Newsletter Term 4 – Week 4


On your behalf I welcome back Mrs Boyer from her well deserved Long Service Leave.

As you know I’m away in Canberra for the next few days. Although I approach this time with some doubt, I want you to know how proud I am of our communities work in the dreaming and planning of our new learning space. I believe that this design will enhance all that we already know about good teaching. I sincerely thank Mr White and Mrs Keenan for their incredible creativity and skill in the production of our presentation. Furthermore, I thank Mr Hernandez for his camera work. What a brilliant 3 weeks.

Last week I again welcomed 2010 staff and signed contracts. At this stage we are 95% complete in securing staffing positions and placement. My sincere thanks goes to Mrs Hoogenvest for her support in allocation and budget planning, vital to our staffing needs.

Curriculum and Professional Learning
Over the last three weeks we have:-

1. Reviewed and Developed a Shared Pedagogical Statement. This list of Pedagogical beliefs reflects not only what we know to be good practice but also why we know 21st century learning requires such practise.

2. Analysis of 2009 Assessments
This think tank of reflection and review allowed for a deep
understanding of our student needs and next step forward. Within this
review we were able to see the great developments in reading,
spelling and writing. In Maths all have been able to identify students
growth in space & measurement and number facts.

The challenges and areas for growth in 2010 are now reflected in the third phase of our planning, namely our goals and targets.

I sincerely thank our team leaders and all core teams for the effort and professional skill applied to this vital work.

Over the last three weeks there has been some other major activities building momentum:

Gifted & Talented
Mrs Fernandes and Mrs Hutchinson following initial testing have been meeting with parents, students and class teachers in planning Individual Programs for students scoring highly in the K-Bit assessment.

This brilliant initiative is ensuring a building of our capacity to meet the needs of all children. I know that in 2010 our understanding and ability to support the Gifted & Talented students will continue to grow.

Congratulations and thanks to Mrs Baddock and Mrs Boyle for supporting the needs of children commencing school in 2010.

This programme is vital in ensuring smooth transition and in supporting families of children with special needs.

This week saw the second series in working with students in problem solving and analysis.

Many thanks to Mr Siciliano and Mr Crowley for their work with the learning support team and class teachers.

The high yield gains in this work is measured by the:-
* Design of sound problems
* Opportunity to engage on a one to one basis with children in understanding their thought process and ability to use Mathematical language.
* The opportunity for teachers to work together in reviewing and reflecting on children’s abilities.

And finally…
What a triumph and celebration of community. Many thanks to Miss Long, Miss Friend, Mrs Mastrosa, Mrs Foxe, Mrs Dudley and Mrs Easton for their inspiration and creativity.

Please support our:
11th November 2009
Time: 1.30pm in Library

John Laffan

Newsletter – Term 4 Week 2

Term 4 in a school year is an exciting time of change, review and

In our first week we short-listed over 100 applicants for teaching positions and interviewed 20 teachers for our positions. Once this initial process is complete we then can finalise our 2010 teaching team.

Over the next 3 weeks our staff professional learning will support our 2009 Goals by:-
1. Confirming our shared Pedagogy.
2. Complete analysis of assessments including NAPLAN results.
3. Creation of 2010 Goals in response to our children’s needs.

From the commencement of term, teachers will commence the ongoing tasks of planning assessments, analysis work and preparing for reports.

In planning for 2010, class groups will be a major consideration. Teaching teams in preparing these groups look at the academic, social, learning styles and gender of students in seeking balance.

The successes seen in our 2009 class groups and their ability to grow is indicative of this planning.

At St Michael’s provision is not made for the specific selection of students entering nominated classes.

When I reflect on our year as a community, I look back on 2009 as a year of growth.

Our Parents & Friends Association have been lead by a group of loyal, hardworking, supportive parents. On your behalf I sincerely thank Annie Murray, Paul Scott, Lee-Ann Dever and Laraine Taranto.

Throughout the year our growth in community can be measured by our Liturgies, special events, sporting events and social celebrations such as the Trivia Night and the Family Fun Day.

As a community we have experienced ongoing support in parent support groups in classrooms, carnivals, special events and volunteers in the canteen.

So then, please place our Parent Helpers Morning Tea, Tuesday, 8th December at 10.00am in your diary.

Please support our:
11th November 2009
Time: 1.30pm in Library


Prayer for the Year of St Paul
A prayer drawing on the experiences, faith and writing of St Paul

God our Father,
source of mercy and truth,
through the preaching of
saint Paul the Apostle,
you teach us and deepen our faith.

Convert our hearts with minds to You.
grant that we may follow Saint Paul’s example
may we grow in holiness.

Enliven us to live by the Spirit
in faith, hope, and charity.
inspire us to hand on to others
what we have received from You.

Strengthen us to pur out ourselves
and serve You with humility and compassion.
move us to unite ourselves
to the sufferings of Christ
that we may die with Him
in order to rise with Him.
Help us to trust that nothing can
separate us from Your love.

Direct us to seek on the things of heaven
so that after running the race
and fighting the good fight,
we might share the crown of glory
promised to those who love You.
We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen


John Laffan

Newsletter – Term 3 – Week 10

Dear Parents & Friends,

What a term we have had with school success in the track & field, Voice of Youth and in the performing arts, our children have demonstrated a diverse range of skills.

Our success in teaching and learning can be measured in many ways. The development of our second major goal around 21st century pedagogy will see us focussed on the ongoing “science of teaching”. We will continue to develop our literacy and numeracy blocks ensuring that Engagement, Empowerment and Reflection are key elements in supporting our children’s wholistic development.

NAPLAN is a Commonwealth Government initiative that tests students in Years 3, 5, 7, 9 & 10. Our own Assessment results were telling us that our children’s growth in reading was excellent (this following two years of intensive work) however, NAPLAN results confirm this with our school being in the top 10% of growth for reading.

Invitation to St Michael’s
Feast Day
Friday, 2nd October 2009

9.30am      St Michael’s Feast Day Mass in the Church

11.30am    St Michael’s is alive with the Sound of Music – Concert in the 

                     Primary Quad

2.00pm    Staff vs Student Leaders T-Ball game on the Primary Playground


Over Term 4 we will feed back more detailed analysis. Our overall literacy is looking strong with ongoing attention being required in writing. In Mathematics we will continue to build children’s skills in problem solving and understanding of mathematical language.

Over the holiday break our 21st century learning space will commence with demolition of our primary toilet block and preparation of the site.


Prayer: Psalm 92
It is good to proclaim your love in the morning
And your truth in the watches of the night.

Some people ask, “How are we supposed to pray?” Other people ask—more correctly, I think—”How do you pray?” Prayer, you see, is a very personal part of spiritual development. It changes as we change. It deepens as we grow, simplifies as we do, as the years go by.

Prayer centres and stretches us and lays us bare, as the prayer says, “of all self-conceits.” Inside ourselves, we know who we are and what we need and what we lack and what we don’t understand and what we long for as we go. It is this awareness and the dependence on God it brings with it that are the wellspring of prayer.

Those thoughts, if we honour them and face them, become the function of a prayer life that will eventually strip us of everything but our desire for God. Prayer is the awareness that it is not a question of whether or not God is present to us—that we can take for granted: instead, prayer is the process of our becoming present to God.

So, real prayer can be fed by any one of a number of things—Scripture, nature, personal experience, emotional pressures, intellectual commitment to the God who is greater than any idea of God we can possibly have. But whatever the life-link that brings us into consciousness of God, in the end the way we pray has something to do with who we are.

The whole notion, then, that there is some prayer formula or ritual or schedule or style that is right for everyone is, at best, naïve. Even The Rule of Benedict, that sixth-century document on the spiritual life that devotes more chapters to prayer than to any other topic in The Rule, ends the long outline of psalms and readings by saying, “But if any of the monastics know a better way, let them arrange them differently.” No single, form we find, is the ultimate valuation of a life of prayer.

Prayer is real if it changes us, if it enables the inbreaking of God in our lives. And to do that we must “proclaim your love in the morning…your truth in the watches of the night.”

Once again our Family Fun Day was a roaring success. Between 900-1,000 people celebrated our lives together.

On your behalf I thank:
Laraine Taranto
Lee-Ann Dever
Paul Scott &
Annie Murray for their incredible effort and vision. I also thank the many parents and families who contributed time in supporting this event.


John Laffan

Newsletter – Term 3 – Week 6 – 2009

Dear Parents & Friends,

There’s so much to celebrate so Let’s Celebrate our Community. Let’s get together to celebrate the gift of our children. The gift of our community. So join us on our big day…

The St Michael’s Family Fun Day
Sunday, 20th September

Children’s Choir
Individual Performers
Year 5 Strings Ensemble
Year 2 Performers
International Food
Family Games
Dancing and much much more…

Last Friday our Federal Member, Roger Price, presented us with a cheque for $3,000,000.00 Even though he took it back again (he needed the big cheque for another school) the visit and symbolic gesture was the green light for an incredible opportunity.

We will build an iconic, flexible, agile learning space

Newsletter – Term 3 – Week 4 – 2010

Dear Parents & Friends,

Living our Motto “Love One Another” creates a clear picture of what our school community should feel, sound and look like. Such a clear motto can also create many challenges as we prepare our children for life in the 21st century.

As well as our motto our vision and mission statement speaks of the Engagement, Reflection and Empowerment of all our children, in fact it also challenges all of us in constantly seeking out best practice in learning and teaching.

We have declared many times that our core goal at St Michael’s is strengthening our children’s ability to comprehend a variety of texts. Throughout 2009 our Literacy & Math’s Core teams have supported our professional learning in the development of Literacy and Math’s Learning Blocks. At this stage of our plan we have spent a great deal of time reflecting on our assessment tasks and how the tasks are supporting the different learning needs of our students.

Today I want to share with you a new goal, this goal will focus on the development of 21st pedagogy (science of teaching) that will support and challenge our learning in a variety of learning spaces and environments.

As you know the Commonwealth Government has granted funds for the building of an iconic learning space that will also support community events… Our proposed design has the potential of providing a unique, agile learning space and has the ability to become a benchmark for what all learning spaces (classrooms) can become.

Over the next few weeks we will be examining and reflecting on our knowledge of best practice in—cooperative, boys, quadrant, praxis, collaborative and use of 21st technology in learning. We will core down through all these strategies and create a common pedagogy that will be lived out at St Michael’s.

Exciting isn’t it!

An open letter to our Parents and Friends Association Executive,

Dear Leanne, Paul, Loraine and Annie,

On behalf of the St Michael’s School community I sincerely thank you for your ongoing support, energy and leadership.

At this stage in the year your work in building our community through social events and celebrations has been a great success.

I know that so much work goes into Mother’s and Father’s days as well as Trivia Nights. Our Family Fun day is already looking bigger than last years.

In 2009 your work in building up our clothing pool has also required a great deal of time and planning. As a result we are able to provide excellent quality clothing at great prices.

Beyond all this your work in supporting, reviewing and at times challenging school direction and initiatives is greatly appreciated.

An so on behalf of all of us I thank you and pray that God continues to bless you, your work and your families.



Scripture Reading: You will show me the path of life, the fullness of joy in your presence. Psalm 16

The path of life is a sinuous system. We want it to be straight and clear. It very seldom is. It is something that unfolds a little at a time while we’re living it. We talk about “planning it” and “finding it” but life is much more often discovered in hindsight than it is in vision. More often than not, we do not find life, it finds us. The only question is whether or not we recognize it and accept it when it comes, whether or not we bring meaning to it and take meaning from it as it is.

Psychologists talk a great deal these days about “alienation,” that feeling of being out of touch with the self, of not knowing exactly what we’re about in life or how we feel about it or what things mean to us as we race always from one place to the next looking for what we want but cannot identify. Social analysts say that alienation began to mark us as a people when the assembly line began to take the place of craft. People bolted steel frames or sorted peaches or cut pants pockets all their lives but never felt the exhilarating sense of creativity that comes with “building a car,” or “growing an orchard,” or “designing a suit of clothes.”

Clearly, it all comes down to finding “the fullness of joy in God’s presence.” Maybe alienation is the sign that we are not a secular culture after all. Maybe, in fact, we are a very spiritual one suffering from the fact that we have been cast adrift of all the props and left to find for ourselves the things that really count in life.


John Laffan

Newsletter Term 3 Week 2

Dear Parents & Friends,


Welcome back to Term 3.


At the end of Term Two, reports and portfolios were carefully viewed and discussed as part of the parent and teacher interview process.  As we commence the second semester of 2009, I encourage children, with parent support, to highlight areas that they would like to focus on as part of ongoing learning at St Michael’s School.  Because I have a passion for mathematical teaching and learning I would like to discuss mathematics in this week’s newsletter.


Mathematics is one of the most important subjects that your child studies at school. Numbers are all around us and there is plenty that parents can do to engage their children mathematically. Children benefit when parents take a keen interest in their child’s mathematical learning. You can help your child to gain confidence and develop a positive attitude towards mathematics by talking about what has been taught at school and helping your child notice and use mathematics in an everyday context.


Try some of these to reinforce mathematical learning:

¨ A key part of every numeracy session in school is mental strategies that can be practised at home. Children get used to solving problems in their heads, rather than resorting to an algorithm or calculator. Play maths games with your child using mental strategies. Begin with simple questions and build up to harder questions.

¨ Play snakes and ladders, darts, dominoes and other games that depend on numbers, counting, calculation and scoring. ‘Battleships’ is a fun way to use graphs.

¨ Talk about cost of items when shopping and calculate change.

¨ Capitalise on sports and hobbies. Watch and play sports that involve scoring, timing, counting and measuring.

¨ Be creative! Ask your child to look out for patterns and shapes on floors, wallpaper, plants, animals and buildings.

¨ Think about time. Look at clocks, both digital and analogue. Estimate how long a certain activity will take to do and see if you are right! Work out how long it is until the next mealtime. Play games: how long is a minute, starting from now?

¨ Think about calendars and dates too. Make a timeline that includes the birthdays of each member of the family and work out how far apart each one is. Add other important events, such as a family holiday, and encourage your child to count down to the big day.

¨ Cooking is great for helping your child get to know simple weights and measures. A set of balance scales is ideal to check mass and encourage the reading of labels to identify capacity of liquids eg milk and cream.


This Friday the school community will join and celebrate the Mary MacKillop Mass at 9.30am. Mary’s life was one of devotion and love for others. Blessed Mary MacKillop (15 January 1842—8 August 1909) was an Australian Roman Catholic nun who, together with Fr. Julian Tenison Woods, founded the Sisters of St Joseph of the Sacred Heart.

Since her death she has attracted much veneration within Australia as a symbol of the strength of the early Catholic Church. She is the only Australian to be beatified, with many Australians awaiting her canonization as a saint. On 17 July 2008, Pope Benedict XVI prayed at her tomb during his visit to Sydney, Australia for World Youth Day 2008.

In 1925, the then Mother Superior of the Sisters of St Joseph, Mother Laurence, began the process to have MacKillop declared a saint. After several years of hearings, close examination of MacKillop’s writings and a twenty year delay, the initial phase of investigations was completed in 1973.

That same year, it was determined that prayer for MacKillop’s intercession to God had been responsible for the recovery of an apparently dying woman in 1961. This lady was still alive and healthy in 1995. The decree on the miracle was read in 1993, and MacKillop was beatified in 1995. To be canonised, the existence of a second miracle must be proven.

This Saturday August 8, 2009 all Australian Catholics celebrate Mary MacKillops’

Centenary feast day.


“God give me the strength to do what is necessary”

Mary Mackillop





Michael Siciliano


9th July 2009


Dear Parent and Friends,

 It is with deep regret that I inform you that following a prolonged illness, Fr. Kevin peacefully passed away this morning. Fr. Kevin had an immense love of our children and a great passion for our school community.

 The details of his funeral and celebration of his life are as follows:

 Wednesday 15th July 2009

11.00 am

St Michael’s Church

Orwell Street


 I sincerely invite you to this celebration of Fr. Kevin’s life. Our children are invited to attend and will be part of a guard of honour in school winter uniform.


 John Laffan


Newsletter – Term 2 Week 8

Dear Parents & Friends,


What are we up to in teaching and learning?


At this time of the year our energy is directed at ensuring that “we really know the child”.


Every piece of work, assessment task and observation is matched to syllabus outcomes, scope & sequence and targets.


The next step is to link with teaching partners in reflecting, analysing and comparing a student’s work with their peers.


This reflection phase allows teachers the opportunity to evaluate the success of teaching strategies as well as laying down clear direction for future planning.


This phase allows for individual needs to be clearly understood and specific programmes to be developed.


The educational cycle is an exciting one.  At St Michael’s we strive to live out our motto of Engaging, Reflecting and Empowerment, Week 8 Term 2 is when we discover how well we are making it all happen.


Portfolios are a tremendous celebration of your children’s work, they are a brilliant mirror of their achievements.


In looking at the Portfolio, refer to the outcomes: these tell the skills that a specific task is requiring of the child.  The task will attempt to challenge the child at a range of levels and the success will be measured by the rubric.  These statements of achievement describe your child’s level of success in attempting this specific task.


Next step forward is higher skills levels which can be found in reviewing the descriptors in:




1 2 3


And finally there is feedback, in the cycle of learning, ongoing, supportive, positive feedback is essential.  Talking with the children about their learning-speaking with them about how they went about a learning opportunity or where they found difficulty is the essence of making learning relevant.



I look forward to seeing you at:-


Parents & Friends Meeting

on Wednesday, 17th June

at 2.00pm


and the


St Michael’s Trivial Pursuit Night

Saturday, 20th June


When we talk about community, a school community is made up of many parts all working to the same goals guided by the same motto, in our case “Love One Another”.


This week I would like to take the time to publicly thank and congratulate our brilliant office team-Robyn Hoogenvest, Lyn Norris, Lynne Campbell, Sharon Lewis and Jackie Lamey who provide so much for our community.


This week our school undergoes our Yearly Financial Audit.  Our office team gives so much to this important event, as they do to every aspect of organization, communication, administration and the pastoral care of all.


On your behalf I say a sincere thank you and a brilliant job. Well done!



John Laffan


Newsletter – Term 2 – Week 6

Dear Parents & Friends,


THANKS, Brother Richard…  (1935-2009)

In 1967 Patrician Brothers’ Blacktown was for its time a huge school campus.  In those days our uniform was complete with blazer and felt hat.  The blue and gold striped tie had already become a well established symbol in the Blacktown community.

My first sight of Brother Richard was him walking through the underpass below our Year 6 Gold Classroom.  Black chasuble (with green sash), dark black thick glasses and black hair, he certainly made an impression.

When I reflect on my school days learning (too often), it was what went on between playing football (Rugby League) or thinking about it.  Although, I had been at Patrician Brothers’ since commencing in Year 4, Brother Richard was my first experience of a Patrician Brother as a teacher.

In those days about 60 boys were crammed into each class with 5 rows across and 12 back, they were a good place to hide, especially in Mathematics.  You see Brother Richard’s Maths classes, were for this poor scholar, a battle field of hide and seek.  Unfortunately in long division there was no where for me to hide.  Brother Richard was ahead of his time, he didn’t stay up the front, he took life in his own hands and actually patrolled the back rows where this unsure, disinterested Mathematician tried desperately to melt in to the sea of more competent students.

These moments of questionable learning are not what Richard’s legacy are about.  The Patrician Brother’s, like many other religious orders during this period, created communities based on a dream to provide Catholic education for all people, to provide a safe, caring environment for the poor and marginalised.  Above all Brother Richard believed in us, he expected a lot from us, he wanted us to succeed.

Although my long division failed me, my relationship with Brother Richard developed over the years through Rugby League.  In 1968, Richard coached three teams to Premiership success.  Richard’s determination and energy saw him on many occasions chasing lazy forwards or unthinking backs with a stick down the oval.  I still remember before one grand final he invited Father O’Grady to bless us, as we knelt in full gear, and blessed ourselves, our competitors management gave a rude serve as they passed us.  I have a faint memory of Br Richard needing some support (and restraint) in not chasing after the opposition.

As we continued our time with the Patrician Brothers’, Br Richard’s stories of Ireland, St Patrick, faith and love of God stuck at many levels.

A short time ago Brother Richard died and was buried in his much loved Fairfield.  Today all of us in Catholic Education stand on his shoulders and those of the other religious who left their loved ones to take the long journey to Australia.

Over the past year there have been many terrible stories arising from the abusive treatment dealt by some religious.  In respect to these stories, wrongs need to be justly righted.

However, my story is one of thanks for Brother Richard who gave so much of himself in the name of God.


John Laffan


Newsletter – Term 2 Week 4

Dear Parents & Friends,


Teaching & Learning:

This is a big week for our community.  On Tuesday a team of educators lead by Mrs Sophie Ryan our Head of Services from the Catholic Education Office, will conduct a Compliancy Audit of curriculum at our school.


This means that our work over the last 4 years will be reviewed and evaluated in keeping with Board of Studies requirements.


What does a compliancy audit look like?


The panel made up of CEO representatives, principals and assistant principals will appraise:-


1. Teaching Programmes ensuring that outcomes, teaching strategies, assessment tasks, student work samples and portfolios are in alignment.  The teaching programmes reflect not only what we do but why we teach and learn in a particular way.  The teaching programmes reflect our ongoing learning in how children best learn, our programmes will also reflect the changing demands that 21st century education provides.

2. Assessment Plans in every Key Learning Area we have a set list of all assessment tasks for each year.  These assessments reflect Board of Studies requirements for student outcomes.  These assessments become the driving force (when results are analysed) in planning future programmes of work.

3. Scope & Sequence in each Key Learning Area we have a sequence of teaching events.  The science here is getting the sequence right.  In our work in English & Maths particularly, it is imperative that the building blocks in learning support are meeting individual needs.



REMINDER that St Michael’s School will be holding a

STAFF DEVELOPMENT DAY on Friday, 29th May.

This is a PUPIL FREE day.







“The Face of God”


Everything begins with mystery, everything reflects mystery, everything is at the command of a Great Mystery.  What will convince us?  There’s nothing to find.  No mountains to climb.  It only remains to walk along the road ahead, whatever that may be.  Factory worker, Scholar, Father, son. Teacher.  We have to align ourselves with the power already flowing through life.  We have to stop opposing creation, and know this greater truth from within:  Only when our inner universe changes (our thoughts, desires) will the outer world be affected.


I listened to an old teacher lecture a gymnasium filled with devotees.  His words were lyrical, but I could write nothing down.  I let his gentleness soothe me, caring more for his manner than his message.  Then he paused, looking out at the hundreds who were gathered.  “We’re here so briefly,” he whispered, almost inaudibly.  “We’re here so briefly.”


If our eyes could only see that it is all the face of God.  It was not only the apostles who walked and drunk with him.  Nothing is separate from the divine, nothing incidental.  In thunderstorms, in our ordinary bowls of stew, in calloused hands that provide shelter and solace, in the drunk driver who kills your family.  In all that is, one Spirit moves.


And if we could see, we would be overtaken by awe, and changed.



John Laffan,