By Danielle Kutchel
Close to 1200 people have signed a petition to prevent a potential change to the names of the school houses at St Francis Xavier College.
In July it was announced that names of the Beaconsfield campus’ college houses, which currently honour those who helped establish SFX in the early 70s or played a role in the formulative years, would be changed to strengthen focus on the school’s Catholic identity.
But the decision did not sit well with many in the school community, and a petition to prevent the change was quickly formed.
Despite the public opposition, Vincent Feeney, principal of St Francis Xavier College, said the review of the house names was being “enthusiastically led by students, with support from staff in the Catholic Identity Team” and had received positive feedback from students so far.
He said there had been at least three variations to house names in the history of the school, and the latest proposal would continue that pattern of “evolution and growth”.
“The names explored will also reflect the diverse nature of our community, with equal numbers of women and men, links to charities, justice initiatives and education, and a mix of cultures to better reflect our multi-cultural community,” he said.
Mr Feeney said the petition was “based on inaccurate information”.
“At no time have we proposed to erase the legacy of our founding families or living treasures.
“The only change we are considering at this time is that of the House names; all other ways that our founders, early parents, and staff are currently honoured will remain.
“These include buildings and student awards named in their honour, and acknowledgement through the St Francis Xavier College Living Treasures honour roll.”
But year 7 student Luka Salopek maintained students had been told very little about the change.
His mother, Kristy, said she and other parents and students she had spoken to had not been asked to provide feedback on the proposal.
They said they didn’t understand the rationale behind the change, given the school already has a strong Catholic identity.
“If they want more of a Catholic identity, do it another way, you don’t have to change the names,” Kristy said.
She said the names were a “tradition” that was important to their extended family, all of whom have attended the school.
Those traditions are also important to other families she has spoken to, she added.
Luka believes that keeping the current names will demonstrate a sense of togetherness in the community, reminding the community of the spirit in which the school was founded.
Mr Feeney said any new house names would be chosen “through a process of discernment that connects our staff and students with people of depth and vision who provide a captivating story of orientating to Christ.”
The process is continuing this term and has been extended due to lockdowns.
“If a change to House names is approved, we will consider how best to enhance recognition and celebration of the College’s history and those who contributed to it.
“Specifically, it is important to know that the college is preparing to both continue and expand the Living Treasures honour, to recognise key people who have contributed to the college throughout its 43-year history,” he added.