Dear Sacred Heart Parents,
Merry Christmas! Our holiest days, such as Christmas and Easter, are particularly special when we have prepared our hearts for them. And so I encourage you to continue to help your child prepare for Christmas by focusing together on the great gift that is the infant Jesus. We have tried to help our students prepare through Mass, prayer, a celebration of Mary, opportunities to serve and give, and through our Advent Arts Series, which culminated in a wonderful Christmas concert.
The first half of our school year has been full of fresh and wonderful opportunities. We welcomed you and your children at a series of school-opening events, and you responded with enthusiasm and with a commitment to serve. Over 130 parents have volunteered time at SHCS this year. Our Home and School Association, led by Mrs. Paige Goodale, and School Board, led by Dr. Chris Pollock, have done an exceptional job of supporting and aiding our school while serving as ambassadors for us in the community.
Our eighth graders will have the chance to receive the sacrament of confirmation this spring, as we fulfill Bishop Stika’s plan to move confirmation to fifth or sixth grade by 2019. And so, at Sacred Heart Cathedral School, students now prepare for the sacraments of first reconciliation, first communion, and confirmation as part of their school day. As a school, we focused on St.Teresa of Calcutta through summer reading, and on the virtues of love, selflessness, mercy, and hope as we have learned to “love one another, as I have loved you.” (John 13:34). We continue to use virtue (or merit) slips to reward children for putting virtues into action. New opportunities for service have arisen as we have taken trips to Samaritan Place, participated in the Great Llama Race, and donated hundreds of toys and thousands of pounds of supplies to our local friends in need.
In addition to our Advent Arts Series and the Christmas concert (including our orchestra), students in grades five through eight performed Shakespeare’s As You Like It and we look forward to a big production of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe in the spring, and opportunities for younger dramatists as well. Faith has been beautifully woven into our visual arts program. An award-winning journalist will lead our speech elective this spring. Sixth graders are enjoying a chance to take piano lessons during school. Two new pottery wheels are on the way. The arts are rocking here, as you will see at our celebration of the arts in the spring!
In academics, we have launched a 1:1 Google chrome book program in Middle School and greatly increased the availability of computers for the whole school. We are really seeing the results of our push on standards-based math instruction. Robotics is now offered as a sixth-grade rotation and an extra-curricular activity and is starting to be integrated throughout the school. Our growth as a STREAM school (science, technology, religion, engineering, arts and math) is exemplified in a recent eighth-grade project in which students made beautiful replicas of cathedrals from around the world to scale. New Middle School electives including Wellness, Service Learning, Catholic Leadership Seminar and Yearbook have helped us to achieve our mission more fully. Our teachers continue to participate in professional development in writing instruction, and we are more determined than ever to meet the individual needs of our students, whether through adding challenge or offering support.
Our athletics program, led by Scott Barron, has offered 20 different sports teams so far this year and we continue to grow — we will add boys’ lacrosse in the spring. There is a balance of offerings, including lifetime sports such as tennis, cross country, golf, and swimming, that ensures an athletic pursuit is available for all students. Our teams compete, and often defeat, teams from much larger schools — a credit to our program — and several of our athletes have competed on a national level this year.
There is so much to look forward to in the spring: parent coffees that will offer a look ahead at the next grade level, an opportunity during Catholic Schools Week (starting January 31) to focus on the value of a Sacred Heart education, a visit from our accrediting team from AdvancED in February, the initial preparation of a new strategic plan to start in 2018-19, and a school-wide project-based learning opportunity in which students in all grades will study the theme of sacred space as our new cathedral continues to rise.
If you have not done so recently, please come walk through our halls and witness the atmosphere in our school. I think you will see why four different visitors to our school, including Cardinal Rigali, have commented on how happy our students are. It really is a great time to be an eagle! Over break, please share the gift of a Catholic education with people you know. Encourage them to visit SHCS during our open house on February 1 and to see our school in action.
I thank you for all you are doing to help us focus on faith, family, and future, and I thank you for your trust, support, and partnership. I am grateful to have the chance to work with you in this most important endeavor. God bless you and your family, and please know that I am praying for you.