Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Dear Parents and Friends,

This is our last message for 2015 so I sincerely thank you for your support and generosity in everything that you do to make the community of St Mary’s so unique and special. This year has seen us celebrate together as a faith community in many eventful ways forming partnerships and recognizing the variety of talents we share.

I congratulate members of our staff who have worked together as a cohesive and dynamic team always dedicated to the vision of creating an excellent school where children love to learn. To our teachers who leave us this year may I wish you success and happiness in your new roles for 2016 and thank you for celebrating the journey within the faith community of St Mary’s.

A special thanks is also given to our Parish Priest Fr. Andy Bullen and the other Jesuit Priests of Our Lady of the Way Parish who very generously support our school community with their guidance and spiritual formation.

May the peace and joy of the Christmas season be with you and your families and may you enjoy a relaxing and safe summer holiday.

May God bless you all.
Beverly Coffey

Sunday, 29 November 2015

Dear Parents and Friends,

Last week we welcomed our new Kindergarten families for 2016. It was a delight to meet with our new Mums and Dads as they shared their hopes and dreams for their child's education at St Mary's School along with their keen desire to make new friendships as part of our growing faith community. They are looking forward to their first social event at the Meet and Greet Night for all parents next February 19th. Be sure to mark this in your diaries for a special occasion to start the year.

We have a total of 68 kindergarten students enrolled for next year with several still on the waiting list. All classes now have students wait listed as the population on the lower North Shore continues to grow placing pressure on local Catholic schools. In 2016 we will have 10 classes consisting of two streams in Kindergarten, Year One and Two and a single stream of Year Three, Four, Five and Six classes. Announcements of teachers for each of those classes will be included with the end of year student reports which are timetabled to be distributed on Friday December 11th.

Staff News
We shared some very happy news from our teacher Laura Hatherly who gave birth to her first child last week. Laura and her husband Ben are the proud parents of baby Harriet pictured on our website for her first official photo! Congratulations!

Also we farewell our much loved teacher-librarian Gayle Smyth who will be retiring at the end of this year after ten years teaching at St Mary's and many years within the Catholic education system. We wish Gayle many happy years of retirement and look forward to welcoming her back to the opening and blessing of the new school buildings in 2017.

This week we honour our wonderful students in Year Six as they prepare to graduate from primary school into their respective secondary colleges next year. A special Graduation Mass and Dinner will be celebrated for our students this coming Thursday December 3rd where we will have the opportunity to reflect on the achievements of all boys and girls from the class. Our students should be proud of their many successes at school throughout the seven years of primary education and we ask that you keep them in your prayers as they venture out into life's journey.

The next few weeks will see our school community involved in the end of year Mass on Thursday December 10th and the swimming carnival on Tuesday December 15th. Our final school assembly will be held on Friday December 11th with a delightful performance from the school band and choirs. We hope that you can attend and then stay for a morning tea as a token of our appreciation for the many generous parents who have helped us throughout this year.

Lord we pray for all who support St Mary's School. We give thanks for their willingness to share their time, talents and resources so that present and future students can enjoy the rich blessings of an education that inspires them to make their own contribution to society. Lord Hear Us.

Enjoy the week ahead.
Yours in peace

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Dear Parents and Friends,

Congratulations to all on the wonderful success of our 2015 Musical! Indeed it was a pleasure to be entertained by our highly motivated and energetic students last night and I'm sure that it was one of the best days of our lives!

The inspiration and power of the arts play a vital role in enabling our students to enhance their creative talent and develop their artistic skills. By engaging in these experiences within the expressive arts, children learn to recognise and represent feelings and emotions, both their own and those of others. The expressive arts play a central role in shaping our sense of our personal, social and cultural identity. Learning in the expressive arts also plays an important role in supporting children to recognise and value the variety and vitality of culture locally, nationally and globally.

A musical production of this scale would not have happened without the dedication and commitment of the teaching and support staff of St Mary's School. Our parents have also given their time and energy so generously to making this production possible. Thank you!

We are also appreciative of the mentoring support that has been offered by the Catholic Schools Performing Arts (CaSPA) team and the Principal and staff from Marist College for sharing their facilities on this occasion.

A special congratulations is given to our very creative and talented teacher Meghan Bassett, for her outstanding direction of our Musical Live Louder and for her encouragement always given to the students to let their colours shine. Well done to all.

Sunday, 25 October 2015

Dear Parents and Friends,

St Mary's School is buzzing with activity this week as we prepare for the 2015 Musical. With just over two weeks to go we have many teachers and parents preparing for this special community event which will showcase the talents of our students within a contemporary performance. We encourage all families to support the school musical and purchase tickets online through Qkr as detailed on the school website. We look forward to enjoying this wonderful event.

Thank you to the many parents who attended the Parent Forum last week. This Forum provided an opportunity to relate my experiences from the International Confederation of Principals' Conference in Helsinki during August this year. Some of the Key Topics from the conference were as follows:

  • What are the future trends in education for the world?
  • What are the latest educational ideas to allow students to perform at their best?
  • What directions are schools heading?
  • What are the best practices in education?
  • What can we learn from each other regarding educational policies?
  • What are the new learning and motivational environments like?
  • What are the biggest challenges in the world of education?
Some valuable discussion took place concerning the future trends in education that are affecting the world and how these might impact on what's happening at St Mary's School.
Some of these insights are as follows:

  • Relationships are a key to developing students so that they become independent learners.
  • Developing a truly catholic school culture.
  • Encouragement and feedback is a focus in schools and provides rewards for success.
  • Quality teachers and teacher professional development.
  • Setting agendas to drive change for higher student success.
  • Be inclusive.
  • Respect for all in schools.
  • Developing strong leadership teams in schools.
  • Establishing forums for strong student voice.
  • Looking at the scientific research into motivation and the development of a growth mindset in students.
If you would like to visit the website you can download the presentation from the parent forum and read the summaries.

Also we would like to invite you to participate in a Parent Survey to gather your reflections and ideas for a way forward for St Mary's School. The link will be provided at the end of this newsletter.

Best wishes for a positive week ahead
God Bless

Sunday, 11 October 2015

Welcome Back to Term 4

Dear Parents and Friends,

Welcome back to Term 4.

What a joy it has been to see the children in all year levels return to school with great enthusiasm ready for all that this term brings in terms of completing the year and transition.

Provision of the best facilities for our students continues to be a priority so we appreciate the work that our parent Anni Austin completed on the play areas during the holidays.  Having the creative play areas makes a difference to the student’s broader learning and assists in their social, emotional and physical development.

This term we offer support to our Year 6 students as they prepare for their secondary schooling.  As they work hard and continue to give of their best in so many ways, we remain very proud of them, and of all that they have achieved and contributed to St Mary’s school.  As a faith community, we ask for God’s blessing upon each one of them and pray for them as they prepare for the end of year assessments and concluding functions.

Next Tuesday evening will see the inaugural ‘Voices of St Mary’s’ event take place in the Independent Theatre, Miller Street, North Sydney.  This special event has been organised to showcase the learning that has taken place in public speaking this year.  A number of students from Year 3 to 6 will perform as well as the Concert Choir.  The event commences at 6pm.  We look forward to celebrating this event with our school community.

Staff News
This term we welcome Mrs Joyce Eide as secretary in the school office.  Joyce will be replacing Laura who has secured secretarial employment closer to her home in the Sutherland Shire.  Laura will be in the office for a couple of days over the next few weeks until she finishes in November.  We thank Laura for her dedication, friendship and great school spirit throughout his year and wish her every success in her new employment.

We also welcome Mrs Stephanie Powling who will be working in Years 3 and 4 as an intervention teacher for a couple of days each week throughout this term.

School Building Update
Pre DA:  The Pre DA material was lodged with Council in September, and the Pre DA meeting with Council has been held.  The CEO and architects are now waiting for written feedback from the Pre DA meeting.

A Pre DA is a standard Council process, offered by most Councils, wherein an applicant can lodge DA documents with Council for review, so that Council has a formal and early opportunity to review a proposal and make comment and suggestions before it is formally lodged and exhibited.  Documents are generally lodged 10-14 days before the Pre DA Meeting, for circulation within Council.  The meeting is then held and minutes are taken.  It generally takes Council 10-14 days to issue the minutes of the Pre DA meeting.

DA:  Once the minutes of the Pre DA Meeting are received, these will be reviewed and actioned, and then the Formal DA will be lodged.

Temporary Classrooms:  It is currently intended to locate the temporary classrooms at the back of the old Presbytery.  This will require the reassignment of car spaces, and this is being worked through.

To install the temporary classrooms, the demolition of the older (non heritage) garages and other buildings will be required.  The timing of these works is currently being considered.

Every blessing,

Beverly Coffey

Thursday, 17 September 2015

Principal's News

Dear Parents and Friends,

As we move into the spring school holidays we reflect on the many events that have brought us together as a school community this term.

As our community grows so do the relationships that we are forming. A developing school community depends on the generosity of its parent group in volunteering services for the improvement of the school. There have been many parents who have helped us this term and as a staff we would like to express our sincere thanks and appreciation. The following poem reflects our special thoughts of you.

Parents begin their role with heads full of plans
Hearts full of dreams
And arms full of a squirming little bundle of life.

Busy from sun-up to sun-down, their sleep is interrupted
By the hungry cries of a very tiny person
With a very large appetite.

Through the years parents become teachers, counsellors and comforters
And seem to keep going on an endless supply of courage, humour and love
But mostly love.
It shows in everything they do from grocery shopping to family outings.

It's what overcomes in those moments of spilled milk
And muddy shoes and broken windows
Parents never get repaid for all they do yet they seem to be fulfilled.

And though their rewards consist mostly of
Hugs, kisses and I love you's
They are more thankful for these than for anything else.

And as time passes
And childhood gives way to understanding,
We know beyond a doubt that parents themselves
Are far more precious than gold.

I wish every family a safe and happy term break.
Yours in peace


Monday, 7 September 2015

Principal's News

Dear Parents and Friends,

Building for the Future Forum

Special thanks is extended to all parents who attended the Parent Forum last evening. The meeting provided an opportunity for all stakeholders in our school community along with personnel from the Catholic Education Office Sydney to voice their concerns as well as listen to the exciting future plans for the growth of St Mary’s School.
The major concern of relocating the students in 2016 during the building project has been resolved with the decision to stay on the immediate site incorporating Marist College, St Mary’s School and the Presbytery grounds. Before and After School Care will also remain in its current place using the school hall and grounds.

Updated information about the building project will be available on the school website Building for the Future blog. We are also creating a feature on the blog to enable parent questions to be posted. In the meantime any parent concerns regarding the building project can be emailed to info@stmns.catholic.edu.au

Big Night Out

Congratulations to our Year 3 parents for their wonderful success of the Big Night Out. Indeed it was a most entertaining event with everyone participating in grand style. Special thanks is extended to all parents who assisted throughout the year with various duties and to Anni Austin for her outstanding co-ordination of the event. The generosity of so many parents is greatly appreciated by everyone in the school community. Thank you!

Sunday, 23 August 2015

Dear Parents and Friends,

Greetings to all!

It is wonderful to be safely back home after a very rewarding experience attending the school principal’s conference in Finland.  Along with 1200 school principals from around the globe I participated in many engaging workshops which looked at current topics on the educational agenda.

Finland was selected as the venue for the conference due to its consistently high performance on The Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) data, which ranks student performance on mathematics, science and reading.  Finland also transformed their educational system from mediocre in the 1980’s to one of excellence today.  International indicators show that Finland has one of the most educated citizenries in the world, provides education opportunities in an egalitarian manner, and makes efficient use of resources.

Teaching has become the number one profession among young Finns – above medicine and law – and primary teacher education in Finnish universities is one of the most competitive choices of study.  One of the basic principles of Finnish education is that all people have equal access to high-quality education and training and the potential of every student is maximised.  Their education system is based on trust and responsibility and there are no National tests for pupils in primary school as continuous assessment is used to guide and support students in their learning.

Many of these statements resonate well with the teaching and learning taking place at St Mary’s School where there is a strong emphasis on continuous assessment to inform learning and the capacity building of the teaching staff to enhance learning opportunities.

I will provide further comparisons and share other insights over the coming weeks.

I would also like to congratulate our teaching staff on their commitment to providing high quality teaching to the students of St Mary’s as evidenced in the recent NAPLAN results for Years 3 and 5.  The school achievement average for all aspects of the NAPLAN tests Year 3 were in the top Band 6.  In Year 5 the class average for Reading, Grammar and Punctuation and Numeracy were in the top Band 8 and average for Writing and Spelling in Band 7.  These results show excellent development and positive trends across all aspects of NAPLAN.  We should be proud of our efforts in providing a happy and stimulating learning environment.

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Dear Parents and Friends,

I congratulate our students on the positive start they have made to Term 3. They look happy as they re-engage in a variety of learning activities, classes, sports and musical events and religious experiences. There is also great excitement around the use of the new learning spaces. I hope that you have had an opportunity to visit these new spaces during the past few weeks.

As Stage 1 of the Building Project reaches completion we commence Stage 2 of the Building Project.  
  • Currently the Development Application is being prepared by the architects and CEO school facilities officers to be lodged to North Sydney Council by the end of this week.
  • The Steering Committee will meet on August 28 to review the plans.
  • Presentation to St Mary’s parents at a forum on Monday September 7 at 7pm.

The Steering Committee Members for the Building Project are as follows:
  • School Leadership Team
  • Project Manager: Paul Gibson
  • SARM Architects
  • Regional Education Consultant: Janice Haydon
  • Anni Austin (Parent)
  • Wendy Stamp (Parent)
  • Damian Milani (Parent)
  • Geoff Van Den Bos (Parent)

On Monday evening September 7 at 7pm there will be an opportunity for parents to engage in a Parent Forum where I will update you on various school matters and provide you with an opportunity to ask questions and provide feedback. One of the matters I will brief you on will be the second stage of the building program. I hope you will be as excited as I am about the plans for our growing school where as you know, we will be constructing a new building on the terrace site immediately to the east of the school on Ridge Street.

I understand some parents may be concerned about how we will accommodate all students during the second phase of the building program. Most students will remain in our existing buildings during the construction of the new building, but we will need to locate some classes elsewhere during that period. At present, the Catholic Education Office personnel are looking at the options for the construction program phasing and accommodation of the children. I will be consulting with the School Advisory Council and the stage 2 Building Steering Committee about these matters and will keep the parent community informed.

As part of the development of St Mary’s School and the necessary forward thinking that such a project entails, I will be participating in an international school principals’ conference in Finland next week. This will be an excellent opportunity to network with other colleagues from around the world and also showcase St Mary’s School. School visits to Denmark to see some very contemporary school buildings will also be a feature of the conference.  Finland is renowned for its contemporary education system and high academic standards so I am looking forward to experiencing their system in this setting.  During my absence of three weeks, Julie Hunt, assistant principal, will assume the position of acting principal and will be available to meet parents if needed.

It is with much appreciation that I thank the many parents who participated in the survey for Julie Hunt’s contract renewal recently. Julie was very successful in her appraisal and we congratulate her on such fine achievements. I’m certain that you will support her in the acting role during my absence.

Yours in peace
God Bless


Thursday, 16 July 2015

Dear Parents and Friends,
A warm welcome to Term Three.  I trust that you all enjoyed a happy and restful holiday with your families and are refreshed and motivated for the busy term ahead.

We begin the term in our beautiful new learning spaces which will prove to be a wonderful asset to St Mary's.  Already the children have commented on how much they are enjoying the extra spaces to collaborate and engage as critical and creative thinkers in their learning activities.

You can read some of their comments on our new updated website as it becomes 'live' over the next few weeks.  We are transitioning to a more contemporary mode of communication across the school community to enable an improved system of informing parents of daily activities throughout the term.  Your feedback is most welcome as we make progress with this initiative.

This week the Steering Committee for the Stage 2 Building Project met to discuss the updated building plans for St Mary's.  The Steering Committee consists of the following parents and staff:  Anne Austin, Damian Milani, Geoff Van Den Bos and the school leadership team.  We will include details of the plans in this edition of the newsletter and welcome any feedback.

Timeline - The Development Application for Stage 2 of the Building Project will be lodged with North Sydney Council by the end of July.  It is hoped that the project is approved before the end of this year so that tenders can be sought and the building project commences early 2016.

Plans are to demolish the existing Terrace House and erect the new classrooms on that site.  A more detailed timeline of the construction works will be made available once the DA has been approved.

An opportunity for questions around the next stage building will take place at our Parents and Friends Meeting on Wednesday August 12th.

A Prayer to the Holy Spirit
We give you thanks, Spirit of Wisdom, for you speak to us in ways, that often surprise us.  
You uncover truths that we had kept hidden from ourselves.
And support us in tasks we fear to undertake alone.
We give thanks for your invitations to growth and intimacy and fullness of life.
And for the comfort you extend in our often uphill struggle to be faithful.
Inspire us.  Encourage us.  Fill us with enthusiasm for the mission of your Church.

Yours in Peace,
Beverly Coffey

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Principal's News

Dear Parents and Friends,

This week we wait in anticipation of our Year 3 students as the second group prepares to receive the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist this coming Sunday. The Eucharist is central to our Faith as we acknowledge the need we have to receive the Body and Blood of Christ as nourishment, thus giving us the strength to live out the word of God. As a community it will be wonderful to see our families and staff from St Mary’s School supporting the students at the 12.30 Mass on Sunday. I always feel privileged to be working with such a dedicated and highly skilled teaching staff as the teachers from St Mary’s.

Our school is a hive of activity from seven o’clock each morning until well after five o’clock each afternoon as the teachers plan, meet and organize a variety of learning activities for your children. It is an expectation of the Australian Teaching Standards that teachers be skilled in the new initiatives and programs that form part of their professional development. When your child’s teacher is attending a Professional Development Workshop, the students are always taught by a professionally trained teacher, who follows the teaching program that has been prepared. The normal routine is rarely disrupted so that the learning continues. Currently the teachers are involved in professional development for the new Mathematics Curriculum, details of which can be viewed on the Board of Studies Website.

Thank you to the many parents who responded to the survey on the possibility of re-introducing the pick-up line after school. Many parents have commented how they would like to see this facility made available again. Further details of its operation will be in the final newsletter for this term to be published next Friday June 26. Enjoy the week ahead Yours in peace Beverly Coffey

Saturday, 13 June 2015

Principal's News

Dear Parents and Friends,

This week we celebrate the wonderful talents of our students as displayed in the recent St Mary’s Athletics Carnival and the Choir Eisteddfod at Chatswood Concourse.  Both events presented our students with the opportunity to display the voice learning principles that underpin our strong vision for student voice in the school through working in teams and developing school spirit.  May I take this opportunity to thank the many parents who were involved in both events and in particular Kellie Smith for the Athletics Carnival and Danielle Whitmore and Mary Tazawa-Lim for the choir.  Such parent engagement is highly valued at St Mary’s School.
Our teachers are also highly recognised for their expertise within the school and across the diocese.

Ms Kylie Norburn has been invited to take on a new teaching role within the Eastern Region of schools as a leader of learning in literacy.  This will involve her coaching teams of teachers across a number of schools as part of their professional development.  This appointment will commence next term and continue until the end of this year.  We congratulate Kylie on her excellent in teaching and wish her every success in her new appointment.

Mr Sean White has moved into a coordinator role here at St Mary’s as a leader of innovation and development.  This is an exciting role for him as we move forward with this way of creative thinking to support our focus on problem-solving.  We congratulate Sean on his commitment to the teaching profession and his passion for learning.

Talking Growth 
The new building works are progressing very well and on task for completion at the end of this term.  The use of glass and Tasmanian timbers throughout is contemporary and allows for extra light as a particular feature.  Currently painting work is being completed followed by the laying of carpets and tiles.

The handover of the building will take place at the end of the tem with occupation being the first day back in term 3.  Before the school occupies this new space we will notify all parents and students of how to access these areas and how the new spaces will be used.
A steering committee meeting for Stage 2 of the building project will take place shortly to look at plans for the future growth and to make any changes or additions if needed.  Information will then be circulated to all parents for comment.  Further details will follow in our next newsletter.

Enjoy the week ahead,

Yours in peace,
Beverly Coffey