Happy Spring, St. John Families!
St. John School remains committed to our mission: “To equip young people through an excellent Christian education to be courageous servants of Christ in a changing world.” God has blessed our school with abundant resources, including devoted teachers and dedicated parents, to fulfill our calling and continue improving how we reach children for Christ and teach them for life.
As March came into view, we had an eye to re-enrollment outcomes. We celebrate the incredibly strong validation of our mission in the elementary grades. With minor exceptions due to job transfers or economic pressures, families not only re-registered their children but began taking up the call to be invitational so we could add a few more children and their parents to our larger school family. Hallelujah!
The middle school re-enrollment numbers did not fare quite as well. The most notable attrition is occurring after 6th grade. This has been a trend for some time now. Realizing that, I set out to give the middle school focused attention right away. Over the past several months, we aimed at improving programs and curriculum so that we are providing an excellent high school preparatory education that competes in the market place alongside other middle school options. We intend to be a place where students want to finish strong, taking up the mantle of Christian leadership that positions them to step out into the changing world with courage. Using your feedback from previous years, some of those areas of focused attention have been:
- Ensuring that the objectives of House activities and points are positive rather than punitive.
- Implementing a hands-on, inquiry-based science curriculum that aligns with national Next Generation Standards for the instruction of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) concepts so that students are actively doing science rather than passively hearing about it.
- Instituting a student-centered approach to documenting the learning process through portfolios that became an evidentiary component of Student Progress Conferences, allowing students to set goals and more intentionally partner with their teachers and parents to attain those goals.
- Solidifying best-practice integration of technology across the curriculum with research-based movement toward Bring Your Own Device as well as a Learning Management System which will streamline access to grading rubrics and assignments as well as facilitate effective communication and broaden the dynamic possibilities for student collaboration.
- Starting a Robotics Club, open to middle school and soon-to-be middle school students.
- Having an administrator and technology coordinator consistently available for middle school team meetings, classroom observations and teacher mentoring.
Mr. Osbourn and/or I contacted families known to be uncertain or already enrolled elsewhere. During those conversations we welcomed honest input about how we can further strengthen our program and potentially avoid such attrition. We learned that most feel St. John has provided both a tremendous faith and academic foundation. Those same families who love St. John School acknowledged feeling pressured to get their child acclimated socially, academically and/or athletically into a high school setting. We listened for any common threads and heard perceptions that are important for us to examine as we continually seek to improve and move our school forward. We want the experience at each grade level to impel you as a family to stay and build on that through 8th grade graduation.
The enrollment numbers for 7th and 8th grade cause us to re-evaluate our distribution of resources. We explored several options for structural change, including what it might look like to have our 5th grade be self-contained rather than rotational. After prayerful consideration of how to best serve students, while limiting budget deficits, we established a structure that leaves the rotational model, House system, electives, class trips and other aspects that are hallmarks of our middle school program intact.
What has not changed within the New Middle School Structure?
- We will maintain the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) standards for weekly minutes of instruction in all core and encore subject areas.
- Grade level Math as well as the opportunity to advance will be maintained, allowing students to progress at their rate of learning and be challenged appropriately.
- Students will continue taking Spanish through 6th grade, with the option to elect into high school preparatory Spanish as 7th and 8th graders, providing a firm foreign language foundation so critically important in today’s world.
- Students will continue in Fine Arts all the way through their middle school years.
- Students will continue in Physical Education all the way through their middle school years.
- Students will have a seminar period for contact time with teachers beyond the classroom.
- Portfolios will be developed to enhance student ownership of the learning process.
- Students will rotate to subject area specialists for each class.
What has changed?
- There will be one 7th grade homeroom and one 8th grade homeroom.
- One part-time teacher position and two full-time teacher positions will be vacated as unnecessary due to less demand.
- One specialized Social Studies teacher will provide instruction for all students in grades 5-8.
- One specialized Science teacher will provide instruction for all students in grades 5-8.
- Religion instruction will be consolidated under one specialized teacher. Other middle school teachers will have full teaching loads within their subject areas. Each and every teacher will still pray daily with his/her students and consistently model Christian values. One of the benefits of a dedicated religion teacher is the potential for more robust student leadership in service mission projects, especially for our 7th and 8th graders.
- The Assistant Principal and Educational Technology Coordinator will re-enter the classroom part time in areas of their expertise.
As you reflect on this change and its relevance for your child(ren), please keep our work in your prayers. I am confident that God has great things in store for our school. If you have a desire to delve further into the specifics of this change, you may do so in two ways:
- Visit the school website for an FAQ that addresses this change in more detail.
- Attend one of two open forums on the topic offered the evening of Monday, April 7 at 6:45pm or the morning of Tuesday, April 8 at 8:15am. Both sessions will run about 45 minutes in length and will convene in the school library.
I look forward to seeing you at the Spring Fling School Auction on April 4. It is the most significant single opportunity to support the school financially while spending an evening in fellowship with other St. John families and friends.
In Christ’s love,
Principal, St. John School