This Sunday’s Gospel invites us to continue our reflection on the person and mission of John the Baptist. we depart from the Gospel of Mark and read a selection from the Gospel of John.

The Gospel for 17 December combines a brief passage from the prologue to John’s Gospel with a report about John the Baptist. As in Mark’s Gospel, the Gospel of John contains no birth narrative. Instead, John’s Gospel begins with a theological reflection that has come to be called the “prologue.” This prologue places the story of Jesus in its cosmological framework. It speaks of Jesus’ existence with God since the beginning of time. In John’s Gospel, Jesus is presented as the fulfilment of the Old Testament and the culmination of the Word, the light that is coming into the world’s darkness.

Following this prologue, John reports on the ministry of John the Baptist. We learn about the attention that John the Baptist received from the Jewish authorities. Messengers from the Jewish priests, the Levites and the Pharisees question John about his identity and the meaning of the baptisms that he is performing. John’s Gospel uses these questions to establish the relationship between Jesus and John the Baptist. John the Baptist is not the Messiah, nor is he Elijah or the Prophet. In John’s denials, we hear echoes of the kind of messianic expectations that were common in first-century Palestine.

The only affirmative response that John the Baptist gives is when he quotes the prophet Isaiah. Upon answering the next question, John announces that the saviour they seek is already among them, but as yet unrecognized. John’s response highlights for us an important Advent theme: Jesus has already come into the world as our saviour. During Advent, we pray that we will be able to recognize Jesus’ presence in our midst. Advent also reminds us that Jesus will come again to fulfil the promise of salvation. We pray that we will continue to be watchful as we anticipate that great day.

The third Sunday of Advent is also called Gaudete Sunday. Gaudete, a Latin word which means “rejoice,” is taken from the entrance antiphon for Sunday’s Mass. It is a reminder that Advent is a season of joy because our salvation is already at hand.

Dear God,

we thank you that you have given us the light of life, that we can now learn how to live,

and that through your great grace we may understand life in direct relationship with the Lord Jesus,

who was crucified and who rose from the dead. Grant that the power of Christ may be made visible in us.

Grant that his life may become our life, that we may leave behind all doubts and anxiety,

even though we are often surrounded by darkness and night.

Keep us in your Word.

Let your will hold sway over all the world, for your will must be done in heaven,

on earth, and down to the lowest depths.

Let your will be done on earth as in all the heavens.






I have enjoyed six happy years as the Principal of Bethany College and in my final newsletter, I wanted to ensure that I thanked a few groups of people.

Parents: I want to thank you for bringing your children to our school and trusting us with them every day. Most of you probably did not have a choice, but I hope that if you did, you would have done it the same way.  I especially want to thank you for raising such an amazing group of students that sit before us today.  Parents being involved in their own child’s life leads them to more opportunities for success; this group that stands in front of us has shown so many positive qualities and we know this all starts at home.

Staff:  This is about the collective effort of ALL of our teachers.  Everyone, from the librarian, teachers’ aides, maintenance men, support staff, and teachers in the school believe in always doing what is best for the students.  Their kindness and caring for students as whole people and not as numbers on exams is the reason that we have seen these students blossom into future leaders.  Thank you for always caring about our Bethany College girls.

Leadership Team:  Mrs Russo, Mrs Kennaugh, Mr Conroy, Mrs Brooker, Mr Skeen and Mrs James. This talented and loyal group of staff have had to work with me, put up with my demands and have kept an unrelenting focus on school improvement for every day that I have worked with them. I’m not always the easiest person to deal with, especially in tough times. But you have always managed to keep me grounded, rose to the challenges I set for you and helped me make Bethany the school of choice in our area. My particular thanks to you Mrs Russo for being such a delight to work with. So knowledgeable, energetic, calm, fun and sharp. She has made my job so much easier and freed me up to do the resourcing, big thinking and envisioning for this great school.

Sydney Catholic Schools staff and Local priests. I have the pleasure of working in the Eastern Region for 10 years, six as a Principal and thank Elizabeth O’Carrigan for her leadership of this region, support of my role as Principal and for the advocacy in our system.  I thank the local priests, especially Fr Janusz and Fr Brendan, who have been my spiritual inspiration. It isn’t easy to be a Christian. To stand up for Jesus’ beliefs and teachings. They are men who show us how to love one another as we would wish to be loved, without judgement or condemnation. The Church needs more men like you. Good luck to Fr Brendan who is moving off to be an army chaplain. We pray for your safety, especially when you will be on tour. They are lucky to have you.


You taught me that every single person in our school can be a leader.  You never outright said this to me, but you never had to.  You showed it in your actions every day.  The way you play sport, the way you celebrate achievements in assemblies and the displays that you had in your classroom to show all of the wonderful things that you did around the school not only inspired your peers, but it inspired staff, including me, as well.  Watching you on the playground look after our younger students and those with special needs and care for them was something that inspired me every day.  You never argued or complained, you just gladly did it.

You taught me to be willing to take risks.  I took a risk in coming back to Principalship at the time I started Doctoral studies. When the going got tough, I thought about the contribution my research could have on secondary school improvement and I kept going. I enacted my theories on you and it worked. As a school, we have improved on every measure. Many of you have taken risks too. Although the results you’ve achieved may not have been what you wanted, I was proud that you took chances. I was nervous about applying to be a Regional Director, such a huge job, I would probably be unsuccessful and then have to live with the rejection. But I reflected on what I teach you about growth mindset and being the change I wanted to see in the world. I kept that to the front of my mind and described the changes I wanted to see in the Region of Sydney I wanted to lead and spoke about that. The rest is history. You can do this too and I know you will.

You have taught me that a pat on the back is always better than a slap on the wrist.  Your kindness towards staff, parents, younger students, and your peers was always on display.   Thank you for being role models of kindness and caring and because of this, it has run rampant within our school.

You taught me to be yourself.  The way you dressed on our special school days and carried yourself was never about others, but always about how you felt. It inspired me to join in the fun and my appearances as the witch in Wizard of Oz and Cruella de Ville were such fun. Please destroy the photos when I’m gone. From seeing students wearing Disney and other costumes at school, dancing, singing and playing music at assemblies, you were always you.  A saying I have heard this year and sticks with me is “Be yourself, everyone else is taken.”  You have shown me this over and over again.

These lessons you have taught me: being a leader, be willing to take risks, be kind, and be yourself, are lessons that I will continue to do my best to apply in my own career.  For all of you, these lessons that I have learned from you have led you to your tremendous success in your years of schooling. If you continue to follow these actions, they will lead to continued success in your next years.

Wherever you future leads you, I will be watching and cheering for you.  I am looking forward to updates from your lives and seeing where your education leads.  Before you go though, I want to make sure I say thank you for all that you have taught me in my time as the principal.  If I can inspire others half as much as the Bethany Community have inspired me, I know I will have been successful.

Follow your passions, continue to be leaders, and best of luck in your future. As for me, as St Paul said to the Philippians:

“I thank my God whenever I think of you, and every time I pray for you all, I always pray with joy for your partnership in the gospel from the very first day up to the present”.



At the end of the year, we say goodbye to some of our teachers and support staff, as they move onto another phase of their lives and careers.

Firstly, we would like to farewell permanent members of staff:

  • Sue Malcolm (Library Assistant)
  • Louise Benson (TAS)
  • Michelle Cotten (PDHPE)
  • Katherine Maish (Leader of Pedagogy, HSIE)

Sue joined the staff of St Mary’s Star of the Sea High School Hurstville in 1990, So, she has been a member of the Bethany Community since its founding in 1993. In fact, she worked at St Joseph’s Kogarah since 1989.  Her 28 years of dedicated and outstanding service to our community will be sorely missed and we wish her well in the future. Louise joined the TAS staff of the College in 2005 and has been with us for 13 years. She has been instrumental in strengthening the curriculum deliver in TAS, particularly in the industry recognised Hospitality course. Michelle has been on parental leave for the last few years but many students would recall she was previously, our PDHPE Coordinator. Michelle is leaving in order to cater for her young family’s needs and we wish her well and will surely see her in a casual capacity in the future. Katherine will also leave the College at the end of this year and we thank them her for her contribution to curriculum development for Gifted students in the College.

We would also like to thank the following members of staff who have concluded their temporary, contractual periods at the College:

  • Bellissimo, Clarissa
  • Ibrahim, Elizabeth
  • Nabaki, Chantelle
  • Naticchia, Tanya




Thank you very much to everyone who completed the Parent Satisfaction Survey this term.  In total, 138 responses were received.  The greatest affirmations were that 88% of respondents identified that their daughter felt safe at the College and that 74% felt that they were very satisfied with the College.

Overall, the results are a strong affirmation of our values and programs and are invaluable in identifying areas for development. The Leadership team will analyse and discuss the detailed response data during our professional development days next week. We noted that 31% of respondents were unsure about the College’s strategies for dealing with the diverse needs of its students and 25% were unsure that the College has high academic standards.  Though each teaching program includes strategies for differentiation for gifted, core and learning support students, this is not being communicated strongly enough to our students.  We cannot take this for granted and it is important to have teachers articulate the differentiation they are implementing daily.   

In 2017, we identified that our Anti-Bullying strategies needed refinement in the timeliness and effectiveness of implementation.  We were disappointed to see the respondents’ advice around this with the results for the statement Bullying is dealt with in a timely and effective manner recorded at 54%, a dip from the 56% result in 2016. We will target this area again in 2018.

We are especially grateful for the improvement in perception of our academic standards with the response to The College has high academic standards at 67% an improvement on the 62% recorded in 2016. We have worked very hard at this and would like to have an improved result in 2018.  There was also a positive response to the statement around friendliness and approachability of the Leadership Team at 79% and the office staff at 91%. We clearly don’t get it right all the time but we will strive to have our personal interactions be positive and professional.

We will analyse the responses from this survey and identify what we can take from it about your perceptions of our work.   While there is a very pleasing commendation of the College, the greatest value is in data that helps us make Bethany even better.


Overall Results

Parent Satisfaction Survey 2017

% Agree

% Neutral

% Disagree

1. My child/ren are happy at the College.




2. My child/ren feel safe at Bethany College.




3. My child/ren are interested and engaged in their learning at the College.




4. The College provides a value for money education for my child/ren.




5. The College caters well for the diverse needs of its students.




6. The College has high academic standards. 




7. The College has appropriate facilities to support its educational programs.




8. The College facilities are clean and well-maintained.




9. The College grounds are clean and well-presented.




10. The peer environment at Bethany is positive.




11. Bullying is dealt with in a timely and effective manner at the College.




12. The College maintains high standards of student behaviour in and out of the classroom.




13. The uniform of the College is practical and presents well.




14. The College maintains high standards of presentation and uniform for students.




15. The teachers of the College are knowledgeable and competent in their roles.




16. The teachers at Bethany are caring and take a genuine interest in the well-being and education of my child/ren.




17. The College provides a good range of subject offerings.




18. The College offers a good range of co-curricular activities such as the instrumental music and sport programs.




19. The staff of the College present well and dress appropriately and professionally.




20. The administration staff are welcoming, friendly and approachable.




21. The members of the Leadership Team are welcoming, friendly and approachable.




22. I am very satisfied with the College.





Further steps taken in regard to addressing Parent Feedback

  • Air-Conditioning: The MacKillop and Penola Buildings are now fully air-conditioned. We thank the P & F for assisting with part of the budget for this. We will focus in raising funds to air-condition the Theatrette and Yallunga in the future.
  • Changes to Assessment: In 2017, our school’s priority was to reduce the number of summative assessments (tests) to one per semester, that is, two per annum, per subject. Some parents have commented that they would like to know why.

The NSW Education Standards Authority (NESA) has advised schools and the community (through media releases) about changes to the HSC to be implemented in HSC 2020 (from and including Year 9 (2017)).



  • OECD research shows that effective in-school assessments give students better feedback to improve their learning, particularly among struggling students.
  • Research from Hong Kong shows fewer and more targeted assessment tasks are more effective in giving feedback to teachers and students about their strengths and weaknesses. Hong Kong and Scotland have restructured their school-based assessment tasks to reflect this best practice
  • Limiting the number of assessments will allow more time for teaching and learning, and reduce excessive stress and pressure on students.
  • Geoff Masters of the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER) encourages alternatives to exam-style assessments in schools to challenge students in different areas, and allow more opportunities to apply, rather than recite, knowledge.

In order to best prepare our students for their HSC, we will continue to adopt these strategies for Years 7 to 11 next year.




Assessment tasks focus on essays and written exams

Students receive a wide variety of assessment tasks, such as presentations and speeches, projects, in-class problem solving, starting with English, Mathematics, Science and History

Take-home essays and test questions tend to replicate HSC examination questions

School-based assessment tasks evaluate the knowledge and skills not assessed in the end-of-year written HSC exams

Students report excessive stress. From a student’s perspective, school assessments can be relentless, repetitive and stressful

Assessment tasks are capped to reduce relentless pressure and allow students more opportunities to demonstrate what they know

Too many assessments reduce the time students have to build a depth of understanding in a subject


A reduction in assessment tasks creates opportunities for

deeper learning by students

Small numbers of students engage in negative practices such as plagiarism and cheating in school-based assessments

The cap on assessment tasks to reduce excessive student stress, coupled with tougher school-based assessment guidelines, reduces opportunities for plagiarism and cheating



We need to prepare our girls for an HSC which will have re-designed assessment tasks.

  • The redesigned exam questions will be less predictable and test a student’s application of knowledge and skills.
  • There will be fewer options in subjects allowing more probing essay questions, testing students’ in-depth analysis and problem-solving skills.
  • Reducing the predictability of exam questions will discourage practices such as pre-prepared responses and ghost-writing by tutors, and provide a more reliable indication of students’ ability.
  • The Australian Council for Educational Research highlights the need for assessment practices including exams that test necessary workplace skills, including working collaboratively, using technology, communicating and solving problems.





We keep the following families in our prayers;

  • The Kondos family who have struggled through the fifth anniversary of the loss of their daughter, sister and our sister Nicola (who would have been in Year 12 this year). It was lovely to see the girls with their splashes of purple on Nicola’s anniversary (8 December).
  • Marilee Mai, and her family, as her daughter battles an aggressive form of brain cancer.




The end of the year has arrived and for teachers, kids and parents alike, that means one thing – report time. Teachers across Australia have been busy creating reports for nearly 4 million school students. Each report is filled out according to different guidelines and curricula, as well as differing degrees of flexibility.

But what about parents? What guidelines, if any, can help prepare you to respond in the right way when you receive your child’s report card – especially if your child isn’t doing as well as you might like? A recent University of Michigan study, published in the Journal of Family Psychology, offers some useful advice.

Researchers asked parents of nearly 500 US children how they would respond if their 11- to 13-year-old child brought home a report card with lower-than-expected grades or progress. They sorted those responses into two broad categories – “punitive” vs “proactive” – and then investigated whether the parents’ responses predicted better or worse school results five years later.

The study found that children whose parents said they would respond by lecturing, punishing or restricting their child’s social activities actually had lower levels of literacy and maths achievement by the end of high school. The main reason that “punitive parenting” strategies like those are unlikely to work is that they do not directly address the underlying problems that lead to the poor result. For example, the researchers argue, limiting social activities is only likely to improve school performance if going to too many social events is the reason underlying the poor performance. Perhaps just as importantly, parents who use punitive parenting practices may inadvertently deny their children the opportunity to learn the very skills and knowledge they require to improve their grades. Even worse, punitive strategies may increase children’s sense of frustration and aversion to school work.

On the positive side, the University of Michigan study and others have shown that children growing up in a cognitively stimulating home environment – characterised by things like access to books, musical instruments, and trips to the museum – are likely to show higher levels of achievement in reading and maths in high school. Other evidence also points to the value of creating a less punitive and more nurturing environment with warm, consistent and responsive parenting, though still with limits and boundaries for their children. Such an environment not only stands to enhance your child’s academic achievements, but many aspects of their biological, social, emotional and behavioural development too.

 Other research has shown the importance of giving and seeking specific feedback from an external source, such as a parent or teacher, on what good performance is, how their current performance relates to the ideal standard, and how they can act to close that gap. Teachers are a great source of information so that parents can understand the reasons behind their child’s poor performance, and not make faulty attributions about the underlying cause. So- it is vitally important that parents and their children should take the opportunity to attend the Parent/Teacher/Student interviews. It may be the last day of school but it is invaluable to get feedback.

And no matter how bad the report card might be, don’t fall into the easy trap of taking out your child’s poor performance on us. We, as teachers,  are not only there to help, but are an important ally in helping improve your child’s school performance. Engage in co-operative and constructive collaboration with us that is built on mutual respect and understanding.

It is important to note that there are plenty of other factors that can predict academic success: genes, parents’ level of education, the age of parents when a child is born, school infrastructure and teacher performance. Some of these factors can’t be changed, but many can. The challenge for parents is to tune in to those things that can be changed and act on them accordingly.

Three tips to remember at report time:

  1. When unexpected or poor results come in, research shows that reacting with frustration, anger, lecturing or punishment isn’t the best way to get better results.
  2. Consistent and responsive parenting will do more good than a punitive approach.
  3. Give and seek specific feedback on your daughter’s progress – especially the reasons behind any unexpected results.



Our mantra:

“Girls can do anything.
Bethany girls can do everything!*
(*except divide by zero)”



Vicki Lavorato