THE focus was on Fish Creek last Wednesday, when triple celebrations were held at the primary school. Fish Creek and District Primary School, to give the school its full title, was celebrating:
- the official opening of a beautiful new building which houses the grades three to six classrooms;
- the opening of a time capsule buried during the occasion of the school’s centenary 20 years ago;
- and recognition of the efforts of teacher Susan Poletti, who has been with the Department of Education for 35 years, including the last 25 at Fish Creek Primary.
As if that wasn’t enough, the school also welcomed grandparents and special friends of the students to the school that morning for Grandparents Day, an opportunity to view their grandchildren at work and play.
School students as well as 200 or so guests, including parents and many other members of the Fish Creek community – some of whom were former students – gathered in the new building for the official proceedings at 11am, before sharing morning tea catered for by the school’s parents’ club.
Principal Robin Smith welcomed guests and introduced the official party, who included the Minister for Higher Education and Skills, Peter Hall MLC, School Council President Marion Bowron and Doug Latham, who was president when the capsule was buried twenty years ago. Deputy Premier and Member for Gippsland South, Peter Ryan, was a last-minute apology.
After the preliminaries, including singing of the national anthem, Mr Smith invited school captains Tom Price and Erin Howard to address the crowd.
They said how excited they were to move into this new building for senior students.
“It is open, spacious and good to be in. It’s really comfortable,” said Tom.
“It helps us to improve our learning capacity. It’s easier to work in, easy to get around and not cramped like our last building. It lets us work together much more easily,” said Erin.
“It feels ‘stress-free.’ Since we’ve moved in, life’s been good!” added Tom.
The Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills, Jobs and Workplace Relations, Senator Chris Evans, was not able to be at the ceremony, but he sent his apologies and a message from the federal government, which the captains read out. This congratulated the school on the opening of the new classrooms, funded under the Building the Education Revolution (BER) program, “a critical component of the Government’s Nation Building – Economic Stimulus Plan, [to] deliver new infrastructure and resources to meet the needs of 21st Century learning, while supporting Australian jobs.”
School Council President Marion Bowron then unveiled a plaque honouring the federal government’s contribution to the construction of the new building.
It was then time to reveal the contents of the time capsule which, Mr Hall was relieved to see, had already been unearthed, though Mr Smith delighted in presenting the Minister with a shovel anyway!
Doug Latham told what he remembered about the burial of the time capsule. He said that there had been some discussion about how long it should be buried, but Peter Woods, who was principal at the time, had insisted it should be only twenty years.
“Perhaps so that he could be sure of being around when it was opened,” said Mr Smith. “And he’s not even here today to see it!” he added cheekily.
Mr Latham said that the capsule had been buried in the year of the school centenary, which was also a year in which Fish Creek had won the local football, so it was a particularly proud year for the community.
Mr Hall was then invited to speak. He said he was especially pleased to be there, since he had been present at the school centenary twenty years before, when the capsule was first interred. He had, he said, brought along the walking stick which he had been given as a memento of the centenary. Adding his memories of 1991, he said it was the year that Hawthorn won the Grand Final, Jim Stynes won the Brownlow Medal, and the Simpsons started on Australian TV – which last comment raised a lot of interest from among the younger members of the audience.
“It’s important that we look to the future and make the most of the next twenty years,” he said.
“The Fish Creek school has always been well supported by its community, as is shown by the big crowd here today,” he added.
Students Breanna Byers, Georgia Thornton, Emma Taylor and Carmen Tracy then carried in the time capsule – or capsules, since there was more than one cylinder. Matt Latham, who was the youngest student at the school when the capsule was buried – and is now a strapping six-footer – was invited to help Mr Hall open the capsules, revealing letters, ‘Mirror’ newspapers, shopping dockets and other pieces of information about Fish Creek and the world twenty years ago.
The spotlight then turned onto long-time Fish Creek Primary teacher Susan Poletti. Mr Hall congratulated her on her 35 years with the Education Department, which began when she graduated from Frankston Teachers College back in the 1970s. Ms Poletti has taught at Fish Creek since 1986, except for a couple of years (2003 and 2008) when she taught in outback aboriginal communities. It is generally recognised that she has made a significant contribution to education and to individual students and continued to be mentor and trainer for many student teachers from universities in both Victoria and the Northern Territory. She is very well respected by her colleagues, students and the school community as a whole.
As she was presented with a certificate and a cherry tree in token of the appreciation of the school community, Ms Poletti beamed at the Fish Creek students, saying “These are the people who make it all worthwhile. Teaching here is very rewarding.”