fees and, if you have the capacity, to pay the voluntary levies and/or make a donation to assist us to maintain the best possible programs, facilities, and classroom equipment.
I am both pleased and sad to announce that Ms Katherine Warriner (Acting AP), long term VCE and Pathways Director, and Senior Chemistry teacher will be departing Nossal in mid term 3.
Ms Warriner has been promoted to Assistant Principal at the new "Centre for Higher Education Studies" (CHES) in South Yarra. We will still have contact with her as this is a new DET initiative that will provide VCE and Higher Education programs for VCE students (including Nossal) from around the state. This is a significant and well deserved promotion that recognises her experience and skills in this area. She will be helping build and grow the centre from scratch alongside the newly appointed Principal who was a Foundation Assistant Principal at Suzanne Cory HS. I am very pleased for her but we will greatly miss her - she has made an outstanding contribution to Nossal as a senior teacher and key leader within the school. We will farewell her more formally next term.
I also thank three departing members of our instrumental music staff - Mr Jason Lim (Strings instructor) who is moving to a leadership position at a private school; Ms Anna Castle (Voice) who has been filling a Family leave position; and Ms Kelsy De Prada (Flute) who is moving to a full time position at another school. I thank them for the excellent work they have been doing with our music students and wish them well in their new positions.
PFA -support and assistance requested
The wonderful members of our PFA have been selling library books that are no longer required over the past two weeks and have done an excellent job (as always) in providing this fantastic support.
One of their biggest fundraisers is the annual Bunnings BBQ which will take place this year on July 23 at Bunnings Fountain Gate. They are still seeking donations and possibly volunteers to assist on the day. Please support them if you can – at the very least by dropping past to buy a sausage. Every dollar they raise is used to purchase equipment or to fund projects that will directly benefit your children. I thank them for their ongoing selfless and tireless support – particularly the Sausage King – Mr Larry Larkins who has this event down to a fine art.
I hope that all staff, students, and their families are able to enjoy a refreshing break over the next few weeks and remind students (and staff) of the holiday homework guidelines and the necessity to balance their workload appropriately.
The school will be closed from 3.30pm on Friday June 24 until 8.00am on Monday July 11.
If there is an urgent issue I can be contacted via Compass, email, or mobile
I look forward to seeing you all (and meeting our “new” students and families for the first time) next term.