Her commitment as principal to creating a sense of welcome and belonging at the small, inner city school is evident as she embarks on an ambitious program of increasing enrolments and redeveloping the site.
For the first time, the R-6 school is offering ‘sponsored placements’ involving free education for one year. Mrs Harms said there was capacity for growth and scholarships would be available for all year levels in 2022.
While fee remissions are provided to many families in Catholic primary schools, scholarships are usually the domain of larger secondary schools.
The St Raphael’s School initiative follows the introduction last year of free Reception education for students enrolling in Term 3 at any Catholic school.
Mrs Harms said the scholarship program was another way of enabling families who wished their children to have a Catholic education to do so.
“We have lots of excellent schools and colleges in our catchment area and we want to share our commitment for quality learning with the wider community and also those living in this area who may have overlooked our school,” she said.
“We believe we have got wonderful experiences to offer and can provide the same opportunities as a bigger school.”
Mrs Harms referred to St Raphael’s many extra-curricular programs such as instrumental tutoring, after school sports clinics and art classes, as well as a rich and diverse curriculum.
“We are a small, inclusive and welcoming school,” she said.
“Our values of learning and belonging are core to the way we conduct our day-to-day learning. Every child and family is known, not just by me but by all our educators and students alike.
“Students look out for one another, and care for each other, and this is seen daily in their interactions with one another.”
Mrs Harms’ own experience of growing up in the western suburbs as the child of Italian migrants has taught her the value of belonging and being part of a close-knit community.
Her mother Grazia came to Australia from Italy as an 11 year old and left school when she was 12. Her father Francesco Tripodi was 16 when he came to live and work in Australia with his father. The Seaton parishioners instilled the importance of education in their four children.
“I went to school not speaking English…our families were market gardeners and we all looked after each other,” Mrs Harms said.
“The values of this school, that’s how I have lived my life.”
Educated at Our Lady of the Manger Primary School and Sienna College, Mrs Harms taught at School of Nativity, St Joseph’s Ottoway and was deputy principal of St John Bosco Primary School before her appointment as principal in July 2017.
St Raphael’s School was founded by the Sisters of Mercy in 1889, making it one of the oldest Catholic primary schools in the State. The original classrooms are now a heritage-listed hall where the community gathers.
“Our school has a long and rich tradition, it’s beautiful to have that history,” she said.
The Mercy Sisters ceased having a presence at the school in the 1980s but their charism of justice, compassion and inclusivity remains.
Located on bustling Glen Osmond Road, the school has a large oval and sports courts, covered outdoor learning space, nature play area, veggie garden and chook yard.
Grants have been obtained to redevelop the school and refurbishment of one building has commenced, with Studio Nine Architects engaged to develop a masterplan for the next stage.
Mrs Harms said the school was blessed to have a “strong and positive” relationship with the Glen Osmond/Parkside parish.
“Fr Denis Travers CP, our parish priest, is a great supporter of our school and a regular welcomed visitor here amongst the students and staff,” she said.
“He connects our Catholic story to student learning and unpacks the Scriptures with them.”
Scholarship application forms are available on the school website at www.raph.catholic.edu.au/enrolment/scholarships