Wednesday, July 25, 2007

St Michael Catholic School Part 2

In Part 1 I discussed progress in starting a new growth pattern within St. Michael Catholic School, in Kindergarten and then hopefully in subsequent years in grades 1-6, as the "bulge" in enrollment works its way up and is sustained. Now I'd like to offer a few thoughts on a similar, though in some ways much more challenging, initiative to add grades 7 and 8.

A few months ago, our Pastor indicated that we would be adding 7th grade in the 2008-09 school year, and then 8th grade the year after that. I believe this was a combination of vision and challenge offered to our parish, and I do hope that we respond positively to both. His effort should be considered all the more bold, since there has already been an attempt to expand with the last few years. At this point in time a lot of effort will have to happen for this vision will come to fruition; as in Part 1, I would urge everyone to support our parish and School to make this a reality. The challenges associated with expanding our School include facilities, faculty and the value equation (will parents pay the required tuition to stay in StMCS through 8th grade?). And there are others too, of course.

A committee to put together the pieces of the puzzle is forming, led by our Principal, and already some great ideas have emerged to maximize the current building space, to accommodate the growth I mentioned above, through the next 3-4 years. The faculty plan will simply have to come from folks who know about education and are willing to help the Principal and School. Among the other issues to be resolved is the logistics of getting more kids through the school day (getting them on buses, into lunch, the gym, etc) and again committed volunteers & teachers will provide the solutions.

The value equation is perhaps the hardest part to nail down, mainly because it's a combination of objective and subjective criteria. Mainly families simply can't afford up to nine years per child, at $2,500+ a pop, a completely real and understandable barrier. To those parents I would recommend having a frank discussion with our Pastor or Principal, about need-based scholarships. Even if a family could eke out the funds, is it worth it? Especially when the very good public school has already been paid for through taxes... Valid question! Then there are the other subjectives: class size, dress code, Catholicity of the staff, etc. How much do they contribute, or detract, from the preparation of life we are giving our children? Again, good questions, but I just have to say that all of those things DO make a difference, and in St. Michael the results are self-evident!

Of course, Catholic school does not guarantee a robust & faith-filled future, any more than the lack thereof condemns a student to fall away from the Church later in life. In fact, in St. Michael we are doubly blessed with traditions of both a great School AND a wonderful religious education program. However, having heard many adults discuss the value of their formal Catholic education, or lament the lack of one, I am firmly convinced it's worth pushing forward to expand our School. I believe we have a responsibility to properly teach our children, not just the academics but how to be good Christian citizens.

To borrow from the old Porsche slogan, "Catholic education: There is no substitute."

Please pray for our School, and consider volunteering your skills and insights to helping us maintain our K-6 program as well as expand to 7th and 8th!


Laura The Crazy Mama said...

I always do pray for the school and the public school because they have a huge hand in raising the peer group of my children. Although I have chosen to homeschool my kids (Catholicity of the staff, discipline, and eventually having to transition to public school being my major concerns) from the beginning, I'm not completely opposed to sending them to a good, private school if that opportunity ever came up... That, and funding. The tricky thing about being Catholic is that we have a big family. Big family equals lots of kiddos who need a lot of things and school tuition would be a barrier to food on the table at this point! I hope that someday we could have a good school here at our parish that is well attended and very supported by the church, but I'm not holding my breath and I find it hard to help fund these dreams when I am already paying for the education of my children TWICE (taxes, you know). So I guess prayer is all you'll be getting from me for a while! That, and lots of support. I will always fight for the rights of our children to receive a good, solid, Catholic education whether that is at a school or at home!

Joshua 24:15 said...

Thanks for your comments, Crazy Mama! I cannot disagree with anything you wrote, so definitely know that your prayers and support are enough!

I believe we have a very good public school system in St Michael, and much better schools than I attended growing up (public schools in a "redneck" location in the south...) My 7th grader had a good transition from StMCS to public, and got a good education this year. The teachers were very involved and helpful.

Nevertheless, I do sometimes worry about the lack of Catholic (moral)influence at the public school, and about other negative influences that can creep in. It's tough for me to shake the experience I had back when we went into the middle school for baseball sign ups a couple of seasons ago, and I glanced into the "star students" display case. The apparent student council rep was wearing what appeared to be a pentagram-laden T-shirt for her "big day." And two other girls in another picture were flashing gang signs for their "star" picture...

Thanks again for your thoughts. I will pray for you as well-- homeschooling is a huge committment and I applaud you!

Holy Water said...

Thank you for your comments.
If we really believe in Catholic education, then we must make our school available
To our Children..
My concern is our parish must meet the church’s obligations.
The current capital campaign will reduce the new church’s debt. However, looks like the social hall will add debt.

This can force the school to carry more of a load, with higher tuitions.

I hope the new school committee will look at the big picture