From the Principal: 18 August 2020

From the Principal: 18 August 2020

As we head into the second half of the term after a short break, we must gather all our strength to buoy each other and to remain positive. Let us hope we get control of this pandemic soon. The first lockdown period was hard enough, but this second lockdown finds us all a bit flat and sharing the worries of our community and the world. We now have those in our community who know those who have succumbed to this terrible virus and sadly, I know that some of us have lost loved ones and have not had the opportunity to say goodbye properly. I have witnessed many of my Principal colleagues find themselves with active cases in their schools and needing to close for deep cleaning and all the disruption that this brings. I have offered support and our collective condolences as this becomes yet another blow for a community to deal with.

Fortunately, Melbourne Girls Grammar has managed to remain an open campus with no cases in our close community. With our youngest and most senior Grammarians joining the rest of our cohorts in remote learning on 4 August, it seemed as if we were dealt another disappointment in which we needed to get our head around. I was very proud of how our Senior Grammarians leant into each other and their teachers in response to this hurdle.

I have thoroughly enjoyed participating in our 8B48 initiative. It is a time in the morning when we all get motivated to skip or dance and get the blood pumping and our endorphins kick started. Our Middle Years Grammarians especially have taken up this challenge with gusto!

I am often overwhelmed with pride of the sanguinity of our Grammarians at MGGS. Not only do our students show great resilience to the changes we have been facing in recent times, but they are also able to see the ‘silver lining’. Last week it gave me great joy to learn that our very own Year 4 Leader, Mehak, was awarded a winner of the ISV Inaugural Poetry Competition. In Mehak’s poem, she spoke to the optional theme of ‘Hope’ in her poem titled Silver Lining. Not only was Mehak announced a winner of this competition, but she also received a special mention from both ISV Chief Executive Michelle Green and Victorian Deputy Premier and Minister for Education, the Honourable James Merlino. Minister Merlino was so touched by Mehak’s poem that he recited the following lines as his departing message to his viewers, “We are braver than we believe, We are stronger than we seem, Tough times never last”. I would like to personally congratulate Mehak on this remarkable achievement and thank her for bringing optimism to our lives through poetry. Bravo!

Recently, a seriously impressive proposal came my way from a group of students in Year 9. Two creatives, Founding Editor, Sienna and Staff Liaison Officer, Rosemary, have put forward the concept of a student led online art magazine that will sit in eVI. I listened to their proposal and then asked them to follow up with some research into the processes, protocols required and they are now ready to begin this exciting project. In their words: As you may know, MGGS has a large community of artists and creatives who are extremely passionate about their art forms. We hope to engage with these artists as well as the broader school community, through the creation of an interactive magazine, driven and led by students for students, opening up opportunities for these passionate young MGGS artists to extend and develop their respective skills within a safe and welcoming space. Congratulations to this entrepreneurial group of Grammarians. The online magazine is called Off-Centre! and I encourage you to look out for it. Bravo Grammarians!

I often hold walking meetings with my Executive Team members when we meet fortnightly. This is a practice I have carried out for over eight years and I find that when you are ‘walking and talking’, you can be very productive and there is a sense of shared purpose. Most often at MGGS, I walk through the School with my colleague, deep in conversation and I find the students are often curious of what exactly we are doing! The discussions are always free flowing as we discuss their portfolios and our strategic thinking. This is much harder to do on Zoom, however, I am most fortunate to live near our amazing Deputy Principal, Ms Lynn Broadway and so in isolation we are able to meet up for walks, socially distancing and with face masks, of course! This has been an excellent way of checking in and catching up in a very personal way in our care for the School and the community. I am grateful for her wisdom and for her deep knowledge of our history and culture.

Staffing update

At a time when we are all facing the impact of 2020 and life in Stage 4 in Melbourne, it is wonderful to be able to share with you some exciting and positive news. After receiving outstanding applications and undertaking a thorough interview process, I am now able to confirm our appointments for two senior leadership positions at Melbourne Girls Grammar effective from January 2021:

• Executive Director, Curriculum, Pedagogy, and Innovation – Mr Ashley Pratt

• Executive Director, Digital Learning, Research, and Innovation – Ms Lauren Sayer

I look forward to warmly welcoming them to our MGGS Executive Team and working both to achieve the goals of our 2020-2025 Strategic Plan. 

This term we will be farewelling to two dear members of staff who are retiring and whom many of you will know very well.

First, Mrs Robyn Fergusson, Teacher of Early Learning at the Barbara Tolson Centre and Old Grammarian will be retiring at the end of this year. Robyn has played an important part in the life of the ELC for many years. Robyn has been with the school since 1997 and has seen 23 year levels pass through the ELC, making a significant impact on the lives of many Grammarians. This is a remarkable achievement and I know that our staff at the BTC and Grammarians will miss Robyn dearly. Robyn will be taking Long Service Leave in Term 4 and will, therefore, conclude with her teaching at the end of Term 3. We will be inviting Robyn back in Term 4 where we hope to be able to farewell her properly and in person.

Second, Mr Richard Ashton, Debt Collection and Accounts Receivables Officer, will also be retiring this year. Richard commenced with MGGS in 1999 as a Financial Account and has held various important roles within our Business Office, all the while maintaining the important and highly valued role of Athletics Coach. Richard, a man true to his ‘athletic’ title has coached many students and staff to reach their athletic goals whilst still finding time to whip around The Tan each day of the week! Many of you would have dealt with Richard at some stage and will join me in noting his professional yet personal approach to every individual. Richard will be retiring from MGGS on Friday 28 August. Again, we will look to celebrate Richard’s departure in Term 4 in person.

Please join me in congratulating, thanking and farewelling these two significant Melbourne Girls Grammar employees.

I opened with hoping that the pandemic is under control soon and I think we are all wanting this to conclude in 2020, so that in 2021 we can just get on with it! I am sure our 7th Principal D.J. Ross had the same thinking in 1942. This week our School historian and archivist, alumnae, Ms Pip O’Connor (Farrer) shared the following story of when the School moved to Marysville and Doncaster in 1942.

The School had expected to be at Doncaster for 1942, but certainly not still to be there in August 1944. There was an ongoing battle between Miss Ross and the military authorities over the return of the school buildings. In 1943, the School was scattered on nine different sites and the parents even sent a petition to the Prime Minister, Mr Curtin asking for the return of the School premises. After numerous delays and disappointments, the final return date was set for August 1944, but Miss Ross arrived to find the RAAF still in possession. The comment from the Wing Commander, “But, you have no idea, Miss Ross, what it means to move 200 men out of a building like this. It takes time”, did not sit well with the woman who, in 1942, had organised in very short time the relocation of an entire school of over 600! In her own words, she vented “all the rage and fury and frustration” of dealing with the inefficiencies of their administration. She ended with, “It must be obvious to everyone that women can do these things better!” The Doncaster return was accomplished in a single day, Sunday 15 August, with all staff and students working together. In her words, “There were no passengers on that journey”. Every piece of furniture was labelled, every room was labelled, and by 6pm the school was as it had been 32 months earlier. A lesson for the RAAF in organisation!

This year we have faced incredible hardship together and have been reminded that throughout our history we have endured adversity. I have referenced D.J. Ross and the upheaval of 1942 several times during this current crisis, as I continue to find close parallels. The following quote was said to School Council by Ross in 1942. “I cannot speak too highly of the way in which members of the staff have worked through this whole emergency. This move has been an acid test to all of us and those who are bearing the burden of it are most certainly acting up to the high ideals of their profession.” In my Principal Update to our School Council last week my words of our staff were almost identical. I love that the ‘acid test’ is being applied today just as it was nearly 80 years ago. Ours is a school that has strengthened with time and has experienced history in a fulsome manner.

In closing, in the words of Mehak, “We are braver than we believe. We are stronger than we seem. Tough times never last”.

I hope that your family remains in good health. Take care, stay safe, keep well.

Author

Dr Toni E. Meath, Principal