Principal’s report on the 2021 school year.
We thank you all for your support and appreciate you joining us in person or via zoom. Mention must go to the members of our school board, for without their generous support and assistance the school would not be able to operate in the way that it does. The global pandemic and the many stressful repercussions of COVID-19 have made managing and running a school quite a stressful and complicated affair. A strong school board allows us to make decisions and discuss issues with confidence. I thank them for their continued support.
I would also like to thank our Business Manager, Karina Johnstone, for her continued dedication and tireless work to keep our school finances and governance in order and expertly managed. It is a big job at times throughout the year and COVID-19 has certainly added to that workload.
As COVID-19 continued to play a large part in our lives it was, once again, one of the dominant matters for discussion and influences on school life in 2021. Tasmania of course remained largely COVID-19 free throughout 2021, but the policies and procedures in place at a Federal, State and School level made it a constant part of our day. Rigorous cleaning and hygiene management along with a seemingly endless changing of isolation, quarantine and travel rules made for a very complicated management of our school community. Families with a parent that worked FIFO or needed to travel for work had some very complicated times managing school and attendance and their own employment. This of course affected some staff as well.
Due to the pandemic some of our students, particularly those with serious medical conditions or family members with medical issues, continued to work in alternative ways. Some students still required sections of time learning from home and we had a situation where we were able to accommodate 2 students on our campus but in isolation from other staff and students. I have great respect and admiration for our staff, at all levels, for their skilled and adaptive responses to these situations. We are very lucky to have a collection of people with such dedication and a willingness to do what is best for our students.
In 2021 vaccinations for COVID-19 became readily available and then proceeded to become a discussion on several medical and moral viewpoints in our society. Giant Steps Tasmania discussed the topic in detail and the school board took a strong and clear approach to the subject.
It was felt that with a complicated cohort of students with a variety of medical and care needs that our staff should do whatever was necessary to protect our school community.
As such COVID-19 vaccination was made mandatory in our policies. We lost a small number of staff through this process, and it was a difficult and awkward time, however, we believe it was the right thing to do.
2021 continued the trend of increased enrolments and enquiries. After entering a record number of 35.8 full time equivalent (FTE) students into the 2020 census we were very pleased to be able to offer our program to 39.4 FTE students at the time of the 2021 census. This was made up of 45 individual students with several students on a waiting list by the years end. A reminder that the difference between the FTE and the total students is because some students do a dual enrolment and are with us for only some of the week.
So with record numbers of students in the school, where do we put them all? You may recall that in 2020 we were successful in our application to the State Government for Capital Works, and they will be granting us $200,000.00 toward Stage 1 and 2 of our building plans. This will result in the building of 2 new classroom buildings and the refurbishment of the Tower Hill Cottage. This was a project we had hoped to get off the ground in 2021 but unfortunately the building boom, skyrocketing costs and the lack of available builders and contractors meant that we did not receive any successful tender applications for our project (Thankfully this has not happened in 2022 and we are starting in July!). Staff and students are again very adaptable, and we do not waste any of our classroom space. The Garden at 33 West Church Street also became a popular teaching space and the design of our new vegie garden and raspberry patch became a major project in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math). The garden has also become a favoured area for some of our students when they are seeking a calming space.
A sad part of 2020 was the departure of our wonderful Education Administrator, Heidi Bush Heidi is an extremely accomplished professional in teaching and curriculum development. Heidi moves on to new challenges and perhaps some more time to cycle and paddle with her husband. We are most fortunate to have had the time we did with Heidi, and it allowed us to further improve and work on our school curriculum. Heidi began the process of developing a great concept-based curriculum to help with our wide variety of students and the complex differentiation that is required to meet their academic needs effectively and appropriately.
When Heidi gave us the news she was leaving, she gave us plenty of time to prepare for the next step. This allowed us to have some productive conversations with Heidi and our staff on what it was that we really need. We have had a bit of a journey through our 3 Education Administrators, and they have all left their mark in different ways due to their differing skill sets. Chris Jacobsen is still providing us with excellent policy writing and revising skills.
A larger school means an increasing demand on not only me but Karina, the office staff, and the teachers, so our main area of need was curriculum and some areas of school leadership. The eventual outcome of these discussions was the formation of a new Leadership Group.
This group now uses the wonderful skills of some of our existing staff to help keep our school program up and running. Our existing extended learning teacher Kimberly Trebilco has now taken on a somewhat expanded role with more responsibility and is now known as the Curriculum Coordinator. Supporting Kimberly and myself is Sam Langley in the new role of Head Teacher. Sam teaches our Red Room and now has 2 days off class to learn about school leadership and to help spread the weight of some tasks such as staff management and rostering. We are developing his skills and we have people to run things in my absence. The final member of the Leadership group is our Occupational Therapist, Siaren. Siaren is an important asset to the group as she brings her experience and Allied Health knowledge to discussions and problem-solving. The group meets fortnightly and has been a very successful addition to our school.
2021 bought us many great moments and exciting events. Our Sports program continued with our annual House Sports Day, football, basketball, swimming, and archery. The movie-making fun continued with more and more students involved in making short films. In 2021 we held our annual movie day in Deloraine’s Little Theatre. It was a magical day and it brought forth some memories and amusing stories from some of the local staff who attended movie nights in Deloraine as youths. The first annual Soggy Bottom Boat competition was a giant success and a real hoot! Students designed and attempted to row a cardboard boat one lap of our pool. Hilarious results! We also had our first Care and Careers Expo. This was held at the Deloraine Football Club, and we invited a number of people from various employment providers, industries, care providers, community groups and organisations to come and talk with our students and their families on post-school options. This was a great day, and we have some wonderful ideas to improve on the event in the future.
In 2021 we received many wonderful donations and gifts.
The Deloraine based Golden Opportunity Shop is quite simply legendary.
They continue to support several students and it is magnificent that one small community group can make such a huge difference in the lives of several families. Just wonderful. The Blackstone Christian Centre once again donated over 20 Christmas food hampers to our families and the care and thoughtfulness that goes into these hampers is amazing. They are not just the dregs from the back of parishioners’ cupboards. They really go all out! The Rotary Club of Devonport South East continued to support our students with some of the proceeds of their annual golf day going towards the purchase of sensory items for our upcoming new faculty. There are many service clubs, organisations and individuals that support our school and we are always extremely grateful for any support.
In conclusion 2020 was a year that had some challenges but many highlights. It was another fine example of the strength of our school community. With growing numbers and enquiries it seems clear that the Tasmanian and even Australian community recognises the value of the high-quality program we offer our students. I thank all involved in making this possible .