Monday, June 25, 2012

Dear Parents, Caregivers and Friends of St Mary’s School,

Here we are in Week Ten and what a busy term it has been .

The end of this term is one that is especially poignant as it is the last newsletter that will come out with Mrs Simmons on the staff.  Anne Simmons has worked at St Mary’s School for 26 years, 24 of them consecutively, in these times of people changing their job every few years this is an amazing example of loyalty.

Loyalty is how we will best remember Mrs Simmons’ time at St Mary’s, loyalty not just to a person but loyalty to an institution and a concept.  Over her 36 years of teaching Mrs Simmons has seen many changes in education, changes in teaching techniques, changes in the resources used, massive changes in the resources used, and massive changes in how schools and education is administered and in how teachers are trained.  But despite all this, the compass she has used, and it is a challenge to all educators, is to ask the question: what is best for the children?

If we use this compass our children will receive the education that they deserve.

 So as we say goodbye to Mrs Simmons from St Mary’s School we wish her well in her retirement.  I know that she plans to travel around visiting her grandchildren and I hope she will still find time to come and spend time with her friends at St Mary’s.

We are holding a Mass on Friday 1.30pm to farewell Mrs Simmons and you are all co-cordially invited

-see attached notice.


Have a happy and safe holiday

Mike Brosnahan

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Dear Parents, Caregivers and Friends of St Mary’s School,

“At St Mary’s: Students …. Learn in a positive and encouraging environment”. 

“Teachers know their students’ learning needs very well and plan programmes to develop them into well rounded citizens”.

“Students in Year Seven and Eight have valuable leadership opportunities, including being positive role models and whanau leaders”.  “Students learn in settled classrooms”. “All students showed high levels of interest and motivation in their learning”  - ERO Review 2012.

 While it is always nice to read good feedback about your school when this feedback came from the Education review Office in a formal review then it is pleasing. The above are just a sample of the pleasing feedback that we received after the ERO March visit.  (The full review can be found on their website).

 The challenge that schools face in this new age of National Standards is to ensure that our pupils receive an excellent grounding in the basic skills (reading, writing and mathematics) but that they are also exposed to a broad curriculum that caters holistically to their individual strengths.  The fact that the ERO team stated “Teachers know their students learning needs very well and plan programmes to develop them into well rounded citizens”, is high praise indeed.

 Recently my son was invited to consider studying the International Baccalaureate syllabus in Years 12 and 13.  The presentation highlighted many positives for the IB syllabus, but to me the aspect that I found most interesting was the holistic nature of the syllabus.  It catered to the whole person and not just the academic.  This is a highly thought of prestigious international qualification that opens the door to the great universities of the world and it’s greatest perceived strength is vthat it caters to the whole person, which is inherent in our New Zealand curriculum.  A curriculum that the ERO team stated “is well implemented to promote and encourage students learning”.

So well done to the teachers and Board for achieving such a great result.

 Recently in conjunction with the first round of school interviews I have been talking to the parents of our Year Six pupils about the opportunities that they can expect in our Year Seven & Eight class.  This was a great opportunity to engage in positive dialogue and I was thrilled with the positive feedback and loyalty that I was privy to.

The large number of Year Six pupils who will be returning to complete their primary education at St Mary’s was very affirming (and while I still have a couple of families to talk with) no one has confirmed that they will be leaving us—a great outlook for our future.


Have a great week

Mike Brosnahan

Dear Parents, Caregivers and Friends of St Mary’s School,

Last week I had the privilege of spending two days as a part of the Catholic Education Office review team that was working at St Therese’s School in Invercargill.

This was a great opportunity for me as it allowed me to work with the review team and to study the procedures that they followed and also to work in a school that while larger than our still had many common characteristics.

The challenge for all integrated schools is to protect the integrity of the special character of the school, in our case the Catholic Special Character, after all this is why the schools exist.

St Mary’s as a school has an interesting history because it was not founded by a religious order, as most church schools were, but by a lay teacher.  The Sisters of Mercy took over the running of the school, and administered it for a good part of it’s history, that is why we have the school motto—Misericordiae (Mercy).  Mercy as we understand means benevolence, forgiveness and kindness.

In this day of mission statements, visions and values we have lost sight a little of the purpose or reason for a motto. A motto is a pledge or phrase meant to formally summarize the general motivation or intention of a group or organization. So a challenge that we as a school community have is to honor our motto of Mercy (Misericordiae) and to show forgiveness and kindness.

The Parable of the Prodigal son and his Brother (Luke 15:11-32) best depicts what we see as Mercy, but it also has the added component of the ‘good’ brother who was angry that the prodigal had returned, realizing that he had lost nothing by his brother returning.

Often we forget that like a good golfer we should focus on our own game and not compare our situation against others, because if we do this we will never be happy.

 Have a great week.

Mike Brosnahan


Dear Parents, Caregivers and Friends of St Mary’s School,

 Over the last week the top news story has been the National Lead Governments attempt to increase the number of pupils in school classrooms and to stop Year Seven and Eight pupils having access to specialist technology teachers.

Any logical person can see that increasing the size of a Year Two or Three class room from 18 to 28 will have a huge negative effect on the learning environment and the very important pupil teacher relationship—simply put there are ten more voices to be heard.

While I am sure that this makes great economic sense sometimes leadership is not about being reactionary but rather about thinking strategically.  Yes New Zealand schools have a tail of under-achievers.  Yes it is too large (any tail is too large) but most studies highlight the fact that New Zealand schools are ranked in the top echelon of countries in the OECD and that our tail is mostly caused by social effects well outside the control of any school (mainly poverty).

At St Mary’s we have  a commitment to keep our class sizes as small as possible, I have yet to hear of a similar school that has smaller sized classes.  Often the teacher due to their professionalism and burning desire to do the best for their class press me for more resources, but alas even we must adhere to budgets and allocations of funding and teacher staffing.

No class at St Mary’s has more pupils than the prescribed ministry guidelines, few schools can claim this.

We will battle to continue this trend, but your support makes this challenge far easier.  The Government will not be influenced by teachers or unions rather it is you, as parents, who will influence the outcomes of this debate.

Contact your local National MP Michael Woodhouse and voice your concerns to him.

At St Mary’s we battle very hard to make our resources go as far as we can: few schools have better resources, greater teacher aid time and smaller classes but all of this is under threat.  The challenges in education are always great because the stakes are so high (the future of our country) and we will continue to do our very best for your children but take it from someone who knows class size does matter.

 I will be away the first two days of this week as part of the Catholic Education Offices Review Team reviewing St Theresa’s in Invercargill.

Mrs Kenneally will be Acting Principal in my absence, I will be back on Thursday.

Have a great week.

Mike Brosnahan