Dear Friends in Christ,
It has been such a positive and beautiful year, with our POPCS Community more engaged and working together on the energy bus as ever before. I wanted to take the time to update you on a few things as you go off for some well-deserved rest and relaxation.
Principal Search Committee
I have asked the Principal Search Committee to draft a letter to Prince of Peace Catholic Church and School to summarize what they have done so far, and what the next steps are along with the timeline involved. That will be sent to you hopefully very soon! I will share with you that they have now prepared a very well written position profile and have come up with an excellent strategy for publicizing the position.
They will then have to go through the grueling process of vetting candidates, initial interviews, and
recommendations to me for the final interviews and further vetting. This all takes time, so thank you for your patience, and please pray for this process!
During the summer, we asked you to fill out a survey about the school and desired qualities in the new principal. Some of the questions had a sliding scale from 1 to 10, and unfortunately, there was some confusion about what was the high and what was the low. The Committee are preparing a précis of the results of the survey, but we have to take into consideration that reading the results on some of the questions may be difficult because of the issues with interpretation of the values on the slider.
Financial Questions and the Future of the School
The transition that POPCS has been through has been incredible. We have had a precipitous decline in enrollment, as you know. Yet this not a sign of decline, but rather of refocus. We have rededicated ourselves in an intentional way to our mission as a Catholic school. We also made a leap of faith this year to provide greater stability by not drastically restructuring the school by means of revolutionary budget cuts, confident in the future of the school. The Parish Finance Council, the School Advisory Council and the Parish and School Staff and Faculty believe in POPCS, and we have committed to making up the financial shortfall caused by the enrollment change.
At the same time, however, enrollment drives our operations. No one pays the full freight of what it
costs to educate a child at POPCS. Please remember that the parish pays a significant subsidy (around $100,000) for energy and maintenance costs, and fundraising makes up what tuition does not cover. We must keep tuition reasonable, and explore all avenues for fundraising the difference so we may operate in the black and not jeopardize the financial integrity of the school.
Over the summer, I challenged every parish and school family to recruit one other family for our school. We have a great community here and want other people to be a part of it. The more we have enrolled, the more we can do. The less we have enrolled, we have to make crucial decisions to change what we do and how we do it so we can still function as a school. The school is not closing. Forget about that. My challenge is for us to work now to have an enrollment of 200 for the 2019-20 school year. If each family works at recruiting another family who can truly benefit from a Catholic education, we can achieve that enrollment, which along with our fundraising and our parish subsidy, can help us to grow even stronger.
I tell my people at the parish all the time, “The school is the principal apostolate of the parish for the
handing on of the Catholic faith, in a rigorous intellectual environment.” The school is first and foremost a ministry, and Jesus and His Church are the heart of it. We are not a prep school for rich kids, or just a cheap private alternative to public education. We are a school of the Lord’s service, and Catholic identity is paramount. As such, we must strive to serve as best as we can all those children we can whose families desire for them an authentically Catholic education. That means that we first of all provide an atmosphere in which every child can excel: it means a very high baseline of academic expectations, but also that we help children at all levels achieve their very best.
You’ve seen the test scores. Our kids have not skipped a beat in demonstrating their hard work and
ability. Our differentiated learning approach means that, in addition to the high standards in every
classroom, we also give opportunities for children at every level to reach even beyond those standards. Our increased attention to individualized approaches for gifted and talented, and special needs has made that even more a reality.
Mrs. Tully and some impressive volunteers and faculty and staff have been very busy evaluating all of the aspects of our school related to safety and implementing positive changes to make our school as safe as possible. We also have integrated greater accountability measures for everything from lesson plans to handling money, to protect and provide for all. We have made such great strides in this area; there is always more to do, but your cooperation has been phenomenal.
The school is a ministry of the parish, and I am happy to report that the relationship has never been closer and more productive than it is now. Much of what Mrs. Tully has done behind the scenes is making sure that every protocol, procedure and policy that govern our school is being done in consistency with the teaching of the Catholic Church, the mission and vision of the parish and the guidelines and norms of the Catholic Schools Office of the Diocese of Charleston. Our two Assistant Principals, Mr. Bobby Moreau for discipline and Mrs. Robin Marlar for curriculum, are helping Mrs. Tully and the faculty in their work for the school so the children may flourish.
We have an amazing faculty. They are responsible for so much of the good around here! We are
committed to recruiting the best teachers that we can, but we also in justice owe them the compensation and benefits they deserve. Part of our commitment to academic excellence and financial integrity is structuring the school so that we can provide the best education we can for as many as desire it. I am always looking to integrate new faculty who are dynamic, creative and faith-filled, that they may learn from those dynamic, creative and faith-filled faculty who are seasoned and have made this such a powerhouse of learning.
While we are a parish school, we also welcome those from other parishes and even non-Catholics who share our vision of education. They are a great blessing. Our School Advisory Council and Administration are coming up with new strategies to market the school and to reach out and forge positive links with other parishes and community leaders. All of our school families are ambassadors for the school and all we do well.
The Buzz remains the best, most accurate and up to date source of news about everything going on in the school. Our social media presence is also a great way to market the school and inform families about all that is going on. There are a lot of moving parts here at POPCS, and we are always endeavoring to improve and do more. If you have questions or concerns, please feel free to call the office any time. Thank you for your patience, and for your commitment to all we do.
K3 and Small Class Sizes
For a while our model at Prince of Peace was to grow enrollment as fast as possible, and concentrate on K4-8. Many of our families, however, have expressed a desire for a K3 program. We are moving in that direction, so stay tuned. We also want to keep the “small school, small class size” feel and so we would like to have one section of every grade with a maximum of 20 students, and configure our spaces to that kind of school.
I reserve every Tuesday night for visiting families from the parish. I am blessed to know a lot of our school families who are also parish families, and would like to get to know our school families that are from other places as well. Please feel free to invite me on a Tuesday night to your home with your family, and other families, too! We get so much from each other when we spend time together, and that builds community! Call Maria in the parish office at 864.268.4352 if you are interested!
We know that you have plenty of choices in the Greenville area for quality education. We believe that Prince of Peace Catholic School has a unique and particularly high quality education that we want as many as possible to benefit from. Thank you for choosing us and for all you do to make this such a lovely place!
Fr. Christopher Smith