Saint Mark's Coptic Orthodox College - Newsletter

Volume 25 Edition 1 - February 2020

Welcome to Saint Mark's Coptic Orthodox College eNewsletter

From the Head of College - Mr Anthony Tsoutsas

A warm and heartfelt WELCOME to all our Families, Staff and Students and and as we commence this 2020 Academic year, I wish everyone to achieve every success in your respective endeavours.  In particular I welcome all our new incoming Kindergarten students and their families, along with new students and families commencing throughout the College in their respective year groups.

It also gives me great please to welcome the following new members of Staff and hope their entry into the St Mark's Coptic Orthodox family is a rewarding and fruitful for both themselves and also the students they will be caring and instructing:

Ms Nimisha Rai - Science with Physics

Ms Selenia Bono - Science with Biology

Mr Michael Sidhom - Science with Chemistry

Mr Christopher Chong - English

Ms Anita Grassy - Visual Arts

Mr Andrew Armanyos - Primary PDHPE

Ms Maggy Touma - Primary Year 1

My CONGRATULATIONS to the Yr 12 Class of 2019 and their Staff on the brilliant achievements following the 2019 HSC Results. (Summary Ads included at end of this Newsletter).  Every student of the 74 in the cohort worked hard to achieve their respective best, and for those achiving Band 6's and All-Rounder status (achieving Band 6 in each of their courses).  Mathematics, English and Science also deserve special mention as collectively, their results were consistently above all state averages for each of their courses.  Overall SMCOC received a State standing of 69th in the State; 17th in Mathematics Advanced & Extensions; 32nd in English Advanced & Extensions.  (Only English & Maths show state standings hence why Science is not indicated with a standing). A difficult, yet BRILLIANT achievement from all.  Bravo and Well done!

Welcoming 2020 Academic Year Liturgy

All students and Staff K - 12 were blessed with the presence of His Eminence Metropolitan Tadros at the first whole school Liturgy.  His Eminence was assisted by our College Chaplain Rev Fr George and six visiting Clergy:  Rev Father Suriel, Rev Fr Botros, Rev Fr Thomas, Rev Fr Anthony, Rev Fr Luke and Rev Fr Cyril.  Some photos from the Liturgy follow.  During his sermon, His Eminence spoke with loving care to our students concerning the life and importance of St Anthony and St Paula and the importance of 1. Speaking to God (through direct prayer) and 2. Listening to God (through reading at least one small chapter from the Bible each day).  We thank His Eminence and our blessed Clergy for their willingness to conduct this bueautiful Liturgy for all our benefit.


As other members of the Management Team have outlined certain areas for parents consideration, highlight upcoming events etc throughout this Newsletter, I would again like to re-iterate and ask parents to PLEASE NOT use the STAFF CAR PARK to drop off or wait to collect children.

The Car Park is to be used soley by STAFF at the College.  It is crowded, difficult to manouevre and more difficult to see individuals.  Staff members leave and return throughout the day attending their meetings and school related tasks.  

Unauthorised vehicles seen parked in the Staff Car Park/Driveway will be towed at the owners cost.  The College has no liability for anyone's vehicle within the Car Park and is not liable for any damage caused.  Please ensure others (who may not read this newsletter) collecting or dropping off your children are made aware of these requirements.

2020 Academic Year Commencement Liturgy with His Eminence Metropolitan Tadros

The Meaning of Great Lent

This year commencing 24 February 2020

Great Lent is considered the holiest fast since our Lord Jesus Christ Himself had fasted it. Therefore, during Great Lent we follow the example set by our Lord Jesus Christ, Who fasted on our behalf forty days and forty nights (Matt. 4: 2). Also during Holy Week, which comes after the 40 days, we live the Passion of Christ day by day and hour by hour. Because of the significance and holiness of Great Lent, the Church designated a week of preparation to precede the 40 days. The Church is teaching us to prepare for Great Lent in a spiritual manner. We fast to prepare ourselves for the 40 holy days. In fact, the preparatory week is not the only fast which the Church designated to get us ready for Great Lent and Holy Week.

Two weeks prior to Great Lent there is Jonah’s Fast, also known as Nineveh’s Fast. It is a short fast, only three days, and it is a fast of repentance. During this fast, we live with Jonah his fasting and repentance in the whale’s belly. We also live with the Ninevites their fasting and repentance. Just as the fasting accompanied by repentance saved Jonah and the Ninevites from perdition, also our fasting accompanied by repentance will save us from eternal destruction and death due to sin.

Great Lent is an Apostolic Fast:  It is mentioned in the Didskalia (chapter 18) the following: “Great Lent should be honored before Holy Week. It starts on the Monday following the Saturday and is completed on the Friday preceding Holy Week. After it, you must pay great attention to Holy Week and fast it with fear and piety.” In Canon 69 from the Canons of our Fathers the Apostles, the following is mentioned: “Any bishop, priest, deacon, reader, or chanter who does not fast Great Lent or Wednesdays and Fridays shall be excommunicated, unless he has a physical ailment. As for a lay person, he shall be excluded.”

Great Lent is an Ascetical Fast: The Church teaches us to fast until sunset. Fish is not allowed during this period. Also married couples should refrain from physical relations to give themselves time for fasting and prayer (1 Cor. 7: 5). We would like to emphasize the importance of the period of strict abstention during fasting. It is refraining from eating and drinking for a period of time, followed by eating vegetarian food. Some people practice fasting by abstaining from meat and they eat vegetarian food, disregarding the period of strict abstention. These people should actually be regarded as vegetarians and not as fasting. A vegetarian eats only vegetarian food, but is not considered a fasting person. True fasting must be accompanied by abstention from food and drink until sunset as designated by the Church. However, due to variations in people’s physical and spiritual abilities, the Church gave the father of confession the authority to designate to his children the length of their strict abstinence. He determines what is suitable for their spiritual benefit according to the nature of their work, as well as their physical ability to endure fasting.

Great Lent is a Period of Prayer: The period of Great Lent is distinctive for its many Liturgies. They become the spiritual treasure for the fasting person to help him throughout the rest of the year. In addition to the Divine Liturgy on Sundays, which have specific readings, hymns, and tunes, the Church also arranged special readings for the daily Liturgies during Great Lent. Also, during the weekdays, there are special hymns. The Church celebrates the Divine Liturgy almost daily during Great Lent. It is preferred that these Liturgies start late in the day to offer those fasting the opportunity to practice strict abstinence. It is not permitted to have the Divine Liturgy on weekdays early in the morning, since we pray the hours until the Compline Prayer. How can we pray the psalms of the Compline Prayer at 5:00 A.M.? Also, having an early morning Liturgy means there will not be abstention from food, since we can not abstain from food following the Divine Liturgy. The proper time to end the Divine Liturgy during the weekdays of Great Lent is at sunset. Due to the inability of the elderly and the sick, it is permitted to have it end earlier, but not before noon. That way everyone may receive the blessing of Holy Communion, while benefiting from abstention. We hope that the fathers of confession will take great care in guiding their children as to the importance of strict abstinence and how to struggle to keep it for as long as they can.

Great Lent is a Period of Repentance:  Fasting without repentance and changing one’s life becomes useless. Unless the fasting person changes his life during fasting, he will only be hungry and exhausted without gaining anything else. Therefore, the Church constantly reminds us of the importance of repentance during fasting. Before Great Lent, we fast Jonah’s Fast and we live the story of Jonah and the Ninevites’ repentance. During the third Sunday of Lent, the Holy Church offers us the Gospel reading of the Prodigal Son as a model of repentance, which requires an awakening, confession of sins, leaving the place of sin, and returning to the Heavenly Fr. with confidence in His mercies and acceptance. This parable reveals to us the depth of God’s love for sinners and how He accepts them no matter how horrendous their sin is. Our Lord Jesus Christ said, “the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out.” (John 6: 37) Christ “has come to save that which was lost.” (Matt. 18:11) God desires that all men be saved and come to the knowledge of truth (1Tim. 2:4). Christ is the True Physician who is needed by those who are ill by sin. He did not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance (Mark 2: 17). Repentance is a result of divine action; it is the Spirit of God, Who moves the hearts of sinners to repent. It is written in the Holy Bible, “For it is God who works in you both to will and do for His good pleasure.”(Phil. 2: 13) God’s pleasure is in the return of a sinner so that he will not die in his sin. When God sees his sinful child returning to Him, He has compassion and goes to him, kissing him, and welcomes his return by saying, “It is right that we should make merry and be glad.” (Luke 15: 32) The return of a sinner and his repentance results in joy to God, as well as all those in heaven, because, “there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance.” (Luke 15: 7)

Great Lent is a Period for Doing Mercy: The Church reminds us of the importance of doing merciful acts during fasting. Therefore, during Great Lent we chant together praising those who have mercy on the poor. The Holy Bible teaches us that the fasting which is accepted by God is the one in which we do acts of mercy to others. “Is this not the fast that I have chosen: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, to let the oppressed go free, and that you break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and that you bring to your house the poor who are cast out; when you see the naked, that you cover him, and not hide yourself from you own flesh?”

Fasting is a beautiful period to do good deeds by helping the poor, feeding the hungry, visiting the sick, and taking care of the needs of others. The person who fasts by not yielding to the needs of the flesh, will feel the needs of others and his heart will be moved to serve them. Also, the asceticism of fasting teaches us to care for the heavenly and not be concerned with the earthly. Thus it becomes easy to forsake our material possessions and offer them to the needy.

Great Lent is a Period of Reconciliation with Others: Fasting is an act of worship presented to God, and God does not accept the offering and worship of a person who quarrels with others. Instead, He asks him to go and make peace with his brother before coming to worship and present offerings in front of God’ altar. Fasting is an appropriate time to evaluate our relationship with others. As we ask God to forgive us our sins, we must also forgive those who have sinned against us.

May God grant us a blessed fast by which we can grow in a life of prayer, asceticism, and repentance. May we always increase in doing acts of mercy and living in peace with one another.

adapted from

Upcoming Dates

Term 1 - 2020

Thurs 6 Feb  Celebratory Liturgy for 2020 Academic Year

Mon 10 Feb  Jonah's Fast Commences

Mon 10 Feb  Whole School Photos Day K - 12

Mon 10 Feb  Year 7 Parent Information Evening 7 - 8 pm

Tue 11 Feb   K-6 Parent Information Evening 6 - 7 pm

Wed 12 Feb  Jonah's (Nineveh) Fast concludes

Wed 12 Feb  Year 7 Orientation Camp, Narrabeen Sports Complex till 14 Feb

Thu 13 Feb   Jonah's (Nineveh) Feast Day

Fri 21 Feb     Yr 7 Immunisation #1

Mon 24 Feb  Great & Holy Lent Commences (50 days)

Fri 28 Feb      Secondary Swimming Carnival

Deputy Head of College K - 12 Mrs Deborah Grohala

I extend a warm welcome to students and their families as we commence the new school year. In particular, I wish to welcome those who join our School community in 2020.

Each school year provides for new opportunities and I am looking forward to working alongside the students and staff as we strive to achieve all that we can in the year ahead. The manner in which the students have commenced is most encouraging, with an air of vigour and enthusiasm.

Below are some important details for parents regarding organisation, structures and student requirements for the start of the year.

School Pick and Drop Off

Parents please consider the safety of all of our students, particularly those in the Junior School, in making your arrangements for afternoon pick ups.

You are also asked to ensure that traffic and parking regulations are followed at all times and that respect for our neighbours is always observed (properties and driveways and gardens), especially during the busy drop off and pick up times where some people double park, block and wait on fences etc leaving rubbish behind.

This is to ensure not only our students’ safety, but also the safety and needs of our local community and contractors. In a bid to improve student pedestrian safety we have a School Crossing Supervisor who oversees the crossing in Australis avenue. Parents in particular and asked to be respectful of this crossing and use it at all times.

Student diaries

Student diaries for K-12 will be handed out to students in Week 3 (post 17 Feb as advised by the printing company due to delays overseas).

Student diaries are an integral part of the two-way communication process that takes place between home and school (as well as being essential to each student’s organisation of their academic activities). Please be aware that diaries are not to be decorated and that should diaries not be kept in the manner prescribed, students will be required to purchase a replacement. Parents/carers are reminded that they need to sign the diary at the start of the year and each week.

Uniform Matters

I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for your continued support of our school, your child’s progress and securing the highest expectations for all.

Our students are continually praised by members of the public and local community for the way that they look and how they represent the school. Our appearance is important and sends a clear message to everyone demonstrating that our students have pride in their school and their learning.

Please ensure your child’s name is clearly labelled on each item of their school uniform so that it can be returned if found.

Parents are reminded that the sports uniform may only be worn to and from school on the designated sports day, Tuesday for Secondary and Wednesday for Primary. Students must change into sports uniform at school for PDHPE lessons and change back into regular school uniform at the conclusion of their lesson.

The College Diary explains the Uniform and Grooming Policy in more detail however in the senior school if a student is in breach of this policy they may receive a demerit from a teacher. Three demerits in a week results in an after school detention. Parents will be informed in writing if an afternoon detention occurs.

K-12 Photo Day will be held next Monday the 10 February.

Yr 7 Camp will be held Wednesday the 12 February to Friday 14 February.

Student Leadership Teams Primary & Secondary

Congratulations to the elected student leaders for 2020 K - 12


Captains: Arsany Farhoud & Marly Mikhael 

Vice Captains:  Christian Ab-Hanna & Mariah Metira      

St George: Andre Wahbah & Angela Bechara 

St Anthony: Elias Khoury & Selina Saeed

St Marina: Zacariah  Abboud & Clara Ghatas

St Demiana: Steven Sarkis & Daniela Bastouros



Michael Kamel & Alexandra Assad


Joseph Gad & Danielle Safi 

Sports Captains

Paul Said & Ryna Prasad  

Secondary Prefects

Jana Djordjevic, Anthony Nakhil, Theodora Ramzy, Joyce Todary, Jawale Arnav, Gloria Ghattas. 

House Captains

St Anthony – Youssef Estafanos and Dogmawit Bayeh, 

St Demina - Shweta Marathe and Matthew Georgi, 

St Marina -  Marcus Boctor and David Nasr, 

St George - Rahul Sharma and Natalia Sidhom.

Curriculum News Years 7 - 12 Mr Peter Joseph


On behalf of the college community, we commend the Class of 2019 for their outstanding HSC results. The Class of 2019 was an incredibly hard-working group and we are all so very proud of their achievements. For some statistics, 21% of our total results were placed in the Band 6 / E4 category. 310 / 386 exam attempts yielded a result in Band 4, 5/E3 and Band 6 / E4. This is simply outstanding and a reminder of what hard work and faith in God can achieve. A huge congratulations to our students and to the many staff who work tirelessly serving their classes. 


The College has embarked on a journey for the next three years in setting some strategic goals for teaching and learning. These goals are on display in every classroom and will help guide all teaching and staff professional development. These goals were devised based on the 2019 AIS School Improvement survey that was completed by members of the community, including teachers, students and parents. We are excited to embark on this journey in our quest to continue to improve the quality of teaching and learning at St Mark's Coptic Orthodox College. 


With the beginning of the new year, it’s always a great time to reassess your academic approach. The key to making the most of this opportunity is focusing on the things which will bring the biggest return.

1. Simplify Your Organization System

Every student has an organization system. True, the definition of “organization” may be looser for some students than others, but everyone has a way they stay organized (or attempt to).

Maybe you’re the “Type-A” student and you have a clearly defined system. You’ll know that you’re “Type-A” by the file folders you both own and use, the folded socks in your drawer, and all the lists by which you keep track of important information. You probably have a calendar, a planner, and you know exactly which clothing is clean and which is dirty.

But not everyone fits in such a naturally organized world. These students can be called “Type-B.”

If you’re a “Type-B” student, you’re not alone, but organization probably requires more effort. “Type-B” students tend to prefer “piling systems” to filing cabinets. Calendars often seem like too much work, so they’d rather just put everything in their backpacks and find it later. Students on the far end of the “Type-B” universe may even find themselves sorting laundry via the “smell check” method.

Regardless of whether you are a Type A or B student, though, one of the biggest difference-makers this year is your organization system. Few things will save time and improve academic performance the way an effective organization system will.

A great organization system has at its centre one goal: replace your brain.

The more organized you are, the less you have to think. Your organization system should be simple enough that you don’t have to make any decisions about where you put new assignments, where to find completed assignments, or what to do with graded assignments. You shouldn’t have to go through a mental checklist every time you study because your organization system does it for you.

The fewer decisions you need to make, the more your thoughts and energy can focus on things that matter. Consider these four questions to determine how simple your organization system is right now:

  • Do you have good systems in place to manage and organize both the paper and digital resources for school?
  • Do you have a system to make sure that all assignments and due dates are marked on your calendar / planner?
  • Do you have a system to focus on what needs to be done today and not just what’s due tomorrow?

When you can answer each of these four questions without thinking, you’ll know that your organization system is simple enough to be a major asset this year.

2. Break the “Cram Cycle” Before it Starts

By the end of the semester, students often find themselves overloaded and overwhelmed, having to rely on cramming for final exams to get through to the break. They are exhausted and in survival mode. Thriving academically no longer matters. All that matters is the break at the end.

If you’ve ever felt this way, you’ve experienced what we call the “Cram Cycle.” Students get busy during the semester, which leads to exhaustion. When you’re exhausted, the only thing you want to do is zone out for a bit. After an afternoon of zoning, students are forced to put all their effort into completing assignments that are due tomorrow. We call this “cramming.” As students work on only that which is due tomorrow, long-term assignments pile up and create even more busyness, which leads to exhaustion, and the “Cram Cycle” begins to accelerate.

Most students only get out of the “Cram Cycle” when the semester ends.

But this year can be different. If you want to stay out of this dreaded cycle, commit yourself to doing some independent learning at least five days a week, even when you don’t have anything due the next day. Use every day as a review day, spreading out your study sessions for big tests and projects across multiple days instead of letting them pile up. This approach takes more effort initially to create these habits, but you’ll reap the benefits when you’re free of the “Cram Cycle” and the stress that follows it come finals season.

3. Supercharge Retention with Scientifically-verified Study Strategies

Everyone knows that taking notes is a good idea. Reading your textbooks seem like a great thing to do. And you’ve probably learned that it’s best to have a consistent place to study, one which is quiet, clean, and comfortable enough (but not TOO comfortable).

But what are the strategies that have been scientifically-verified to boost your retention?

One of the best things you can do is to take a break in the middle of your study sessions. In one study psychologists wanted to find out whether there was any difference in “spacing” a study session (this means to take a break in the middle) or “massing” instead (which means that you hammer it out all at once).

The researchers took two randomly-chosen, equal groups of students, gave them the same amount of study time, gave them the same material, and tested them on the material afterward. The only difference was that one group took a short break in the middle and the other group didn’t. The results were incredible.

The group that studied with “spacing” did 50% better than the group that studied with “massing.” That means in the same amount of study time, you could potentially boost your retention by 50% by just taking a ten-minute break.

Learn more this year about how to improve your results and be more efficient and effective with your schoolwork by working through the units on . Our school’s access details are:

Username: stmarks

Password: 52success


From Head of Primary - Mrs Silvia Nada

Dear Parents/Guardians,

Welcome to all new and existing families and students to St Mark's Coptic Orthodox College.

Parent Information Night will be held on Tuesday 11 February at 6pm in level 2 in the College B block. 

You are highly encouraged to attend to meet your child's teacher and to get an insight into the vision for learning we share at St Mark's College. 

Label all Clothing & Items

Please make sure you label all your child's items to avoid lost items. 

Before and After School Care - Jazzy Juniors @ SMC

Private Instrumental Tuition @ SMC

HSC 2019 - Class of 2019 and All Rounders

HSC 2019 continued