Do you know our Emergency Plan?

Last week, Dr. Camille Brown, the Associate Superintendent for the Archdiocese of Baltimore Catholic Schools, visited with our students, staff, and parents. One of the questions she asked of the parents was, “Do you know where your emergency site is if the school has to be evacuated?”

Can you answer that question?

At the beginning of the school year, the staff and faculty went through emergency preparedness training with officials from Frederick County and the Maryland Emergency Management Agency (MEMA). A comprehensive Crisis Management Plan was developed and implemented with the assistance of these officials. Our goal in doing this was to provide the safest environment possible for our school community here, and to be prepared to take action in the event of any type of emergency, from hurricanes and tornadoes to chemical spills and campus violence.

We use a variety of means to communicate with parents. For a brief summary of our policies and procedures, visit the Mother Seton School website, where we also have at your disposal our Mother Seton School Parent-Student Handbook, which details our Crisis Management Plan beginning on page 47. The information includes evacuation sites, as well as procedures for reunification.

With hurricane season approaching, it might be a good idea to take a look at the handbook and refresh yourselves on the Crisis Management policy. For our part, we will continue having drills so that our students and staff will be prepared.

For more information on how you can be prepared at home, check out MEMA’s webpage for homeowners. They even have a mobile app you can download onto iPhone or Android devices.

Stay safe!

A Word on Common Core and Our Catholic Identity

Third grade trial run laptopsAs most parents are aware, Maryland is one of the states that has adopted Common Core State Standards (CCSS). As a private school, we are not required to adopt the CCSS; however, many of our students will graduate here and move on to public high schools, where CCSS has been adopted.

With that in mind, we have to evaluate our curriculum to make sure that we are preparing students for the next phase of their education once they leave here. But how do the Common Core State Standards affect our Catholic values?

This past week, Archbishop Lori wrote a wonderful column in the Catholic Review’s “Review in the Pew” insert that is well worth the read. To put it succinctly, he states,

“As a Catholic school system, we reject anything that conflicts with our teachings and/or our core mission, or which in any way would adversely affect the Catholic identity of our schools. We place the highest value on the Catholic identity and academic reputation of our schools and will take no action that would undermine or tarnish either.”

Copyright © 2014, The Catholic Review. www.catholicreview.org. To view the complete article, visit: http://www.catholicreview.org/article/commentary/archbishop-lori/catholicism-our-common-core.

It’s also important to note that CCSS is not a curriculum, but rather a set of standards that states are prompted to adopt in order to address perceived faults in our educational system. Here are some links to general information about CCSS:

Changing of the Guard

On April 1st, a letter from Sr. JoAnne Goecke, D.C. went home in the Tuesday folders. Even though it was April Fools Day, this was not a joke! Sister JoAnne will be transitioning to a new mission next school year and we will be welcoming a new principal–Sister Brenda Monahan, D.C. Sr. Brenda comes to us from the Diocese of Birmingham, where she is the Director of Beacons of Hope, Inc., which serves four Catholic school communities in that area. She has extensive experience working within Catholic schools, both as a teacher and as an administrator. She will be here for a brief visit in mid-April, and we hope to be able to to schedule a meet-and-greet so that parents may stop by and say hello before the school year begins.

Sister JoAnne looks back fondly on her time here, as she expressed in her letter:

I am filled with a deep sense of gratitude for God’s loving Providence over Mother Seton School during my time here since 2006.  During these 8 years, I have experienced a vibrancy of faith and a commitment to mission among all in the MSS family that is second to none. When any member of our school family experienced family, personal, or economic stress  I have seen the impossible happen through persevering prayer, sincere compassion, and a can do spirit among our faculty, parents, Board, benefactors, and volunteers.

I have been blessed to work with a strong, well prepared faculty and staff who love their work, love the children they serve, and give generously of their time and many talents. Special projects and clubs abound, and students are enriched thanks to their creativity and planning. Their dedication is reflected in the way our students excel academically and mature spiritually, holding true to the spirit of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton.

Thanks to everyone’s efforts, we have seen the Learning Center develop and grow to provide a wide variety of services previously not available to our children.  Our Technology Committee has seen to it that we advance with the times, providing IT access to students in any location in the school, training in newer technologies, and opening doors to the vast teaching and learning resources available through the web  and assistive technology for special needs.

Thanks to the skills and commitment of Advancement and Finance staff, these offices have come of age, utilizing the best means to support the mission of MSS and establishing highly professional offices to better serve the needs of our families and the community.   Continued attention to the facility has been possible thanks to staff and the Facility Committee’s commitment to responsible stewardship of the beautiful school plan that we inherited from those who have gone before us, especially, Sr. Mary Catherine Conway and all responsible for constructing the new wing.

I could go on and on. In a word, God has been good to us and for this I am truly grateful. 

As we prepare for this changing of the guard, let us keep Sr. JoAnne, Sr. Brenda, and the entire Mother Seton School community in our prayers.

Be Involved: Why you’re the key to your child’s success!

be-involved-coverAlmost every school has a parent organization. Whether it’s a PTA, PTO, or (as we have) an HSA, a school’s parent organization provides crucial support to students and teachers. Our HSA is not only our parents’ voice within the school, but also helps raise funds for the “extras” not covered by tuition or operating expenses. (See our post about the Annual Appeal for more information on that) The HSA helps provide funds for:

  • Subscription to Power School
  • Mulch for the primary playgrounds
  • Special Events (Fall Fest, Grade 8 field trip, 2nd Grade Family Mass, etc.)
  • Classroom materials
  • Learning Center programs
  • Technology updates

But like any program or committee, its success depends on the people involved. That’s where parents come in.

Parents who are involved in their child’s school, whether through the HSA or in the classroom, have children who:

  • have higher test scores
  • earn better grades
  • have better social skills
  • enjoy a more positive outlook towards school
  • graduate and move on to higher education

(Source: PTOToday.com)

The benefits of volunteering for the HSA also reach beyond the classroom. Parents who volunteer regularly tend to feel a deeper connection with the faculty and staff, and show their children that both their home and school work together. Volunteering can also provide a confidence boost, introduce you to new friends, provide an outlet for creativity, and help you hone skills or acquire new ones.

Why parents may be reluctant to be involved

In such a small school community where many relationships are long-established, it may be intimidating for newer families to step up and raise their hand to join in. As a veteran parent, you can have a big impact on these other parents just by reaching out. See a new face at an event? Introduce yourself. Is there a call for a number of volunteers for a specific activity? Why not ask that new parent in your child’s class if they’d like to join you. Think about when you were a new parent. Who or what helped break the ice and encourage you to be more involved? Try to do the same for the new families in our school, especially those in the earlier grades. It’s great to have a reliable pool of volunteers year after year, but eventually, those parents’ students will graduate and there will be no one to take their place.

Perhaps you aren’t as involved as you’d like to be because you are just too busy or burnt out from other commitments. That’s completely understandable. But don’t dismiss the idea of volunteering completely. Even if you can’t physically be present for an event, an offer to bake something or to donate paper goods or whatever else is needed goes a long way.

parent-volunteer-2Some parents may feel their contributions aren’t valued or acknowledged. None of us lend our time and talents for the purpose of receiving accolades or rewards, but a sincere thank you and appreciation does go a long way. One way in which we try to show our appreciation is through a year-end Volunteer Appreciation Breakfast. We also try to express thanks collectively and individually after each event in Tuesday News. But we are always open to suggestions on how we can express our gratitude better. Because, as a school, we really do value and appreciate all that our parents give and do to make Mother Seton School a welcoming place of learning, love, and spirituality; we want to do what we can to make sure you feel that.

How parents can start being involved today

The #1 way you can begin your involvement: attend the next HSA meeting. These meetings aren’t only for the HSA board. These are for everyone to come and receive information, as well as provide an opportunity to make your suggestions. Meetings are generally monthly throughout the school year. Check the online calendar or refer to Tuesday news to see when and where the next one is. (As of the date of this post, the next meeting will be Monday, April 7 at 6:00 p.m. at the Pizza Hut in Emmitsburg.)

The second way you can start to be involved is to simply raise your hand. Check the Tuesday News for volunteer opportunities. Look at the school calendar to see what events are upcoming and plan to help with at least one. Springtime events include the His Place Car Show and the MSS Carnival.

Your involvement will leave a lasting impression on your children and on our school, well into the future. See you at the next event!