There is so much that goes on beyond the classroom in a big and busy school like De La Salle College.
This week I would like to focus briefly on the very successful production of Legally Blonde, the Musical, presented by our students last week in conjunction with Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, Bentleigh. The musical itself was great fun; a truly excellent presentation by many very talented young men and women, all of whom contributed so much to the quality of the performance each night. However, beyond the central features we all see – the singing, dancing, acting, music, stage crew, costumes, set design and all that goes into these events – there is a much greater benefit.
Long-running performing arts events like our annual musicals bring together a vast range of students to work towards a shared goal. Whether they are in a lead role, playing in the orchestra, in the supporting cast or backstage there exists a wonderful sense of belonging, unity and the opportunity for personal growth. These productions encourage, in fact, require, development of a range of crucial skills which benefit the students in their academic and personal lives; commitment, resilience, high-level organisation and interpersonal skills. Each year the students develop wide and close-knit circles of friends as well, which is always lovely to see.
I had an email from one of the cast’s mothers this week, which I believe, sums up the tremendous experiences our boys gain from the performing arts.
I include an extract here:
“One of the reasons we selected De La Salle for our three sons was for the breadth of extracurricular activities offered to students, and the acknowledgement that there are many different passions and talents that can be developed, supported and encouraged.
Our three boys are very different, and for my son, school team sport has not been an area of particular interest. However, in Year 9 he put up his hand to be a part of Grease, beginning his four-year commitment to these productions. Participating in the shows requires many hours of commitment over many months. Through this we have watched him, develop self-confidence, maturity, an understanding of commitment and responsibility, and a sense of team spirit. He has made many new friends, developed a love for the performing arts, and very importantly, experienced joy through performance. His confidence and sense of self, have soared, and we are amazed and proud of the young man he has become.”
“Andrew Murrell and his team are to be commended for the many, many hours of work that go into these events. I know our family is more than a little sad to have watched the final production, but we do hope that he continues to follow this passion as he moves into a new phase of his life. We have your school to thank for that, and hope that many future students will benefit also.”
Coincidentally, I was last week reading an article from the UK on the value of performing arts.
“Arts education is linked to enhanced academic achievement in areas such as mathematics, reading, creative problem solving, critical thinking, and verbal skill, and can improve motivation, concentration, confidence and teamwork. Research acknowledges the value of creativity, curiosity and imaginative play, particularly for young children, and the need for innovative, creative and critical thinking in successful societies of the future”. Also, according to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural organisation (UNESCO), arts education “keeps students in school”.
The Warwick Commission asserts that arts education should be an entitlement — a universal right — for all children in schools: “We need creative scientists as much as we need artists who understand the property of materials and the affordances of new technology,” it states. Respected education expert Sir Ken Robinson has long declared that “creativity is as important in education as literacy” describing it as a “myth” that only certain people are creative. There is clearly so much more to be said for these shows than what the audience sees on stage on show night.
Thank you and well done to all concerned, especially our Drama Coordinator, Mr Andrew Murrell, who for the second year in a row took on the daunting role of Director. Ms Kelly Williams stepped into the role of leading the orchestra in their many hours of rehearsal and did an outstanding job in developing the students to the stage where their performances were inspiring and an integral, magnificent part of the show.
Thank you to the 550 mums and sons who attended this week’s Mother’s Day Breakfast. Since we held the first one in 2014, with about 240 in attendance the Mother’s Day Breakfast very quickly grew to 400 in 2015, 500 in 2016 and 550 for the past two years. It is a wonderful celebration of community and our mothers/sons’ relationships, which we are very proud to be a part of at De La Salle. A special thank you to Parent Network President, Mr Anthony Muir, ex-President, Mrs Cate Robertson and Alumni Officer, Mrs Trish Woodman who all did so much to make the Breakfast a tremendous success once again. Guest speaker Mrs Jennie Loughnan (aunt of three current students, AFL Ground Operations Manager and Secretary of the De La Salle Old Collegians Football Club) gave an excellent presentation around her experiences with the College and her professional journey through football.
Here at the College, we have had cause to undertake significant reviews around our various trips, exchanges and immersions. I would like to advise our community on the status of two of our traditional social justice immersion experiences for our students.
After many years of very generous personal commitment, service and dedication to numerous projects at De La Salle Secondary School Bomana, Papua New Guinea, Mr Tim Hogan and Mr Warren Walker have decided to step aside from this very demanding commitment. I must thank Tim and Warren for their ongoing willingness to regularly sacrifice a week of their September holidays to lead the Bomana project and provide supervision, instruction and overall invaluable and enriching experiences for many, many Year 11 students over the years. Their qualifications, skills and creativity via backgrounds in trades has been of unlimited value to the projects and all at Bomana are very grateful. The enthusiasm Tim and Warren demonstrated for the PNG trips, their generosity of time and spirit and the frantic pace at which they worked to complete projects in hot, humid, uncomfortable conditions is an enduring memory of the program. Organising and leading the Bomana project and supervising the works is a demanding role, requiring a variety of generalised and specific building skills and indeed, qualifications. In the absence of any formal applications from other suitably qualified staff and with ongoing concerns around being able to satisfy the demands of contemporary risk assessments – including DFAT warnings regarding civil unrest and security for trips of this nature to various countries, including PNG – it has been decided that the Papua New Guinea trip will not run in 2018.
This was a difficult decision for me to make, but for the reasons outlined above, I have little alternative. We will continue to support Bomana financially through our “twinning” arrangement and Mission Action Day funds. We will also explore with Bomana and the Lasallian Foundation how we can best contribute to the Lasallian Mission in Papua New Guinea. The potential for staff to visit PNG and assist with teacher professional learning is certainly one possibility available.
The other trip in question is the annual Exchange Program between De La Salle Malvern and La Salle Green Hills, Manila. Regrettably, we have felt it necessary to take the decision that we will not be sending a group of students to La Salle Green Hills in 2018. Despite the many benefits of the Exchange over more than 20 years, a number of factors combined to drive this decision. Our most recent trip to the Philippines in 2016 raised a number of concerns about the actual nature, purpose and value of the immersion. There are two main concerns influencing our decision. New legislation in Australia makes it even more crucial that we take more and more precautions around Child Safety. This is of particular relevance given our students are in a homestay environment for the best part of two weeks.
Firstly, trips to foreign countries carry a significant risk for us to mitigate, travel warnings from our government advise more caution than ever and the advice and rules around homestays – plus some issues of concern from our experiences in 2014 and 2016 — make that arrangement increasingly difficult. The original purpose, rationale and justification for the Philippines exchange was to be at one with the poor and support them when and how we could. The declining opportunities to engage in true social justice work and activities in Manila has also impacted on the viability and value of the trip from a Lasallian point of view.
Discussions and recommendations from the Camps and Overseas Trips Committee, plus anecdotal evidence regarding the Philippines exchange were communicated to the Executive Team, and to me personally, for consideration. In the current climate, especially with uncertainties around our capacity to mitigate certain sections of the Risk Assessment, I have little choice in the short term but to cancel the exchange for 2018. The safety of our students must be the number one consideration.
I have spoken to Br Ricky Laguda, General Councillor for the Lasallian District of PARC (Pacific-Asia Regional Conference) about my decision. Br Ricky is positive there will be alternative experiences and options for Malvern students to support social justice initiatives within his District. We are still keen to explore these options for the future and we are willing to look at the practicalities of hosting the Green Hills boys next year. I am sorry to be the bearer of bad news but I am confident we can continue the very strong relationship between Malvern, Bomana and Green Hills in other ways.
Congratulations to our students Benjamin Fierenzi, Year 12 (St Leo’s) Infielder and Mackenzie Turley, Year 11 (St Mark’s) Catcher who represented Victoria in the recent Australian Baseball Championships. Their team was successful in winning the bronze medal at the Championships.
Ben was named in the 2018 All Australian Baseball Team selected directly from performances at the Championships, the second year in succession he has achieved this accolade.
With 2018 being an Australian Schoolboys touring year, Ben will now travel to the US in September with this team for a 25 day College Baseball experience, commonly recognised as the Australia’s most prestigious trip in junior baseball giving all the boys the opportunity to fulfil their dreams of playing baseball and attending College in the US in the future. Here is Ben Fierenzi with his Mum, Kellie, at the Mother’s Day Breakfast.
Mr Peter Houlihan