Quarterly Letter from Dr. Safford

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Dear St. Mary’s Parents -

As we near the end of the 2018-2019 academic year at St. Mary’s Catholic School, and as I conclude my first quarter as your new school principal, I want to take a few minutes to share some thoughts.

Our students at St. Mary’s are wonderful twenty-first century students. In addition to classwork, tests, projects, and dual credit responsibilities, St. Mary’s students are currently staying busy with a wide variety of activities, including track meets, golf matches, archery tournaments, TAPPS Academic and Art competitions, community service activities, Pines Catholic Camp adventures, periodic field trips, and practices for the upcoming musical performance of The Hysterical History of the Trojan War.  I watch students of all ages moving across campus with smiles, carrying on cheerful conversations, and happily sharing their moments. I stand for student-led morning prayer; I attend our student-focused school mass each week; I overhear student-initiated discussions on the playground; and I join in the students’ excitement on burrito and ice cream day in the cafeteria.  According to the recent parent survey, student morale is high and active participation is encouraged by thoughtful and caring teachers.

I appreciate the feedback from the many parents who participated in the Parent Survey.  I want you to know that we have heard what you have said, and we will use your feedback to guide us in our planning for the next year and into the future. Over 85% of the parents indicated that they approve of St. Mary’s current approach to education, which focuses on the individual students and provides an environment in which students can excel academically and grow spiritually.  One of St. Mary’s principal initiatives for the 2019-2020 academic year is continued enrollment growth.  With that in mind, I want to share some of the plans we have in place to help to foster and support that growth:

This event will target current and prospective students at those grade-levels. Please help us spread the word to family and friends who may have an interest in a St. Mary’s education.

All St. Mary’s students will have the opportunity to “jump up” to the next grade-level, meet their new teachers, and spend the morning enjoying “What happens next?”

St. Mary’s is proud to have received our SEVIS Certification.  St. Mary’s will now admit international and exchange students.

Families interested in attending St. Mary’s Catholic School may now inquire and apply for admission online through our website at www.stmaryslgv.com.  The FACTS system will allow school families to complete school registration, apply for the My Fair Share program, pay tuition bills, check student grades, and communicate with teachers all through one portal.

Refer a new family to St. Mary’s Catholic School and receive a tuition credit of $1,000 for the 2019-2020 academic year.

St. Mary’s continues our tradition of strong academics, realizing that students today are different than they were in 1948. With that in mind, St. Mary’s is committed to offering a twenty-first century education and ensuring that our teachers maintain a growth mindset. Beginning in the Fall of 2019, St. Mary’s will implement the new Diocese of Tyler Curriculum Standards, adopted from the Diocese of Dallas. This standards-based curriculum will provide St. Mary’s teachers with additional tools and resources, ensuring rigorous and fully differentiated objectives tied to the National Standards.

This spring, our seniors are finalizing college plans for next fall, with 100% of students accepted into postsecondary programs and looking forward to the next steps on their academic journeys. Our juniors just took the SAT and are looking forward to beginning their own college searches.  At the same time, our sophomores completed the ASVAB CEP Assessment, a multiple aptitude test that allows students to identify their skill strengths, determine work-related interest areas, and investigate relevant occupational data. Taking the next step in ensuring that St. Mary’s students get the right support and guidance in their college planning, St. Mary’s Catholic School will partner with Naviance, a comprehensive college and career readiness program that helps students align strengths and interests to postsecondary goals. The Naviance tool will be integrated into college advising protocols for all St. Mary’s middle school and high school students beginning in the Fall of 2019.

As our student population grows and changes, St. Mary’s Catholic School has also made a commitment to the continued professional growth of our teachers. St. Mary’s has partnered with LeTourneau University, the Virtual Education Program at Notre Dame of Maryland University, and the Crossroads Program at Boston College to provide our teachers with access to and support for continuing education and online master’s degree programs.  St. Mary’s teachers also have access to professional development sessions offered through the Region VII Education Center, as well as state and national teacher associations which sponsor content specific workshops.  In April three St. Mary’s teachers will join Father Dower and me for three days at the National Catholic Education Association Conference in Chicago, attending professional development seminars specific to their teaching specialties.

Understanding the importance of our mission as a Catholic school, St. Mary’s has begun the process of application for membership in the Cardinal Newman Society Catholic Education Honor Roll, a national program which recognizes schools committed to strong Catholic identity. We look forward to this national recognition for the work that St. Mary’s does every day to partner with families in the formation of children as disciples of Jesus and His Kingdom through faith, scholarship, leadership and service.

Recognizing the role of St. Mary’s as an important education resource in the Greater Longview Area, the East Texas Literacy Council has invited St. Mary’s to participate in the Bee for Literacy.  We are currently seeking a corporate sponsor willing to write the check so that two of our teachers can represent St. Mary’s Catholic Church & School in the adult spelling bee competition on Wednesday, June 5, 2019.  ETLC is a non-profit organization committed to providing services for adult learners in Longview.  If your company would like to sponsor our team, please let me know.

In closing, I would like to extend my personal invitation, and that of our 7th and 8th grade students, to join us for the Living Stations of the Cross on Thursday, April 18, at 10:00 AM, in front of the gym. We look forward to celebrating Holy Week with our extended school community.

Thank you for your continued support of St. Mary’s Catholic School. Please do not hesitate to reach out to me, if I can do anything to be of assistance to you.

God bless you,

Darbie Dallman Safford, Ed.D.