A tribute to Director of Schools, Ray Collins, upon his retirement

As the end of another year approaches I reflect on this ‘end’ being a little different. We will farewell our Director of Schools, Ray Collins, after nineteen years with the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle, including nine ‘serving with distinction’ as Director.

To adequately acknowledge Ray’s enormous contribution to Catholic education is a difficult task. In Ray’s recent weekly blog, he noted “it is rather interesting….that around this time of the year I will have completed 61 years of continuous involvement in school education. The exact date is lost on me as I commenced Kindergarten at the beginning of Term 3 in 1956, in the years of the three-term year….it was certainly my introduction to a lifetime of school involvement...”

However, Ray didn’t begin his teaching career in a Catholic school. In 1973, after completing his teaching diploma at Newcastle Teachers’ College, Ray was sent out west to his first appointment at Bourke Public School. And whilst he enjoyed his first three years there, Ray accepted another call to move schools, this time, to St John's Primary School in Dubbo. So began his journey in Catholic education and his love for western NSW and the Diocese of Bathurst.

Ray’s years (1976-1987) at St John’s proved a successful and fulfilling time, in his roles as class teacher, senior primary teacher, and eventually as school principal. It was also in Dubbo that he met and married Annette, who has been a wonderful support to Ray. In 1988 Ray accepted an appointment to the Catholic Education Offices in Dubbo and Bathurst, working with schools in various consultancy roles, completing ten years travelling the Bathurst Diocese in his support of primary schools. In 1998 he accepted the call of his home Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle. Ray has held the role of Schools Consultant, Head of Teaching and Learning, Assistant Director and Director of Schools.

Ray has also been a Member of the Catholic Education Commission of NSW, is the current Chair of the Catholic Schools Sports Services and Chair of the Conference of Diocesan Directors of Education.

While it is easy enough to note the time, years and roles one serves in one’s career, it is another matter to describe the impact a person has had. Unquestionably, the hallmark of Ray’s leadership and ministry to Catholic education is his Catholic faith and service in action. In the 2014 publication, "Will Catholic Schools be Catholic in 2030?", Kavanagh & Pallissier make this comment, “…the type of person the principal is and their style of leadership are dominant factors affecting the culture of the school. A central consideration is the personal integrity of the principal exhibiting harmony between role and soul.” As a leader of Catholic schools Ray is infused with this harmony.

In Catholic education there is a constant need to give fresh articulation to its vision and mission. Under Ray’s leadership over the last nine years the diocesan system of schools has grown and flourished. In 2016 Ray leaves the diocese in very good shape: a robust system of schools; a steady increase in student enrolments; financial stability; new schools built and others expanded; cultural initiatives and academic achievements realised; a forward-looking model of planning and development; positive relationships with parents, parishes and the wider community and social justice commitments reaffirmed.

We have also experienced Ray as keeper of the diocesan story. His weekly message animates key events in his life that have shaped him: family anecdotes and growing up in St Brigid’s Parish, Raymond Terrace; school sporting activities at Marist Hamilton; his children and their experiences at school; his love for the Bathurst Diocese; his study tour to India with then Director, Wayne Tinsey, in 2005 and subsequent study tours and his recent trip to Poland as part of the WYD pilgrimage. In a recent post Ray noted, “our challenge as Catholic Educators is to ensure that we provide “More than a Great Education” for the young people in our care today and into the future. An education that provides them with a life model will enable them to sustain our society as a just, fair and compassionate one for years to come. It is a challenge that we readily embrace.”

I have been fortunate to work with good people in Catholic education, but in Ray, I have experienced someone who is truly authentic, as person, teacher and leader; a builder of community and a faithful servant to Catholic schools.

Thank you, Ray. We wish Ray and Annette every blessing as they begin this new phase of their lives.

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