Maharishi School, Reservoir: Newsletter #1

Principal’s Report

Dear Parents and Students,

I would like to warmly and sincerely welcome you to the beginning of the 2016 school year. It has been a wonderful beginning to the year in so many ways. Your children have settled into their class very well and have accepted the responsibility of collaboratively setting the expectations for their classroom with their teacher and classmates.

I have enjoyed the warm welcome I have received from parents, students and staff of the school. It has made my transition into the school quite a smooth process. I have welcomed the openness with which parents have greeted me outside and the commitment you have displayed to the school, during what has been a challenging time in the school’s short history. I will address some of these matters below and intend to provide you with the reassurance you seek and deserve.

Staffing 2016

This year we are fortunate to have teamed up a small group of dynamic teachers who have hit the ground running. They bring a blend of teaching experience, personal qualities and skills that complement the staffing profile our school aims to provide our students.

Mrs Frances Clarke has taken on the important role of Director of Consciousness-Based Education which will see her provide assistance and guidance to me and the school community in this founding principle of our school.

Class Structures – F/1/2 Class

The school has re-evaluated the class structure that was announced towards the end of 2015 to take into account changing enrollments.

The Foundation (Prep) and Grades 1 & 2 students have now been merged into one class grouping for the purpose of having one “home group” where the 20 students come together to promote greater social interaction between them and enable the teachers to specifically tar- get their teaching in a multi-age level environment, where appropriate.

The students will undertake specific year-level curriculum study for their own year level with either Ms James or Ms Brady. The teachers have two working classrooms which have been set up for that specific purpose so that students can be withdrawn according to their year level to undertake studies in Literacy, Numeracy and Humanities. There is also scope during the year to withdraw students according to their level of achievement to address the needs of all students according to the assessment strategies that will be implemented by their teachers.

Student Welfare and Wellbeing

I have been inspired by the manner in which the teaching staff of the school have facilitated the return of the students to school this year. As a school staff, we have discussed the importance of being sensitive to the feelings of our students, many of whom have re- turned without some of their friends and classmates from last year. The teachers are closely monitoring the students in the interactions with one another and in their general demeanour in class and while outside during recess periods.

Screen Shot 2016-08-01 at 11.37.21 AMIt was so beautiful to see all the students come together in the Grade F/1/2 classroom earlier in the week where the teachers had arranged for them to work cooperatively to make wrist bands (friendship bands). This is just one of the initiatives the school has put in place to reflect our awareness and support for the emotional wellbeing of our students. Another initiative, of which we are excited to be a part, is an invitation to the RSPCA to provide the students with a 5-week program that involves interacting with animals. The focus for the program is to care for others, in this case using animals to provide that opportunity for students.

Class Newsletters

This week you will be receiving a Class Newsletter that will ad- dress more specifically the information relevant to students within that class. The teachers have taken great care to address a range of matters including; the teaching program, specialist learning areas and organisational arrangements for that class.

Volunteer Wanted

Scholastic has partnered with Australian schools for over 45 years to instill a love of reading in children. The Maharishi School is looking for a volunteer to become our schools Scholastic Coordinator.

If this sounds like something you would be interested in doing please contact our office staff for further details.
We look forward to hearing from you!

Maharishi School – The Current Situation

In my letter of introduction to you last week, I gave a commitment of openness and transparency with you and I intend to honour that commitment.

In taking up my appointment as the principal of the school, I was well-aware of the circumstances at the school that in some part led to the recruitment of a new principal and the unfortunate withdrawal of students in the latter part of 2015. It is indeed an unhappy situation, no matter what the circumstances, when young people are moved away from the friends they have loved, the teachers who have shown them care and understanding, and their school which has given them such comfort, safety and an environment of personal growth and fulfillment. I am saddened at the circumstances which has led to the withdrawal of students who I believe were thriving in the environment that Maharishi helped create for them.

Making the decision to withdraw a child from their school is not an easy decision. I can only imagine that there must have been some- thing that was so significant in its impact on those children’s emotional, social and academic development that parents could see no alternative other than to seek a new school. At least I hope that was the reason because in over 30 years in education, I have been witness to many issues that have affected students and parents. Almost all of these have been able to be resolved without any overt angst or dissatisfaction and certainly not the threat of withdrawal from the school. The key element has always been the ability to take a step back and determine, “How does this issue affect my child?”, “Is their social, emotional or academic development compromised so much that I must consider drastic action?” I have seen children who have endured one or two “bad years” during their primary school. That is, they may have had difficulties with friends or with establishing a good rapport with their teacher. They may have experienced personal grief through their home life. I have seen a class of students who have had 3 different teachers during the school year. The children and parents who have persevered with the school be- cause it genuinely provides the foundation for life through its value system, its approach to teaching and learning and is a genuinely happy place to be, are the ones who win out at the end. The children who are immersed in a happy and caring environment learn and grow in all aspects of their development.

Schools, or for that matter any organisation, can always do things better. We are not immune to criticism. However, difficulties arise when parents make judgements about a school for the effect it may have on them, not their children. Some take a moral high ground and extend their dissatisfaction about an issue that has not been resolved to their own satisfaction and begin to look for “faults” in the rest of the organisation. Sometimes, we can be too quick to judge or be unduly influenced by others who have their own agenda. This leads me to express my horror at the steps taken by some to publicly discredit the school and harm its reputation. This behaviour is extreme in its approach and has the ability to hurt many people, intended or not. Hiding behind anonymity to slander the name and/or reputation of others is a deplorable and weak act that dis- plays no courage nor integrity whatsoever. I sincerely hope you have not been affected by such acts.

The school is currently undergoing an interim review by the VRQA. It is obliged to do so when receiving complaints, as it has from some ex-members of our school community. Maharishi School welcomes this interim review and is cooperating fully with the request for information. Our school is entering its 20th year of operation so we have gone a long way to establishing ourselves within the Independent School sector and been reviewed several times by the VRQA as part of a 5-year review cycle of all schools in Victoria. On each occasion, the Maharishi School has fully satisfied the criteria for registration as a school in Victoria. This current process will be no different. Unfortunately, the perception of those who have developed a personal gripe with the school for unresolved matters affecting them, believe this is grounds for lodging complaints with VRQA and it somehow makes us unworthy of operating as a school. They could not be further from the truth.

Despite the misinformation that has been circulated by some and the “cheekiness” of their actions, I would like to reassure you that after my own initial review of the school’s financial and educational standing:

* Maharishi School is open for business for the long term
* The school will continue to operate under its valued and unique approach to consciousness-based education and transcendental meditation
* Transparency, openness and effective communication will be considered paramount in engaging our school community with the school
* Merit and equity will form the basis of decision-making within the school
* What is determined to be in the best interests of the students will underpin our actions

In the meantime, I reaffirm my personal and professional commitment to you to address in both a proactive and reactive manner, as is necessary, all the important issues that Maharishi School needs to address – an ongoing focus and review of educational programs, organisational values and culture, school structures, finance and facilities.

Stay strong in your resolve and in your commitment to the school. You and your children are the best advertisement for your school. Be active in your promotion of the school and its contribution to the development of your children. Keep the positive voices stronger and louder than the negative.
Exit Families

I have taken the liberty of preparing a letter to send to all our ‘exit families’. My intention is to acknowledge their past contribution to our school as well as clearly articulate our position as a school moving forward into a bright and long-term future.

My stance, as principal of the school, is not to engage in matters that are out of my control but instead reinforce the positive elements of our school, focus on giving you, our existing school community, the confidence in our school’s ability to deliver the comprehensive and holistic education for your children you covet, and continue to develop the nurturing and caring environment which will contribute to the development of young people with the personal qualities of which we are all proud.

I look forward to seeing you all at the Parents and Friends Association’s Meet and Greet on Wednesday 10th February.

Steve Charisis