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Nau mai, haere mai, talofa lava, malo e lelei, bula vinaka, kia orana, warm greetings

It is a time of reflection as we come to the end of a very unique term. At the start of this Term 1 we would have not thought for one minute that we were about to enter a global pandemic, that would have caused a six week national lockdown. As a school community I have been very proud of the way our students and staff have navigated the first half of the year. As we enter the second half of the year and further turmoil within our community, our ability to stay connected, patient, and empathetic will be the most important traits we can exhibit.

As a country, like many others globally, we will enter into an economic recession. This will cause a lot of pain amongst New Zealanders, we are seeing this already with numerous job losses and the increased anxiety and stress on mental health that normally follows. What we are hearing across the education sector, both regionally and nationally, this is having an impact on the many young people that make up our school communities. We are entering a time where being connected and forgiving of each other will help keep our communities strong.

Looking at our academic progress in our senior students (NCEA Level 1, 2 and 3) we are pleased with the achievement levels of our students. If our students continue to work at the levels they have in the first half of the year we will have achievement levels comparable to last year which were of a very high level. It is worth keeping in mind for our junior students that they will have been affected in a very different way to senior students due to their age and stage when reading the half year reports. It is our experience that for our younger students any change in achievement will not have an adverse effect on their ability to gain senior qualifications once they enter Year 11.

I can remember back to the post-earthquake time in Christchurch where many of our families had to battle through rebuilds, employment issues and we saw an increase in significant stress on mental health and wellbeing. The big learning from this time was to support each other and work patiently on problems that we may encounter along the way. The best outcomes I have seen during times of turmoil have always been focused on the human elements of dignity, respect, and compassion. I feel blessed to have this present and alive in our community.

We have had a fantastic Special Character Week to finish our term, it has been a true celebration of our Catholic faith at St Thomas’. I would like to thank our student leaders, Year 13 group and all of our staff for the fantastic experience our students have been able to finish the term on.

Today we farewell several staff as they move onto the next chapter of their lives. We wish them well for the future.

· Brad Milne, Assistant Principal, to Deputy Principal Role at Rolleston College

· Richard Washington, Assistant Principal, departing to Jeju, in Korea

· Claire Washington, Counsellor, departing to Jeju, Korea

· Jacob Allen, Marlow House Dean, departing to International School in Korea

· Rosemary Cooper, ESOL Teacher Aide, retiring after 27 years of service.

We wish these long serving staff members all the best in the next phase of their lives. We often speak as a staff about leaving their role in a better place than they found it, these outstanding individuals have certainly left a lasting influence on our St Thomas’ community.

Due to these departures we have had a number of staffing changes for Term 3 & 4.

· Andrew Auimatagi, Assistant Principal, Innovation and Engagement (Senior Curriculum)

· Daniel O’Brien, Assistant Principal, Enhancement and Culture (Pastoral and Health and Safety)

· Tim Muir, Leader of Learning Physical Education and Health

· Billy Gulliver, Year 7 and 8 Dean

· Chris Leader, Marlow House Dean

· Yvonne Shield, Academic Administrator

· SeYe Chan, Leader of Learning Social Sciences

These staffing changes have given us an opportunity to structure our leadership in a direction that our community has identified for the future. I wish all staff in these new roles best wishes and I am sure they will take up the mantle of self-improvement and servant leadership fully.

I wish all of our students a restful holiday break, time to take stock of what has been a once in a hundred year experience. I trust our families will take the opportunity to spend time together and recharge their batteries.

I will leave you with our Prayer of thanks for Blessed Edmund Rice;

“O God, we thank you for the life of Edmund Rice. He opened his heart to Christ present in those oppressed by poverty and injustice. May we follow his example of faith and generosity. Grant us the courage and compassion of Edmund as we seek to live lives of love and service.”