From the Head of College, Ray Paxton, 2010 – 2016
It does not seem so long ago that I commenced my term of leadership at Waverley College in 2010 when I became the first lay Head, appointed by the school’s recently established administrative entity, Edmund Rice Education Australia. I remember clearly my first visits to Waverley College, my first assembly, my first staff briefing, my first board meeting and my first Saturday sport fixture.
From my earliest days at Waverley, I invited the community to focus on the challenge of ‘Liberating the Potential of Every Learner’. From that point, together with our College Board and Executive, I have been privileged to lead our community in the development and implementation of two significant Strategic Planning cycles; the first, 2011-2014, with an emphasis on innovation and the second, 2015-2018, with a focus on student wellbeing.
Innovation soon became a catchphrase at the College with the implementation of a blended learning program with extensive supporting IT infrastructure and celebrated through an annual Innovation Assembly. From 2011 the school began a rollout of Macbook Air laptops to every student, finishing with Years 5 and 6 in 2014. This was accompanied by significant student and teacher development in critical thinking, higher order thinking skills and collaborative learning. Our learning Management system, Haiku, now called Power Learning and our pedagogical model, Liberate, has been fully embraced by students and teachers. Our curriculum has expanded to include an enviable range of course options for our students.
A total restructure of the College’s approach to student wellbeing began with a three-year research phase into best practice in 2014. This is currently in its final stages of implementation and will achieve completion in Term 1 2017. At this time, a new Student Wellbeing Program, uniquely tailored to the needs of Waverley students, will be overseen by a Director of Wellbeing from a newly designed, dedicated Student Wellbeing Centre, supported by eight Heads of House, over eighty teacher mentors and a Student Health Centre.
Some of the earliest changes to our facilities included the glass walls in the Kenny Building and the transfer of the library from the W40s to the Hall below the chapel. In 2016 the first stage of a ten year architectural Masterplan for the College’s Senior Campus was completed. This $23m Capital Works Program was completed in 2014-2016, expanding and upgrading TAS, gymnasium and pool facilities as well as restoring significant heritage areas on Carrington Road. It was a proud moment when Sir Peter Cosgrove opened our new facilities on November 18 this year. The College has built significant relationships with local government, the Centennial Parklands Trust and schools in all sectors to ensure that Waverley’s contribution to education in the Eastern Suburbs continues to be based on partnership rather than competition.
Since 2010 the College has also expanded its co-curriculum options, reduced the co-curricular requirement of staff, significantly improved communications with its alumni, introduced significant improvements to employment conditions for teaching staff, and maintained high standards of academic achievement. Our College publications, Nurrunga and Wavelength, and communications, through our website and mobile apps, have expanded in quality and circulation. This was highlighted by the publication in 2014 of In Good Faith: Waverley College and the Great War, authored by our former Archivist, Kim Eberhard.
Since 2011 the College has grown by an average of 44 students each year with a maximum enrolment of 1445 students expected by 2018. The continuing demand for places at our College indicates a strong sense of confidence, not only in ourselves, but in those who view the school from beyond our own walls – a place where the diversity of students is our greatest strength, where our identity is tied to the growth of every student – no matter where his strengths or areas for development lay.
Our most significant achievements concern the College’s journey as a Catholic School in the Edmund Rice tradition. These have included the establishment of a long term engagement with the people of Timor-Leste which has included annual student immersions; the introduction of annual assemblies to celebrate the students’ and graduates’ extensive participation in social justice initiatives; our engagement with Edmund Rice Beyond Borders as a lead school through participation in congresses in Johannesburg and Kolkata; and a significant strengthening of the College’s relationship in its Parish, especially with St Charles’ Primary School and St Clare’s College.
As I move toward my new role within Edmund Rice Education Australia as National Director – Identity and Liberating Education, I count the following experiences as crucial to my own personal and professional growth. Unlike the achievements I have mentioned earlier, the following “encounters” are not often recorded:
- The powerful support of Waverley Parish, my Waverley colleague principals past and present, Board members, Parent Groups, Old Boys, EREA and Christian Brothers as the College has entered a new phase of governance and identity.
- My daily, life-giving dealings with an outstanding professional, and compassionate teaching and support staff in the Pre-School, Junior School and Senior School.
- The strength and vision of my Deputy Heads, Graham Leddie and Tony Galletta, and the wisdom and counsel of Assistant Head of College, Peter Frost.
- The firm resolve of our College Executive as we have led an agenda of liberation and change. Thank you for embracing my annoyingly strategic mind.
- The full range of experiences I have had with the most energetic, insightful, dynamic, funny, mostly predictable, sometimes unpredictable, but always respectful group of 1400 young men.
- My interactions with families in the most joyous, the most challenging and the most tragic of circumstances.
- The ongoing challenge to assist our community to make connections between the Gospel and life, the actions of Jesus with our own actions, the importance of hopeful language in everything we say and do, and ultimately, the primacy of “love” over “fear”. In the current political climate, here and overseas, fear has the ascendancy. The capacity of Waverley College to absorb this message of hope and be transformed by it has been clear to me since my first day and will remain its greatest strength. It has strengthened and sustained me.
I thank my daughter Ines and my sons, Luis and Marcus, for their patience, interest, and often disbelief in everything I do.
Most significantly, I would like to pay tribute to and express my deepest gratitude and love to my wife Joanna for her unwavering support over the last seven years as she has pursued her own goals as a teacher and supported our growing family – now fully grown – during this significant time in our lives.
I conclude by offering my congratulations to Mr Graham Leddie on his appointment as Acting Head of College for 2017. Graham is a great leader and it has been a privilege to work with him in 2016.
It is difficult to imagine what life will be like without my daily interactions at Waverley College. As you are aware, my new role will bring me in contact with you from time to time. I therefore, look forward to further encounters, experiences and stories.
Thank you for your ongoing support and best wishes to you and your families.