Headmasters Newsletter 18 February 2015

Staff Development

On Thursday 19 February we will be having a “pupil free day” so that the teachers can engage in some much needed staffccdevelopment. This will be conducted by a combination of professional presenters and in-house ones. Do pray for us.

Athletics

Our High School athletes returned to school on Friday far too late for their results to be included in the last newsletter. All the hard work by the coaches, the learners, and even parents Delmar Nortje and Jeran le Roux, is beginning to bear fruit and we had a team in high spirits that achieved results that far outshone our efforts of last year – you might call it a Waterberg Academy personal best!

Retang Manyako got 3rd place in the 400m; Tivani Mkansi got third in the 1 500m; and Tiishetjo Maila got 3rd in the High Jump. Bearing in mind that the schools we were competing with are all at least ten times bigger than us, and that athletics is close to a religion in the area (surpassed only by rugby), we are VERY proud of our athletes and their coaches. In addition, the excellent spirit displayed by the team, which sang and encouraged one another throughout, makes us all proud. Many of the athletes also registered personal bests on the day.

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Retang, Tishetjo and Tivane – podium finishers!

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The team (and coach) in high spirits.

The Junior team was away at Euphorbia yesterday and got back at 19h00. Thank you, all those parents who helped to transport athletes. The bus simply does not take enough people.

Mr Mosime and Miss Coetser took six swimmers to Tzaneen for the Shamu Swimming Club Gala in Tzaneen. Here the swimmers were able to appreciate the difference between training in the afternoons and simply relying on the DEAL periods to build fitness. Retang Manyako, fresh from the athletics track, got a 3rd place in the 50m freestyle. This was the first time our swimmers had attended such a swimming gala, and the experience was invaluable.

I have opened talks with Mr Mosime with a view to getting a swimming club going here at the School. Watch this space.

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Our swimmers wait for the next race.

Retang shows off his swimming bronze in the

Monday morning assembly.

 Horse Riding

Over the weekend Ruben le Roux took part in the SANESA Schools Horse Show in Polokwane. As a result of his own hard work and the input from Hester van der Wath, his coach, and Adriana, his mother, Ruben won three of the five events he entered, namely dressage, performance and equitation. There was lovely support for Ruben and the Academy at the event with a dozen people of all ages sporting our Waterberg Academy Supporter shirts at the event and eliciting many enquiries of, “Where is this Waterberg Academy?” Well done, Ruben, and well done parents and supporters.

On the right is a picture of Ruben with one of his first place rosettes. Note the Waterberg Academy badge on his blazer pocket!

Below is a picture of Ruben before the competition started, with Sweep beautifully turned out and himself looking VERY smart. Did you plait that mane and tail yourself, Ruben?

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Board Matters

At its regular quarterly meeting on Monday, the Academy’s Board considered a number of matters, in addition to its normal business, that the Bursar and I had raised with the Finance Committee the previous week. The reason for this is that all the issues raised involve the expenditure of funds outside the normal budgeted operation of the school. Some of these issues had also been raised by concerned parents.

I am able to advise that we agreed on the following actions:

School Security: Control of access to and exit from the school has long been a topic of Board discussion, the problem being the
capital and operating cost of providing such a function. After consideration of various alternatives, we have decided:

  • To employ a security guard to be accommodated and stationed at the main entrance gate from 06:30 to 17:00 on normal school days.
  • Both gates will be opened at the beginning and end of school, but only the main gate will be open at other times.
  • Parents will be provided with windscreen stickers to indicate to the guard that they are authorised to enter the property.
  • The guard will be equipped with a radio link to the office in order that he can control the access of other visitors to the school.
  • We will take advantage of this new equipment to link the radio to the local emergency radio channel.
  • This facility will be implemented as soon as the necessary personnel and equipment can be procured.
  • Parents should know that currently, the school receives the benefit of all-night after hours security courtesy of the generosity of Danielle and Simon Roodt, who provide a guard without any charge. We are deeply appreciative of this contribution.

Child Safety on Campus: At the PTA / Board feedback to parents last November, we agreed to investigate alternative ways of managing traffic flow through the school in order to minimise the risk of an accident occurring, especially in regard to children at the Pre-Primary phase.

The first step in dealing with this matter was the immediate introduction of speed humps on the main thoroughfares. These humps were installed by Jeran Le Roux (Mainpro Construction) at no cost to the school. Jeran has also re-graded the road, rebuilt the off-ramp from the tar road – and done all the work on preparing the surface for the archery range – all at no cost to the school! This huge contribution is greatly appreciated. There is no way that the school could have afforded to do this work otherwise.

Several alternative traffic flow and parking schemes have been examined, all with the objective of securing the safety of our children while minimising the inconvenience to both staff and parents. The following has been decided:

  • A child-proof fence will be erected along the northern (parking area) edge of the Pre-Primary grounds, from the already-fenced playground to the wall of the Grade 3 classroom. Two high, child-proof, sprung gates will be installed along this fence, one close to each end. These gates will require the height and strength of an adult to open. The fencing will be made as aesthetically acceptable as funding allows. Work will commence almost immediately.
  • The existing Pre-Primary drop-off loop will be retained.
  • The secondary drop-off loop towards the Senior Primary phase will be eliminated, with only a single track – that closest to the hall – remaining open, to allow passage only of the school bus, staff and delivery vehicles.
  • The existing parking area between the Admin Block and the Hall will remain in place.
  • Parents are urged to comply with the new traffic and parking arrangements and to heed the speed restrictions: despite the speed humps, there are still some parents who drive too fast through the school grounds.

Emergency Power Generation: The advent of prolonged load shedding has created an urgent need to provide basic emergency power for the boarding establishment and essential operating and administrative functions of the school.

Ideally, we would install a single, diesel-powered, 20-25kVA generator at a central point, that would switch on and off automatically during Eskom power failures. However, such an installation, including a building and the requisite wiring would cost over R100 000, which is far beyond the current means of the school, even without taking into account all the other demands being made on our resources.

Instead, we will be installing low-wattage, battery/USP-based LED lighting in the rooms of the boarding establishment and related staff quarters, to provide essential lighting only. No provision can be made at this stage to power sockets, appliances, geysers, air conditioners etc. Fortunately, Eskom seems to be adhering well to its published load shedding schedules, allowing staff and pupils to anticipate and manage their needs to avoid the 2.5 hour outages.

Essential power for the admin block will need to be provided by dedicated, petrol-powered generator, probably of about 6kVA. This will have to be purchased and its operating costs incorporated into those of the school. Once again, no non-essential items – geysers, air conditioners, etc., – can be supported. Moreover, essential teaching equipment, including smart boards, computers and some laboratory equipment, will not be operable during load shedding; and academic staff are already planning their schedules accordingly.

Parents are requested to be understanding of the limitations that will inevitably be imposed by load shedding; and to acknowledge that these are not of the school’s making.

Unsafe Doors at the Hall: When the hall was built, two metal roll-up garage doors were installed on the western side, presumably with the intention of providing covered parking for school vehicles. As the school grew, so the spaces behind these doors became used as classrooms and as a dining room. The doors no longer serve their original purpose and are inappropriate for the new utilisation of the space behind them. Their replacement by ordinary wooden doors was scheduled as part of the refurbishment of the exterior of the hall when funds allowed.

However, last month, one of the doors, having been opened to provide ventilation, fell on a staff member when she attempted to close the door. Fortunately, the injuries sustained by the staff member, while traumatic and painful, were less serious than could have been the case; but the accident alerted us to the need to deal with this risk immediately. In the interim, the door in question has been locked, pending its replacement. The Board has decided to replace both doors with aesthetically suitable wooden double doors, possibly with an adjacent window; and to commence work on this project immediately. Wet work is
scheduled to commence within the next few days: this will inevitably cause some inconvenience to staff and pupils concerned, for which I apologise in advance.

Swimming Pool: Since it was commissioned, the pool (the result of yet another extremely generous donation by a former parent family, the Nowaks) has proved difficult to maintain in optimal condition, despite numerous interventions. Its chemical cost is high but its fundamental problem is that the pumping and piping system with which it was originally equipped is inadequate for the treatment of the volume of water it contains. Quotations received for the overhaul of the whole system have ranged up to R120 000 – again a cost that is not currently affordable. In the meanwhile, staff do their best, using chemicals and manual cleaning, to maintain the pool in a tolerable, if not ideal condition.

The above are just the most urgent of numerous challenges confronting the school – and which it, like all independent schools, will continue to need to address. In each case, the resolution of a problem requires thought, foresight, time (usually given voluntarily, by someone like Angus Frew, whose contributions to the school in this way have been immense), materials – and money. We have at our disposal a small amount of money (all of it donated) left over from building the new classrooms, which we will apply to the issues listed above. In addition, the PTA has some limited funds and I will be asking it to consider making some of this available.

But the combined cost of the measures we have decided to implement far exceeds these limited resources. I think it is critical that parents recognise this fact – and also that it is not fair, or sustainable, for them to expect the same small band of benefactors, some of whom don’t even have children at the school, to continue to dig into their pockets every time a problem arises that needs attention. I would like to appeal to the rest of the parent body to come forward with offers of assistance – not necessarily in the form of money, but with relevant materials, or contacts for materials at reduced prices, with labour, with their own time. This is a not-for-profit school: it relies on fee income to pay salaries and normal operational costs; and on voluntary parental and other contributions to cover the many other expenses it incurs. The only beneficiaries are the pupils who attend it – and their parents.

If you would like to make a contribution, in cash or in kind, please contact me, or in my absence the Bursar, or Angus Frew, who chairs the Facilities sub-committee of the Board.

Mark Godfrey