Dear Parents, Teachers and Students,
It is difficult to find the words to describe the past fortnight. Our school and Lismore – the town of our birthplace – has changed forever. Amongst such tragedy and trauma, we have been reminded of why we choose to call the Northern Rivers home. The power of kindness, love and community. It has been a truly remarkable time.
I am writing on behalf of the Guardians of Purpose (the Board of Directors of the School) to provide an update on the health of the School, and in doing so, seek to provide a sense of calm comfort and reassurance that the Living School’s future is bright.
In essence, our School’s strength and ability to respond to this catastrophe is a reflection of the work that has been done over the past 6 months by the Guardians, with the Conductor, to define the next stage of the School’s development. A key focus for our new strategy is the School’s purpose as (stated in our constitution) “a co-educational independent multi-campus not-for-profit school”. The next stage will focus on activating our multicampus structure, which will provide greater flexibility and resilience to move between sites as we progress through our reconstruction works. We are determined to realise our presence across four campuses: Conway Street, Brown and Jolly, Southern Cross University and the Stewart’s Farm.
The independent review of the School is an important input to School planning. For those of you who invested the time to complete the survey, thank you. We had 62 per cent of our parent community do so. Overall, the level of satisfaction with the school is at 87 per cent which puts the Living School in the highest band for independent schools. On all of the key measures of overall satisfaction, affinity, reputation, facilities, leadership and management, student wellbeing and learning – the School tracked in the highest range of greater than 80 per cent.
The purpose of the review is to guide our learning and development as a School. You highlighted that we can do better in how we communicate and we could provide greater clarity as to the timeframes for the development of our facilities. There was also important feedback on the importance you place on clarity of the student’s learning journey through the year and the various opportunities for three-way feedback along the way.
At our extraordinary meeting of the Guardians last Saturday, we focused specifically on the health and strength of the School. That’s our primary role as volunteer Guardians, to ensure that the School is in a position to realise its purpose. We reviewed the impacts of the flood event on all facets of the School’s operations; discussed health, safety and support requirements for our staff and families; discussed a detailed financial report and approved an updated budget.
In summary, the financial health of Living School is strong. We have no debt. We have relatively good insurance cover that will meet most of the key replacement costs. We had already budgeted for construction works at both Conway Street and to an extent at Brown and Jolly. We had factored in the activation of a new campus at Southern Cross University. There will be gaps in our capacity to fund elements of the reconstruction to realise our vision for Brown and Jolly – and this will need support and will be the focus of our fundraising efforts. Please do everything you can to put the School’s flood appeal in front of those who have the capacity to contribute. A page is on our website – https://living.school/donate-to-flood-appeal/
At our recent weekend retreat, the Guardians discussed the importance of our School for the future of Lismore. Education with community can regenerate a City. I believe this now more than ever. Lismore is our birthplace and we are committed to our vision of Lismore as the centre for progressive education in the world! Our partnership with the University is a step in that direction.
We are just one of many organisations that have been deeply impacted by the floods. And like all those who are now engaged on the road to recovery, we need your support and confidence more than ever. These will be the most critical ingredients for our recovery.
At this time, the Living School needs us all to lean in and back the School as we take our first steps after the flood. We have an opportunity to do more than simply rebuild, but regenerate and create something even more incredible than what we had before.
It is important for you to know and be confident that the School is positioned strongly to do this, and with your support and belief, we are deeply optimistic about our future.
All my very best,