November 19, 2012
I would like to take this opportunity to respond with facts about our school. As a principal with forty years of experience in education, I have seen many concepts come and go and actually "circle around". The Common Core State Standards are new, connecting student expectations in a systematic manner from State to State, but the concept of project-based teaching and learning is what has circled and come back to be implemented in the classroom. This method engages students and teaches them how to apply learning. At SJA we do encourage this type of learning while stopping and reteaching along the way to ensure mastery and not just exposure. I bring this point to my response because when compared with where some of our students are with skills in public schools, it can appear that we are behind. In public schools they must stay on a path, teaching skills at a pace to complete standards before the FCAT. Our teachers must meet the same grade level standards, but for students that are not mastering or understanding the skill, the teachers are to reteach in a different way. Without a strong foundation, the child will eventually fall behind. Students learn differently and are not all are at the same level in each of our classrooms, giving the misconception that our standards are behind. We consistently upgrade technology, curriculum, and resources that the students have access to. The teachers are provided professional development where they stay current with research-based teaching strategies and best-practices. The teachers of the core subjects at SJA are all certified. The only teachers that do not have State Certification are the art and music teachers. They both have a degree and have been approved because of their experience in those areas by the Superintendent of the Diocese of Orlando and our accrediting body, the Florida Catholic Conference. in response to the students not speaking fluent Spanish, every student in 8th grade that attended Santa Fe in the last three years either entered Advanced Spanish or took Spanish II. They do not all speak fluent Spanish because the class focuses on the grammar as well as the application of the written language and not as much on time on conversing, even though they do presentations using Spanish. The teacher only speaks Spanish through the middle school years, so the students do understand the spoken language. Our school went through an intense accreditation process a year ago from an outside committee sent by the Florida Catholic Conference. We spent eighteen months to prepare for the re-accreditation by reviewing parent, teacher, and community surveys. The committees, independent of me, wrote the evaluations and new goals to improve our school. We were just audited by an outside CPA firm to review our financial processes and in both formal evaluations we had only minor areas to work on and received high marks. Our accreditation report can be seen on our website. The school is a business and the Diocese of Orlando, the finance committee, and the pastor expect us to be able to carry most of the burden of the finances. The reality is that every student receives financial assistance because the cost to educate a student is $6700, which is much more than the tuition. Students on vouchers, multi-student discounts, and students that need assistance from the church and individual donations, lowers the average tuition to $4,500. Students receiving tuition assistance through outside donations are 28% of our population. In order for us to provide this additional assistance, the families must show need through a definitive process and meet the guidelines provided by financial assistance committee. I have an open-door policy and am happy to meet with any parent or prospective family.
- submitted by a school leader