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Published: 15-Jan-2020

Executive Headmaster’s Welcome

Welcome back to St Benedict’s. I hope that you all had an amazing Christmas holiday and are ready for the opportunities and challenges that a new year and a new decade will bring. We are delighted to have you as part of our community.

 

Mr Oosthuysen, Executive Headmaster

Dear boys, parents and staff

Welcome

As we reflect on 2019, there are so many reasons to be satisfied. With the exception of the final matric results, the last year of the previous decade and all its achievements were thoroughly documented in our three school magazines. I trust that you enjoyed reading them as much as I did.

All must share in the credit for what we as a school have achieved: our fantastic boys, our supportive parents and our hardworking staff. St Benedict’s continues to take great strides in all areas and I am confident that our day-to-day efforts, innovation and drive will ensure our continued progress.

It is entirely appropriate that, across the nation, Grade 12 results enjoy the attention that they do. If you have not already done so, I would encourage you to visit our revamped website to view the achievements of the Class of 2020.

The hype at the exit point, however, does overshadow the exceptional academic results produced by boys from Grade R to 11 at the end of 2019. We had cause to celebrate throughout the school: 100% pass rate at College level; 99,7% pass rate at Preparatory level and 98,9% pass rate at Junior Preparatory level. Likewise, there are some boys who need to put more time and effort into certain subjects this year. That’s called “falling forward” and it is the basic requirement for true learning to take place. I want to congratulate all our boys - in particular the matriculants of 2019 - and wish them the very best with their studies in the new year.

All are responsible for the academic results that we produce but I must thank and commend our academic staff on the exceptional work they do on a day-to-day basis to ensure that each of our boys is able to achieve to the best of his ability. I would like to congratulate, in particular, the staff of the following departments who ensured that at Grade 12 level our averages were in excess of those of the IEB: Business Studies, English, Geography, History, Information Technology, Life Orientation, Life Sciences, Mathematics, Mathematical Literacy, Advanced Programme Mathematics and Physical Science.

I would like to warmly welcome all our new boys who formally became part of the Bennies brotherhood for the first time this year. Whether you joined us at Grade R or 8 level (or maybe somewhere in between), know that we are delighted to welcome you into our community and we anticipate the contribution that you will make to our school. We look forward to building a relationship with you and your parents/guardians.

It is exciting to be able to welcome all our new staff to each of our three schools:

Junior Preparatory

Namisile Mhlongo - IsiZulu Teacher
Jacqueline Wate - Grade 2 Teacher

Preparatory

Megan Michie - Grade 4 Teacher
Nicola Mills - Head of Social Sciences

College

Andrew Barnes - Sports Department
Madeline Brown - Senior Maths
Theresa Clifton - Senior Accounting
Bongiwe Mokgethwa - Assistant librarian
Kate Myburgh - Senior Maths
Kailin Pillay - HOD Drama

In addition, we welcome Lebohang Mhlanga (Admissions Officer) and Ouma Mokwana (Graphic Designer) to our Marketing Department.

We look forward to the contribution these staff will make to St Benedict’s, to the new relationships they will forge and the exciting conversations they will initiate. Many of them come from some of South Africa’s most prestigious independent schools and their diverse areas of expertise will certainly build upon the remarkable dedication to excellence that characterises our staff community.

On Monday and Tuesday, the staff spent two fruitful and exciting days preparing to receive the boys on Wednesday. It was an opportunity for us to revisit the three statements of our school’s Vision and Mission:

St Benedict’s is an INDEPENDENT SCHOOL that provides a QUALITY, HOLISTIC EDUCATION across the FOUR PILLARS of academics, religion, sport and the arts.

St Benedict’s is a CATHOLIC school that uses the example of JESUS CHRIST to provide a GOSPEL- AND VALUES-BASED education.

St Benedict’s produces MATURE, YOUNG MEN who SERVE THE WORLD, ITS PEOPLE AND THE KINGDOM OF GOD.

It is a complex and multifaceted thing that we do on a day-to-day basis and so many components have to work smoothly within the school in order to accomplish our mission. The most important of these - in my mind - is relationships, especially those that we share with our boys and parents.

Parents are the “primary educators” of their sons. Pope Paul Vi states in Gravissum Educationis that it is “almost impossible to provide an adequate substitute”. The building of rich, quality and meaningful relationships between staff and parents as they share in the mission of education cannot be over-emphasized.

In my address to staff on Monday, I reminded staff that we need to adopt three beliefs:

  1. We believe every boy, every staff member and every parent should be treated the way we would hope to be treated.
  2. We believe that the boys and their parents are the reason why we are here.
  3. We believe that every boy can reach his highest potential. No excuses.

We understand fully that for our parents their relationship with the school is a deeply emotional one; it’s their sons that they have at heart and their journey with us is focused on some of life’s really hardcore stuff - personal development, social skills and fulfilment, academic aspirations, career prospects and future life chances. I also reminded staff that - in my experience - there are five things that Bennies parents want from the school: to feel welcome; to be understood; to maintain their dignity; our assistance and to know that they are valued.

Likewise, I must appeal to our parents to approach and treat our staff as partners.

In our 2019 IQAA survey, our staff and boys identified respect shown to staff as an area of concern. Situations in which a parent chooses to intimidate or bully a staff member and instances where parents regularly gossip about or bad-mouth the school and its staff cause untold and irreparable damage. Social media has given everyone a public platform and thinly-veiled and easily deciphered allusions to St Benedict’s are most frustrating. It’s a self-imposed tax that compromises the investment you (and others) are making in St Benedict’s and your son’s future. We are in the “people business” and issues will arise. Rather than venting on public forums, I would encourage you to make contact with the school and address your concerns with the relevant folk - sooner rather than later.

In order to structure and scaffold the “hidden” values curriculum at St Benedict’s, we use the Beatitudes and Habits of Mind, Body, Heart and Soul to shape ongoing conversations with boys. Our programme for Term 1 is included below. It would be great if our parents would supplement and reinforce at home what we are doing at school.

DATE

GOSPEL VALUE

HABIT OF HEART

HABIT OF MIND

HABIT OF BODY

HABIT OF SOUL

20 Jan - 2 Feb

BLESSED ARE
THE MERCIFUL

 

Mercy sees distress.

 

Mercy responds with a heart of compassion and empathy.

 

Mercy responds with practical efforts.

 

Mercy acts even when the person is a stranger or an enemy.

Be Courageous

Be Innovative

Show Self Respect

Have Faith

3 Feb - 16 Feb

Be Aware

Be Persistent

Be Resilient

Serve Sacrificially

17 Feb - 1 March

Be Humble

Be Inquisitive

Be Healthy

Be Prayerful

MIDTERM

2020 Theme - Young man, I say to you, ARISE!

Our theme for 2020 is a motivational one that challenges us to rise up to meet the challenges of a new year and a new decade. As human beings, we regularly yearn for the opportunity of a fresh start. As Christians, we must always remember that, by virtue of our baptism, we are called to a fresh start each day with Christ.

What will you do today, this month, this year as Jesus calls you to “arise”?

Capital Developments

Approximately R3,5 million was spent on capital development projects during 2019. These included:

  • Upgrade of remaining College Science Laboratories
  • Construction of a Junior Preparatory Change Room
  • College Hall Storeroom
  • The D-field walkway / pavilion (currently underway)
  • Preparatory School Library refurbishment and other small projects

The retaining wall of the D-field walkway - once completed - will allow us to backfill and gain an additional few metres which will allow us to increase our basketball facilities. It is our intention to rotate the courts by 90 degrees which will allow us the space to increase from 2 to 4 courts. We are hoping that we can have this phased project completed by the start of the 2021 summer season.

Capital expenditure which will take place this year include:

  • IT Centre which will house our IT support team (old rondavel which housed the prep tuckshop)
  • Renovations to the College Senior IT Lab
  • JP Classroom furniture
  • Refurbishment of the Prep O’Brien block
  • Completion of the D-field walkway

Communication

In today’s information-dense age, communication from the school to the parent body is far more immediate than it once was. We communicate with parents on a daily basis through three platforms: email correspondence (sent to the email addresses you have loaded onto ADAM when you registered your son), the school App and the school website.

  1. Newsletters are published at the discretion of the Head of School but will include a minimum of two per half-term.
  2. The St Benedict’s app is the preferred vehicle for immediate communication between staff and parents. Instructions for the downloading of the app are included with this correspondence. Parents who are already using the app are advised to update their profile settings to ensure they receive correspondence from the correct section and grade.
  3. Parents are welcome to communicate with staff. Email addresses are surname followed by initial @stbenedicts.co.za e.g. oosthuysena@stbenedicts.co.za

School Fees

I would like to thank those parents who have paid their school fees upfront for the year.

A gentle reminder to those who have opted to pay fees on a monthly basis that payments must reach the school a month in advance by the 1st day of the month. January payments (including additional billings) were due on 2 January 2020.

St Benedict’s is a not-for-profit organisation. We have never and will never budget to make a surplus and consequently we do not have access to surplus funds. On a monthly basis, we are entirely dependent on the income received from parents to run the school and to pay staff salaries. When our parents neglect to meet their financial obligations, the school’s ability to meet its monthly commitments is compromised. In fairness to those parents who have paid upfront, we have to be vigorous and strict when dealing with defaulting parents. Please note that regular tardiness with regards to school fee payments does impact on your credit rating.

Payments should ideally be made using EFT as well as visa, masters and Diners Club cards. We do not accept payments using American Express and - in the interests of our boys’ and staffs’ safety - we will also not accept cash payments. All payments must be made payable to “St Benedict’s Trust”. Please remember to clearly reference your payments.

Our Finance Office is open during school hours.

Traffic Flow

Traffic flow through the school during “peak times” has always been a challenge at St Benedict’s and we are currently looking at long term plans to redesign our entrance. Please bear in mind that in addition to our Junior Preparatory School, there are a further three schools in Kings Rd - all starting at the same time - which results in a great deal of traffic congestion, particularly in the mornings. Things work well when we all adhere to the Traffic Flow patterns recommended by the school and are polite and courteous to one another.

Please read the guidelines below and that you adhere to the traffic rules that it sets out. Also consult the attached Traffic flow diagram.

Peak Times at St Benedict’s

The Kings Rd gate is used as an exit during the following peak times:

  • All weekday mornings: 06h30 – 08h00
  • Monday, Tuesday & Thursday afternoons: 13h15 - 16h00
  • Wednesday & Friday afternoons: 12h45 - 15h00

At all other times it is locked.

Travelling through the school grounds

During the “peak times” indicated above the following traffic regulations will apply:

  1. A one-way system is in effect from beyond the left hand turn into the gym car park up to the Kings Rd exit.
  2. The left hand lane of the main driveway is used as a stop-and-go drop-off/pick-up zone. Moving traffic should keep to and pass on the right in the main driveway of the school. This drop-off zone is to be used by College parents only.
  3. Parents may choose to turn right into the parking lot at Cafe 58 and use this as a drop-off/pick-up point. Please note that a one-way system is in effect around the island and parents who choose to use this parking lot as a drop off/pick up zone should travel around the entire island and re-join the main traffic flow by keeping right at the Four Pillars and exit into Kings Rd. We ask that parents do not park in the first ten bays closest to the school buildings as these are reserved for staff parking.
  4. Parents exiting the Cafe 58 car park should not attempt to turn left and head down the main driveway.
  5. At the duck pond near the top of the driveway, parents must start favouring the right hand lane. Staff who need to turn left after the gazebo need to keep to the left hand lane at this point. Beacons are set out in the morning splitting the road in two.
  6. Parents may not turn left immediately after the gazebo. This is a left-hand turn for staff only.
  7. College and Preparatory parents are encouraged to use the gym and Cafe 58 car parks to drop off and collect their sons.
  8. Parents driving in the gym car park are requested not to cut straight across the parking bays.
  9. There are 19 parking bays reserved on the western side of the central island in front of the administration blocks. The island runs parallel to Kings Rd. These bays should be used as a stop-and-go drop-off/pick-up zone by Preparatory parents only. Preparatory boys should move up and down the paved central pathway on the island and should cross at the zebra crossing in front of the St Benedict’s statue.
  10. Parents are requested not to stop or park in the bays that have been allocated for staff parking. Each bay has been allocated to a specific staff member who has nowhere else to park should they discover that a parent has used their bay.
  11. Moving traffic should keep to and pass on the right of this drop-off zone in front of the administrative blocks.
  12. Parents exiting the school into Kings Rd are encouraged preferably to turn to the left.

FOR THE SAFETY OF OUR BOYS, PLEASE FOLLOW THE INSTRUCTIONS OF THE SECURITY GUARDS ON DUTY AND ADHERE TO THE 20KM/H SPEED LIMIT THAT APPLIES WITHIN THE CONFINES OF THE SCHOOL PROPERTY.

I thank you in advance for your willingness to cooperate with the school in this regard.

Transport

I would like to remind parents that St Benedict’s offers a service that transports Prep and College boys to school from Benoni, Boksburg, Germiston, Glenvista, Thornhill, Modderfontein and Edenvale. The service is offered at an additional cost and transport is provided every morning from Monday to Friday and home every afternoon except on a Wednesday afternoon when the fleet is used to transport boys to midweek fixtures. Please visit the school’s website should you be interested in making use of this service.

St Benedict’s has also introduced a morning-only bus service which transports boys from Holy Rosary to St Benedict’s each weekday morning and allows parents to avoid the traffic congestion between the two schools.

The service is able to accommodate a maximum of 22 boys and is offered at a cost of R940 per term. The service includes the supervision of a Junior Preparatory classroom assistant who will not only monitor the behaviour of the boys during transit but will also walk the Junior Preparatory boys across to their classrooms each morning. This duty is over-and-above the assistant’s normal duties and the costs thereof are included in the termly fee.

Boys are collected from the Holy Rosary parking lot that adjoins the Bishop Shanahan Hall at Shanahan Park. The bus departs from the parking lot at precisely 06:50.

Conclusion

On behalf of the St Benedict’s Trust, Board of Governors and the Executive Management of the school, I would like to wish you all the very best for the new year.

Yours sincerely

Andre Oosthuysen

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