August 2018

Dear Members of the St. Mary Catholic School Community:

Welcome to the start of the 2018-2019 school year! I hope your summer break offered many opportunities to relax, spend time with family and friends, and make special vacation memories with your children. Although my own children are young adults, I cherish whenever our family can all be together. I have always viewed summer as a blessing since it gives families a chance to enjoy each other’s company and escape the daily responsibilities of studying and projects. Summer break helps everyone recharge and develop excitement for the upcoming school year. The after-Labor Day start seems to help all of us appreciate that September brings a return to routine as well as the beginning of an adventure that students, parents, and teachers embark on together in order to maximize opportunities for our students to grow spiritually, academically, and socially. On behalf of Father Cibelli, the faculty and staff, and me, I want to thank you for choosing Catholic education at St. Mary Catholic School for your family.

As previously mentioned, Mrs. Kristy Gross assumed the position of Administrative Assistant as of July 1 and has been making the position her own. From welcoming and guiding new families through the admissions process to handling all the responsibilities that running the School office entails, Mrs. Gross offers her enthusiasm, dedication, and organizational skills to support the mission of SMCS. Also, Mrs. Marisa Bowers has expanded her role at SMCS to include becoming the Middle School Social Studies teacher as well as our Library teacher. Mrs. Bowers has been in most of the summer planning lessons and organizing her instructional areas. Mrs. April Nitzell has joined our staff as the fifth grade teacher and is excited to share her love of learning with her students.

At the start of each year, our students look forward to finding something new about which to get excited.  I firmly believe their excitement will be over the top when they return to campus on September 4! The commitment of SMCS in promoting academic excellence and in providing students with a technology-rich environment was influential in St. Mary Catholic School being recognized as a 2017 National Blue Ribbon School of Excellence by the U. S. Department of Education. Following this designation, as part of the school’s strategic plan, SMCS widened its focus to include improving the current physical activity space. Finally, after all the years of waiting and praying for SMCS students to have a gym, our prayers are being answered. GRC General Contractors have been on site, since June 1, transforming the lower level of the school, which includes converting Pangborn Hall into a gymnasium, converting the Msgr. Passarelli Room into a dining hall, and modernizing the kitchen with new appliances and redesigning it to accommodate a new flow pattern for serving students, since the students will be eating across the hall from the kitchen instead of in Pangborn Hall. The Pre-K classroom and lower hallway have been freshened up with new ceilings, flooring, lighting, and paint. Air conditioning the Msgr. Passarelli Dining Hall, the Pre-K classroom, and the Primary Resource room was included in the scope of the project. As of now, the Msgr. Passarelli Dining Hall, the kitchen, the hallway, and the Pre-K classroom are scheduled to be finished for the first day of school. The gymnasium is running behind schedule. Therefore, the students will have to wait before we throw out the first ball in the gymnasium.

Of course, as students and families arrive, no one will be able to miss our beautiful new brick wall that encompasses our campus. Besides being aesthetically more attractive than the chain link fence it replaced, it offers a safer play area for our children. The gates will be closed when school is in session, so visitors to the Parish Center will have to be buzzed in through the pedestrian gates. All visitors to the School will still need to enter through the Office Door on W. Washington Street. Providing a safe and positive learning environment for our children continues to be a top priority. Therefore in accordance with Archdiocesan Policy, SMCS is utilizing the Raptor Visitor Management system. School doors will remain locked during the school day. All visitors must enter through the front door on W. Washington Street and present a valid government-issued identification card, such as a driver’s license, that will be scanned through the Raptor Visitor Management System before receiving an identification badge for access to other areas in the school. In the mornings, only students will be permitted to enter the building through the Primary Doors to go to the classrooms. During the first week of school, teachers will be outside in the morning greeting the students and families. Students will line up with their classmates at 8:05 A.M. and enter as a class. Beginning the second week of school, students should arrive between 7:55 and 8:05 A.M., enter through the Primary Doors, and go directly to homeroom. After the 8:10 A.M. late bell, students must enter through the front office. The front door and the exterior school doors are in the process of being replaced as an enhanced security measure. This upgrade is possible through the Nonpublic Aging Schools Grant.

St. Mary Catholic School did receive a $100,000 grant from the Marion I. and Henry J. Knott Foundation towards our gymnasium project. The Knott Foundation is always supportive of new initiatives and projects that help SMCS offer a quality Catholic education to students. I appreciate all the time and effort Mrs. Carrie Stumpf put into working on this grant with me. Her commitment to marketing our school and directing our development efforts benefits all of us. The Most Reverend Archbishop Lori has also given his approval and support of the project by pledging $100,000 from the Embracing our Mission, Shaping Our Future Fund. These generous donations set the stage for St. Mary to begin the project before having secured all the funding. Father Cibelli will be inviting all of us to support the gymnasium conversion project and the brick wall project in the near future.

Although the major construction projects will probably receive the most rave reviews, technology continues to be an area that earns focus and upgrades each year.  Thanks to the efforts of Mrs. Stumpf and the generous donations of our families and friends to our Race 4 Technology and Annual Fund, fifth and sixth grade students will be using Chromebooks on a daily basis. Two charging carts as well as fifty-four Chromebooks, were purchased. The retired eighth grade cart and iPads (only one year old) will be utilized by the fourth graders. Third graders will have access to a cart and iPads, too. Kindergarten through second grade classrooms will each have a charging dock and ten new iPads. SMCS remains steadfast in its commitment to providing students with a technology-rich environment!

Mr. Bob Eves, Mr. James Renken, and Mr. Josh Bowers are working diligently to prepare our building for a new school year. The teachers are decorating classrooms and planning lessons. Mrs. Hammond and Mrs. Gross have worked throughout the summer closing out the previous year and preparing for the 2018-2019 year. Ms. Radley is overseeing our last minute details. The HSA officers are enthusiastically planning events to engage our students and families. Like members in a family, everyone is contributing to ensure that our students have the best school year possible!

Now that Labor Day is around the corner, our school building is ready to house the wonderful sounds of happy children on September 4. The hallways will once again be filled with students ready for the triumphs and challenges of each day. In these final days of preparations, let us take the time to thank God for all the graces He has bestowed upon us and ask Him to keep St. Mary Catholic School faculty, staff, parents, and students in His loving care.

As always, I ask for your prayers to the Holy Spirit to give me the guidance and wisdom needed to serve as principal of St. Mary Catholic School.

May God Bless You!

Patricia A. McDermott