Posted 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.
Our family loves SJA. Our son Jackson started at SJA in Kindergarten and is now entering 5th grade. We have watched him thrive and grow academically, socially and spiritually. SJA's teachers,and staff know each child and they take the time to help each child achieve his or her personal best. When I attend morning prayers or Mass on Friday morning with Jackson my heart swells with joy that we are part of such a wonderful school. I am confident that SJA is preparing my son for a successful future.
There are no ESE-certified teachers on staff. There is a part time resource teacher, but is not ESE certified nor has a ESE background. We had high hopes for this school, with the promise and willingness to work with our child with special needs; But push comes to shove, the follow through is not there. The teachers are not trained nor have the experience. Mind you, if your child has an IEP for speech only, this might be a good fit. For a typical child, this is a good school. But for a child with unique needs/diagnoses, I would not recommend SJA. They just don't have the resources/staff to adequately address the needs of children with special needs.
My son is starting his second year at St. Joe's. Mrs. Boatner was his kindergarten teacher. She's that teacher that parents dream about. Firm, fair, and leads by example. You definitely get a small school feeling at SJA. We know we found the right school for our son.
Our daughter is starting her 3rd year at SJA and we could not be happier. We are part of a family here. Great education and friendships.
If I were filling out this review a year ago, I would grade the teacher quality four stars, the parent involvement 4 stars and the principal leadership 3 stars. Right after school adjourned for the 2012-2013 school year, I heard and confirmed jaw-dropping actions that occurred in a 7th grade classroom during class. I don't think it is appropriate to post those actions here, but actions occurred that cause me to not allow my child to continue to attend St. Joseph's Academy. The leadership of the school gave no notice of any kind to the parents of that class on actions that took place. That means that they are only interested in keeping tuitions flowing in and only sharing the "good stuff" that occurs at the school. Parents are not treated like adults and the leadership staff forgets that ultimately parents need all the information about what goes on in the school so that informed decisions can be made.
We LOVE SJA!! We chose to try another private school this year, but after two weeks, we decided SJA was our forever home. SJA has the best, committed, talented teachers and staff. This is not a business. This is a family. Every parent, teacher and student are there for each other, whether daily or in a family crisis situation. Every child is challenged to excel, to treat others following the Golden Rule, and to be held accountable for their actions. The administration have an OPEN DOOR policy the invites parents to freely interact with the staff to make the most of their family's experience as a vital part of the SJA family. We love Monsignor, Fr. Ramon, and all of the SJA priests who help mold our children into positive, prayerful, and productive citizens. One of the key aspects is focusing on each child's success rather than on fund raising and test scores which offer only a snapshot of how a child is performing that particular day. We are beyond blessed to be back at SJA. We have tried other schools, and found "there's no place like home" at SJA!!
St. Joseph's Academy in Lakeland is one of the best schools we have ever seen. They not only educate our children to the highest standards, but reinforce a sense of Christ in their daily lives. The resounding feeling of almost every person I encounter is one of family as soon as you enter the SJA building. The staff are always professional, compassionate, loving and receptive to EACH and EVERY student's needs. The administration's open door policy allows us to be an active part of the school community which we found lacking in other nearby private school settings. We know our children will receive a superior, well-rounded education of their mind, body & soul by being a part of the SJA family. We are blessed to be part of this wonderful community.
I am a former teacher, and have taught in the local area. My family and I live in an area with poorly rated public schools. We knew when he was born that we would send James to either a Christian school or one of the McKeel schools. We visited several schools before discovering St. Joseph's Academy. Halfway through the (unscheduled) tour at St. Joseph's, which Principal Lana Schwartzwelder, (teacher/principal first, business person last) took the time to personally guide me on, I knew that this would be the school I wanted to have my son to attend from his kindergarten through 8th-grade years. The school is small by design, and my wife, Beth, and I both instantly felt like the staff and teachers wanted us to be family, which is important to us. Despite the impression given by other reviews, academically speaking, all of the kindergarten through 8th grade teachers have a bachelor's degree or higher and are certified educators. I can't speak for the specialty teachers like art or music regarding their education level, but I can say that they are some of the most professional, experienced people I know and I am proud to have them teaching my son. We love St. Joseph's Academy!
Thank GOD for St. Joseph's Academy. The quality of life and faith my child is exposed to is wonderful. The teachers and staff are caring and committed to challenging our children academically and spiritually. The emphasis on safety and security in a loving environment is priceless. The constant enhancements to technology and curriculum, as well as real-world application, validate my choice as a parent to enroll my child in St. Joe's.
We have been at this school for many years and have seen it grow from a small, caring, family oriented school into a business enterprise. It is a sheltered environment and the parish of St. Joseph's is wonderful. Fathers Caulfield and Ramon are wonderful leaders of that parish. However, the focus of the school has become money rather than education. Not all of the teachers are properly certified (Art, Spanish, Music programs are not taught by teachers certified in these areas and this can be verified on the fldoe.org website). Children are not being challenged academically and receive over-inflated grades to keep parents happy. The principal cares about money and publicity to increase enrollment. She is a businesswoman, not and educator. We are currently unhappy with the school and are looking for an alternative.
If a sheltered environment is what you are looking for, then this might be the school for your child. With that said, the rest is sub-par at best. The curriculum is behind the public school system, there is no arts program to speak of and you will be hard pressed to find an eighth grader speaking fluent Spanish unless his or her parents speak it at home. The monsignor is kind and the same could be said of SOME of the staff. The principle is nice enough, however I think her weak performance as a principle is masked by a polished outer appearance, and plenty of jargon learned with previous experience in the child pseudo psychology corporate world. There is no doubt this school offers a family environment and good Catholic morals, but with so many other Catholic schools out there, I recommend checking into those. If you are not Catholic, I would strongly suggest looking elsewhere, as the best thing this school has to offer is that it is Catholic.
My son attends St Joseph's Academy in lakeland, FL and I couldn't be happier with the school, staff and academics. The teachers are completely involved in making sure your child takes advantage of all the learning opportunities available. The staff is always available to help students and parents with anything they should need. My son is extremely happy with his school and I don't need to worry about his education because I am sure he is getting the best available.
We as a family are very much happy in SJA. My five children are all in school and they love being a part of the small community. Good values, good manners and love of God mold your children to be a good person when they grow up and the school help me as a parent achieve that.
St. Joseph's has been apart of our family foe well over 14 years. I chose this school for it's structure, family values and academics. My children are living proof that this school cares about each child as an individual.
My family has been a part of St. Joseph for almost 4 years and I would recommend our School to everyone. Each day that I drop my child off for school I know that she is going to be safe, loved, and respected by every person who interacts with her. Our community is small but that is a part of the attraction we have for the school. The academics are challenging but when a child struggles they are quickly identified and given the assistance that is needed to keep them part of the classroom. No child is left behind here at St. Joseph and that is because of each teacher s dedication to education and not because of a state mandate. You get so much more than an education at St. Joseph s.
We feel very fortunate because our child attends St. Joseph's. The school is a close and caring community, and is academically excellent. We love the fact that it is not a large school where students are often lost in a crowd. Rather, at St. Joseph's, the Principal, the teachers, and the staff recognizes each student and greets them by their name.
My family has been a part of St. Joseph School for the last 9 years. We are very pleased with the quality education in a loving environment. Catholic identity is very strong here, but students of every faith are made to feel welcome and loved. We have many more years to look forward to our children attending this school. We have never regretted the decision.
I have had children at St. Joe's for over 13 years and have never regretted the decision to send them there. The academics are challenging and individualized due to small class sizes. The focus is on the complete education of a child -- including faith and compassion for others. The one truly unique quality of St. Joe's is the kindness of the children to one another!
Though there many schools to choose from, my most important decision has choosing SJS for my sons. I have been pleased with St. Joseph's for the past 8 years. It my be a small school but it is warm and you can consider it your childs home away from home. You can entrust your child in the hands of the SJS family. Between the faculty, staff and the academics, you just can't go wrong. Our parents are always involved helping to make our school a great success. I'm happy here and I wouldn't go anywhere else.
St. Joseph's has been committee to academic excellence and community involvement for over 70 years. My older son graduated in 2007 and is proud to have had the opportunity to attend SJS. Not only did he take with him a higher level of academic achievement but a greater understanding of faith and family. His younger brother attended Pre-K 3 & 4 and is proud to have moved up to Kindergarten this year. Great choice, outstanding faculty, great invested and memories that will last a life time.
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