Did you miss mass the weekend we shared the Preserve our Legacy Update?
Hello everyone! I’m Wendy Kelly, principal of St. Laurence. About a year ago, I spoke to you with three goals in mind; one, to address some of the negative press that had begun to circulate as a result of the Diocesan study of our schools, second, to invite you to join me in attending one of the first meetings the Diocese hosted to share their data and to begin the discussion of potential future plans, and third, to give you an update on what we were working to achieve at St. Laurence. At that time, I told you that my focus on the downward enrollment trends of our Elgin deanery schools was not one of hopelessness, but was on the untapped market. That number kept standing out to me. It was that, combined, our Elgin Catholic Schools have 4% of the school-age market. In other words, the parents of 96% of the school-age children in our area had not yet been shown why they would want to be a part of our school family. My marketing background saw that as a huge untapped market and one that we needed to focus on.
Fast forward to this past fall…while our efforts to spread the word about our school did halt the downward enrollment spiral at St. Laurence, they had not garnered enough interest in the form of new students which was why Father held a meeting to be transparent about the financial situation of our school. While the obvious response might have been to feel a sense of defeat, the positive energy that came from this and evolved into our Protecting the Legacy group has been what I view as a God Wink…I believe He wants our parish and school to thrive and that has been evident in the concerted push to Save Our School. I am thrilled and grateful to have the support of so many to continue the path we began last year to take our school from good to GREAT!
With that said, I would like to share with you briefly our Strategic plan goals. I can not emphasize enough the fact that this has evolved from and continues to be a team effort.
Part of the Diocesan self study involved creating a Strategic Plan for the entire Diocese. While they encourage us to create our own tailored to St. Laurence, we are only required to develop 3 goals each year, ours has 17 goals that fall under these categories. Doing ‘just enough’ isn’t going to help us achieve greatness.
One of the points Father Andrew brought up in the fall was his desire to help our Parish and school families on their journey toward our Catholic Faith. Some of the initiatives or goals that have been implemented to do this have come from our Legacy committees and include.
- Improved mass attendance
- Sunday school
- Mass buddy program
- Junior usher program
- Morning meeting-daily reading/prayer
- Parish school community building
One of our main goals in regards to achieving academic excellence is technology. It is a reality. What is difficult in this realm is the fact that it changes so rapidly and, as educators, we really have no way of knowing what the future holds for our students in this realm. With that in mind, it is not enough to put devices in our students hands to be able to say our students have Ipads. Our focus has been on meaningful ways to incorporate technology to enhance learning and promote critical and innovative thinking .
Some of the new additions we’ve added are:
- Spanish language-5-8
- Gifted Enrichment Pullout Program 3-8
- Three preschool class offerings
We hear a lot about STEM, but I’d like to share with you why it’s important and why we are focusing on improving our curriculum in this area. According to the U. S. Department of Commerce, STEM occupations are growing at 17%, while other occupations are growing at 9.8%. STEM degree holders have a higher income even in non-STEM careers. Science, technology, engineering and mathematics workers play a key role in the sustained growth and stability of the U.S. economy, and are a critical component to helping the U.S. win the future. STEM education creates critical thinkers, increases science literacy, and enables the next generation of innovators. Innovation leads to new products and processes that sustain our economy. This innovation and science literacy depends on a solid knowledge base in the STEM areas. It is clear that most jobs of the future will require a basic understanding of math and science.
It is important because we prioritize giving our students the best preparation for their future that we possibly can.
To go along with the STEM focus, we identified math last year as an area of weakness and because our focus is on individualized, differentiated learning or meeting each student where they are, we are working on implementing Guided Math school-wide. This is a strategy that allows students to be grouped according to their level of understanding of a topic and their tasks are then designed to help them gain an understanding of that topic. This format also allows the teacher to meet with each student in addition to promoting independent learning through the rotation.
Our Preserving the Legacy Beyond the Classroom committee created many of these additional offerings to enhance our curriculum.
- Community life program
- STEM workshop
- Expanded Summer camp offerings
Last year I also shared with you a sign that I keep in my office that says, Remember that the important thing is to keep the important thing the important thing. As someone who spent many years at the high school level and has seen firsthand the emotional difficulties many students face, this area has always been important to me…more important that academics, quite frankly. In recent months, mental health has become even more of a focus in our world. What are we doing in our schools to help our kids understand how to maneuver life? At St. Laurence, we are doing quite a few. Starting with our discipline program. I understand that Catholic schools are traditionally known for their strict discipline, but we have to ensure that the focus is to help our children understand how to make responsible choices based on an understanding of the reasoning behind them. Teaching children to just be obedient isn’t a long-term fix.
Our focus is on catching students making good choices. It’s a change in mindset and is proving to be very effective! Some of the ways we do this are:
- Good choice pledge
- Positive office referrals
- Golden spatula challenge
- Conflict resolution tools
Individuals who believe their talents can be developed(through hard work,good strategies, and input from others) have a growth mindset.
Monthly growth mindset themes are incorporated school-wide.
Once again, how can we give our students tools that will provide for future success?
Here’s another one that we can all probably improve upon. How do we react to external and internal stimuli? Our Mindful moments of empowerment plan helps teach our students tools like breathing, reflection, centering, and prayer to help them refocus and de stress. It is also intended to help with the preventative aspect of the discipline program.
As I mentioned earlier, our Preserving the Legacy group of committees and volunteers has been working tirelessly to provide support in many areas, but these are a few highlights.
- Community awareness through effective marketing.
- Alumni outreach
- Social media focus
- Website improvements
You have probably noticed our bright new look! It’s been awesome to take new families around our building and show it off. This was the result of Phase I of our Extreme Makeover St Laurence edition.
And we aren’t done yet, Phase II of the painting happened over Spring Break. We are brightening up the library and turning it into a multi-use center that includes the addition of a STEM Maker Space that allows for guided and unguided creative innovation. Bathrooms got a face-lift and motivational, uplifting sayings were added.
One update that I am especially excited about is incorporating ways to engage and team with parents to help provide consistency. Some of the ideas include discussions on utilizing Discipline with Dignity, growth mindset, mindfulness at home. Another way is to create opportunities for parents to receive the benefits of some of the social/emotional focus. Because we know parenting is one of the most stressful (but rewarding) things we do, we started a monthly wine and yoga night for parents/parishioners. Check our website for information on dates and times.
So, that’s an update on what has been going on in our school! It has truly been a team effort and, because of this, we are no longer the best kept secret in Elgin! How do I know this? Because, while we typically get calls for tours this time of year, it isn’t the busiest time yet. The past couple of months have been very busy. Based on the families we have already registered and those who have expressed a strong interest, this is approximately where we are now. This is not my projection. I expect to see this rise. Keep in mind that the busy time is yet to come.
I truly believe God brings our students to us for a reason… they just needed to know about us! I would like to thank everyone who has been a part of what we have been trying to achieve the past couple of years! It’s working! We are whittling away at the 96%. It’s an exciting time to be a Tiger!!
Now, time for my shameless plug…If you know of a family who is interested in our school, please share our contact information. I’d love to set up a time to share with them what sets our school apart! God bless you and have a wonderful week! Call 847-468-6100.