It is with enormous pleasure that I welcome you to the last newsletter of the year, and the last one from me. In August I communicated my intention to leave in January 2018 and since then I have had time to reflect on just how much we have achieved together. That reflection has also served to remind me just how long a decade can be!
When I was first appointed principal, Facebook had overtaken MySpace as the world’s largest social media network and the first iPhone was released. Over the past decade we have had five State Premiers, six Prime Ministers (one of them twice!), and importantly, one of them a woman. Our school has changed too. It’s a big school, at least thirty percent bigger than when I arrived. And yet it continues to feel local, a place where students can find ‘their people’ and staff can bring their diverse skills and experience, energy and passion. And where we still have room for the quirky and unique.
I believe our vision and values have played a big part in creating and sustaining this great culture. Together, we created a template for what makes our school special and made that live, not just in the words of those values but how we practice them each day. Everyone got involved, students, teachers, support staff, parents and School Council. We developed them the way we like to do things here at Northcote – as a community. These values say exactly who we are: Achievement, Curiosity, Humanity and Fairness. The rigorous process, the debates and discussions that developed them mean that they are something we all own! It is no wonder that they now inform everything we do.
Past student and school captain, Lily Chalmers, spoke recently about her experience at NHS. She encapsulated for me, what we are about. This school is a place where students and staff work together in a way that enables students to discover who they are, what they enjoy and to realise their potential. They go out into the world capable and competent, involved and contributing. As Lily said, Northcote students are everywhere, and they are making a difference through activism, getting involved, being passionate, and doing what they believe in. Our capable, knowledgeable and committed staff have done a great job in preparing our young people for life beyond the school. There’s no one beige in this institution and it has been a great privilege to work with each of them.
It has been a joy to be part of a school where parents and families get involved and give freely of their time, expertise and skills to make it an even better place. The work this school achieves is only possible because we are backed by such generous, involved families. It really does take a village to raise a child and we are lucky that our Northcote village is made up of so many diverse and enthusiastic parts. Schools are better when they are within vibrant communities, and communities are stronger when they are connected to a neighbourhood school: NHS is that for the inner North.
We have achieved a great deal over what sometimes feels like a very short time. The campus Masterplan is being implemented, with the refurbishment of the Art and Design Hub; and the Performance Hub is now being built after some years in the planning. We have introduced The Northcote Model to bring real choice and voice for young people in what and how they learn and to empower teachers to find their voice in curriculum. The Northcote Thrive Fund – to build, inspire, innovate, empower and contribute - is now a reality. Thrive will be an active vehicle for donations and contributions, with defined goals, that allow our community to more actively live our values.
The classroom of course remains the centre of our work. And as the year and my time as Principal draws to a close I want to take this opportunity to say what is already obvious to everyone who is a part of our community: this is a great school. It has great students and it has a truly great team of teachers and support staff. Teaching and learning remain our core business and it’s a business we do very well! Northcote is special because the young people we work with are special – warm, open and full of opinions, ideas and energy. Being part of the deep tradition of this school – its proud role in establishing public education in this suburb - has been a privilege. I am proud to have lead this school and continued its commitment to being the best neighbourhood school it can be - and wherever I go and whatever I do next, NHS will always have a special place in my life.