16th Annual General Meeting Chairman’s Report

Welcome all of you who have attended physically and by Zoom to the 16th AGM of the Maryknoll Convent School Foundation! 

This last term of my Chairmanship has been filled with challenges and uncertainties.  It started with serious social unrest last year and then came the Covid-19 pandemic which resulted in the cancellation of all celebratory events of the 95th anniversary as well as closing of physical school for months. 

Challenges Come Hand in Hand with Opportunities  

Closure of physical school for an extended period of time is indeed a challenge to teachers and students (and even parents). No school is prepared for class suspension of this magnitude but equally it has been an excellent opportunity for both our teachers and students to learn and develop new skills and for the school to move forward in e-learning at rocket speed.  During the class suspension period, both our secondary and primary teams have been working under pressing time table to deliver new modules of on line learning for our students.  We are grateful for all the hard work, love and care put in by our teachers and management. They have overcome different challenges to facilitate our students’ learning at this trying times.  Classes have resumed smoothly through on-line learning and on campus classes will resume soon.  You will be hearing from our supervisors how the schools have been coping over this very difficult period and their new plans ahead. I would like to take this opportunity to express my gratitude to Melaine and Doris and their teams for all the good work. 

Foundation has faced unprecedented challenges when we have been asked to address and to give direction on how to deal with political issues relating to MARYKNOLL in and outside school

In June this year, I have been approached by concerned Maryknollers asking about the stance of the Foundation over people making political announcements while associating themselves with Maryknoll Convent School.  I have received publication from both supporters and non-supporters of a political issue allegedly from Maryknollers asking for our views and position.  In August when EDB wrote to all Principals relating to political activities at schools, the Council’s view was sought on the school position.  It is our position that, as a School Sponsoring Body School, Foundation should always take a neutral political stance. School is a place to provide education for our students and we will continue to run our school according to our Mission and Vision and the Maryknoll Education Philosophy.  At the last AGM, I have shared with you the “Guiding Principles for coping with the unsettling times in Hong Kong” issued by the Council on 26th August 2019.   Going forward, if the Foundation is asked to comment on its position on any political matter, the guiding principles will be adopted.

Bond and Build towards the Centenary– 

The year of 2020 is the 95th Anniversary of the School.  “Bond and Build towards the Centenary “ is the theme of our celebrations. To kick start the Bond and Build project, we have organized a “Logo competition” for the 95th Anniversary with participants from Students of SS , PS and Alumni.  The Winning Logo is a beautiful “ Rose “ design. The Logo has since appeared on all the 95th anniversary materials and souvenir including a Lapel Pin. To show our appreciation to everyone who have attended the AGM today whether physically, by Zoom and by proxy , you will receive a Lapel pin of the Rose Logo.

In celebration of the 95th Anniversary and for Bond and Build, a series of celebratory events were organized and scheduled to take place in mid-February 2020, starting with 

1. A “Kick Off “ ceremony in the form of a private birthday gathering on the actual birthday of our School – 11th February. The purpose of this party is to bring back a close group of the Maryknoll family members who have worked intimately with the School [ consisting former and current Councilors and Executive members of the Foundation, managers of the IMC and SMC, Exco members of the FSA, the Trustees , past and present supervisors, principals, vice principals of both sections, distinguished guests and sponsors], to celebrate with the Sisters and to say thank you for their contribution over the years. 

2. A Homecoming event with performance from students, docent tours of the Boundary Street Convent and the school campus of both sections scheduled on 14th February. The purpose of Homecoming is to bring Alumni home ( back to the school) so that they learn more about the work of the Foundation and see for themselves how well  both sections of our school are doing.  

3. The Finale of our celebration is the Gala Dinner at the HK Convention and Exhibition Centre on 15th February with over 160 tables of parents, teachers and alumni from local and overseas celebrating together – a true Bond and Build event!

Cancellation of all Celebratory Events

 As we moved onto the year of 2020, the entire Maryknoll Family were all geared up to celebrate together with excitement. However, with the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic in late January, Council was forced to make a difficult but prudent decision to cancel all the celebratory events scheduled in February, much to everyone’s  disappointment. But WE DID NOT STOP there. 

Although we could not celebrate together physically, we are joined in our hearts.  A prayer video was produced and up loaded on our 95th Anniversary website on our school’s birthday on 11th February.  We leveraged  technology to pass on our greetings and prayers to all Maryknollers. On the date scheduled for our Gala dinner, 15th February, we shared with all the alumni a video showcasing our beautiful premises and student activities. This video was produced with the hope to help bring back childhood memories at Maryknoll for the alumnae and inspire them to come back to serve our alma mater. If you have not watched the clip – please visit the Foundation website. 

For our Gala Dinner, we have sold over 1900 paid tickets and refund arrangements had to be made. It was a real challenge bearing in mind we are in the middle of Covid-19 when social distancing is required! We had offered 3 options namely to donate full price of the tickets to the Foundation, to ask for partial refund after deducting the sunk costs and a full refund. An overwhelming majority have chosen to donate the ticket price and to receive communication from the Foundation in the future. This overwhelming response is a NICE surprise.

Under the leadership of Ophelia, our Secondary School Supervisor, we managed to complete the Gala Dinner refund exercise at the Boundary Street Convent over 3days from 29th to 31st May. With the staunch support of over 70 volunteers who helped with preparing cheques for the refund and packing 1,600 gift bags, the 3-day refund exercise, which served 500 Alumni,  turned out to be a delightful Bond and Build experience for different generations of Maryknollers.

Another nice surprise : After the refund exercise, we have generated a net surplus of around HK$2.2M including donation made on the day by Alumni who were inspired by our work! The donated fund arising from the cancellation of the celebration events will be earmarked for supporting the School’s development.  I would like to thank those alums who have generously donated to the function and gifted the cost of the Gala Dinner tickets to the Foundation to continue with the ongoing funding of the school’s development efforts.  

Roles and Responsibilities of School Sponsoring Body (SSB)(辦學團體)

As the SSB, the Council has the responsibility to supervise and oversee the management and development of the School and to ensure the Mission and Vision laid down by the Maryknoll Sisters are carried out.  It is also our duty to give general directions to IMC of both sections in the formulation of education policies of the School at the strategic level. 

Meeting the challenges of 21st century education – The Four Strategic Foci

In 2015, on the 10th anniversary of the Foundation, the Council commissioned a Task Force to study the ethos, culture and performance outcomes of the School in order to identify how we could, while staying true to our Vision and Mission, further equip Maryknoll girls to meet the challenges and changes of the 21st century.  This study culminated in The Four Strategic Foci:

With the Four Strategic Foci serving as guiding principles in taking our School forward and forming the backbone of our curriculum planning, and under the guidance of strong management and teaching teams, our girls continue to flourish and go from strength to strength in both academic and non-academic arenas.  We remain as a top “Band One” school in Hong Kong.

The Four Strategic Pillars of Development

With our 95th Anniversary as the starting point and moving towards our Centenary, the Foundation has identified four areas for the development of our School. The 4 areas are :

We are now at the Beginning of our 5 years Plan. While the Covid -19 pandemic has put a stop to many activities in the School and Hong Kong, the School and Foundation’s projects and activities under the 4 Pillars have not stopped . 

1st Pillar – Campus and Infrastructure

On the School Level- 

For improving and upgrading the school campus, both the Secondary and Primary Incorporated Management Committee (IMC) (法團校董會) have conducted a holistic review of the space usage of the School.

For Primary, as the school building was not designed based on the latest school standard ( the Old Wing was built almost a century ago and the New Wing – not even built as a school ), there is under provision of space in some essential teaching areas. For example : a standard school has 4 small classrooms and our primary has none, our Language Room and General Study Room are half the size of the current standard etc. To meet with the needs of the students, conversion of the use of space may be required but it can be expensive. As it stands, there is clearly a shortage of space at the Primary section.

For Secondary, after the holistic review of the space usage, they have identified areas for improvement and had sought funding from Government for conversion and alteration work to upgrade the school campus. As reported to the Council, 11 items totaling HK$3.6M applied for has been approved and some of the upgrading works have already been completed. 

For the Convent Project,  there has been much progress and I am really excited  to share with you. 

Since Maryknoll Sisters have passed on the Boundary Street Convent to Foundation, a Convent Committee [with members consisting of Principals and Supervisors of SS and PS, Chairman of the Trust, President of FSA and Chairman and Vice Chairman of the Foundation, together with 2 alumni architects – Sylvia Lam ( Director of Architectural Services )  and Clarice Yu ( Assistant Director of Buildings Department), were formed to consider how best we can use the Convent for the ongoing development of the school and needs of the students. The Convent Committee is well represented by the management of school and members of the Alumni family. Sister Joanna Chan, an accomplished playwright and director, who had lived in the Convent in the 70’s, has accepted to be our advisor of this Project.

After much deliberation by the members of the Convent Committee and subject to the outcome of the feasibility studies, the plans as it stands now is to revitalize the Convent and convert it to become a heritage, art and cultural block for the School. The block will complement the existing classrooms and multi purpose rooms in both the Primary and Secondary sections and will offer an additional space for use by the students and the school. As a heritage building constructed in the 30’s and a licensed School area, endorsement will have to be sought from the EDB and AMO for any adaptive reuse. It was decided that professional consultation on usage, design, architectural and conservation area is required. As such, 9 Architect firms with experience on school and heritage projects were invited to tender for a feasibility study on adaptive reuse of the Convent with Heritage and Architectural Assessment (HAA). On recommendation of the Convent Committee, the Council awarded the project to ACL Architects in June this year.

In July , ACL started to connect with all the potential users of the Convent including the school management, teachers and students of both primary and secondary sessions, alumni and even contract ECA coordinators and administrators  (“stakeholders”). They conducted both physical and Zoom meetings and workshops with the stakeholders using the design thinking methodology to draw out the needs of each group for the usage of space at Convent. They made over 150 touch points.

After considering the wishes of all stakeholders, ACL has produced an interim report which sets out the conception design and usage of the upper and lower floors of the Convent under different scenarios, namely the creation of multi purpose space for learning, teaching, performance and meetings during school hours, leisure and off school hours. The interim report has been presented to the Committee for comments by the members.  

All in all , the Convent Project is still at its initial stage. ACL is still gathering information and no final decision has been made on the design and the use of space. ACL has been informed that their design must produce flexible and optimal usage of the Convent space and must be consistent with the continued development of the school and the needs of the students in the 21st Century.

Attic and Relic

It may be of interest to note that between 1937 and early 1960’s, the Convent was an industrial block being used as an embroidery workshop sewing vestments for priests before it was converted into a living quarter of the Sisters. The upper floor of the building was an open hall with no partition. After the false ceiling was taken down for the feasibility study, the original pitched roof was exposed and an attic room accessible only by ladder was discovered. Inside the attic, we found relics such as silk cloth and thread, drawings dating back in the 1950’s .  We have consulted conservators on how to preserve the relic and now seeking funding for such purpose.

Temporary use

For the time being and pending decanting and conversion, the ground floor dining room area of the Convent has been converted into a conference meeting area ( conference table donated by the Maryknoll Hospital ), which can be booked for use by members of the Maryknoll Family including the FSA, the Trust, both sections of the school and IMC subject to house rules. The Foundation has also offered the FSA use of one of he rooms in the Convent during this  interim period for storing and handling FSA materials. 

Funding of the Convent

It is expected the Convent project for the adaptive reuse will require substantial funding and hopefully we will be able to start fund raising soon when the final design is out and approval from the various governing bodies are obtained. To support the fund raising exercise, we have planned to make a short film to introduce the Convent project aiming to pitch for large donations from both corporate and private funding. A documentary committee has been set up for such purpose .We welcome any professional and funding support you may wish to provide for this project.

On the 2nd and 3rd Pillars – student development and teacher growth . We have entrusted our IMC to carry through these Pillars . You will hear more from our School Supervisors.  

The Fourth Pillar – Maryknoll Community

We have always recognized parents and Alumni are important partners and supporters of the School. To promote our relationship with the parents and to give them a better understanding of our work, I have attended the AGM of the PTA of both SS and PS sharing with the parents the Maryknoll values and education philosophy. I have also explained to them about 4 areas of development of the school and have asked for their continued support. 

The Maryknoll Alumni is a close-knit and supportive community. The FSA, the Educational Trust and the Foundation each play a different role to bond and build  for the future education following  the Sisters’ vision of  providing all-round, quality and affordable education to all.  

Maryknollers got many talents and could contribute in different ways to serve the school. 

e.g When we saw the need to enhance our sports development, we recruited volunteers to organize  “Relay of Love” to help raise the Sports Fund for the School. We have also invited alumnae and staff  to advise on coaching needs and equipment upgrades…   

e.g We engaged our parents who are event organisers to help organize the  95th Anniversary Gala Dinner and FSA members to help coordinate souvenir sales for the 95th Anniversary events…  

e.g  Recently, we are looking for film producers, researchers and conservators for the Attic Conservation project…I am sure very soon, we will need many more MCS volunteers to help clean and catalogue the historical materials in the Convent too. 

The list goes on and on. Our MCS volunteers, sometimes their better halves and networks too, come from all walks of life. To home, to country, to the world, wherever we are, the Maryknoll community will always respond to the calling of our Alma Mater! 

Support to the sisters during Covid – 19 

It has been 15 years since the Sisters has passed the baton to us and we have dutifully followed their mission and vision. Maryknoll sisters have been the anchor and the guiding light of the Maryknoll Family. When the Maryknoll Sisters called for support upon attack of Covid-19, our Maryknoll Councillors responded immediately and arranged for masks and other medical supplies to be delivered to our beloved Sisters at Motherhouse. At the same time, the Foundation has also immediately called for action, asking fellow Maryknollers to make a donation via FSA or contact Maryknoll Alumnae Association of New York direct for donation. We are pleased to know that the Sisters’ situation are now under control and they are doing well. 

A Vote of Thanks 

This is my last and 6th year of Chairmanship. Please allow me to say thank you to all my teammates in particular Sister Marilu for their support and help over the years in leading the Foundation and the School forward. Thank you.

Barbara Hung

19 September, 2020