eLearning Survey

Dear Parents,

We are requesting information about your family’s internet connection, available devices for students to use should an eLearning day be declared, and other important information we need to get our application approved for eLearning.

North Adams has decided to use eLearning days on snow days.  If we do not follow suit, we will be making up several days at the end of the school year.  We want to keep our schedules the same as much as possible, and teachers have been working hard to be able to present quality content, that is easily accessible and helps with the teaching of new skills. The students will complete and turn in assignments on-line.  We don’t want you to have to be the teacher. Rather, we want you to help facilitate the learning. By helping us to know exactly what your connection speeds are, the number and types of devices available to students at home, and how many students in your home will need access to those devices, we can tailor the content to best meet the needs of our school families.

Please complete this survey at your earliest convenience.---Survey Link

In Christ,

Mr. Kieffer

Diocesan Schools Recommended for AdvancED Accreditation

Monday through Wednesday of this past week an external review team comprised of members from Catholic systems from around the United States and AdvancEd visited selected schools in our diocese, interviewed administrators, pastors, parents, board members, teachers, students and other stakeholder groups.

These interviews in addition to the survey results from last year, the artifacts uploaded by all schools within the diocese, and presentations by diocesan AdvancED Leadership Team were considered in making the decision to recommend that our diocesan schools be granted Accreditation as a “System” of Schools.  

Thank  you for your contributions to the process, and we will have much more to share in the upcoming weeks.  Stay tuned!

Go Make a Difference...

When I was a kid, I didn't realize the many blessings in my life. The economy in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s wasn't the greatest. My dad was laid off from the glass factory, and often there was still "too much month at the end of the money." Many times my parents struggled just to try and make ends meet, sacrificed much so that my sister and I could have more, and they never complained. Yet, looking back, these times, when things seemed the worst, are the days that shaped my outlook on life the most, and they are the ones I am the most thankful for. These include, the times that I returned to school after Christmas Break and greatly exaggerated what Santa had delivered, just so people wouldn't know I was poor. Also, the year we heard the knock on the back door on Christmas Eve, when the weather was far too bad to trek the 12 miles to Midnight Mass, running to the door and finding no one there, just a box of clothes, food, a red Nerf football, and a card signed only, "Santa."  

Years later, I met an older volunteer at our local library, who seemed to have few friends and even less worldly possessions.  She had undergone surgery for brain cancer at a very young age, perhaps 8 or 9, was hospitalized and had surgery just before Christmas. When her mother came to her hospital room and asked what she wanted for Christmas, she asked only for a toothbrush, so that she could brush her teeth.  It became a tradition that every Christmas her mother placed a toothbrush under the tree.  When her mother died, her father continued the tradition. I met her shortly before her father passed away, and one day close to Christmas she seemed very very sad. I asked what was wrong, and she shared the toothbrush story with me. She shared, too, that this was to be the first Christmas she would not be getting a toothbrush on Christmas since she was a little girl.  However, she had been mistaken, and for the remainder of her life, she never went without a toothbrush.  She always received a creatively wrapped package, sometimes large and sometimes small, with a toothbrush and of course a card, from Santa, just like the one my family had received that snowy Christmas so many years ago. My children always looked forward to their turn to sneak the package up to her second story deck on our way home after Midnight Mass. I pray that they will look back on this tradition and find ways to bring joy to others.

I encourage you in the Advent and Christmas seasons, and in the upcoming Year of Mercy, to find small ways to make a great difference.  It doesn't cost a lot, often nothing, to make a huge impact on someone's life.  


Steering Our Way Forward

Looking through the collection of pride wear, school letterheads and the signs in and around our school, there is no clear or distinctly unique St. Joseph School “logo.” We currently have no fewer than 5 different images on just the pride wear.

Microsoft, Intel, Apple, and all major league and college teams have logos that are unmistakable when we see them. 

Parts of our school’s strategic plan include completing new marketing materials, increasing visibility of our school in the community, and especially increasing our Catholic identity.

Through the help of our school board, and especially the design input from Kyle Heimann, we are presenting this proposed logo for St. Joe.

If you look at the logo, you will find that it keeps green and gold as our school colors.  Why the ships wheel? Stephen Decatur, whom our city is named for served in the Tripolitan War. He served under Commodore Preble, of whom  Pope Pius VII was quoted as saying, “The American Commander with a small force and in a short space of time, has done more for the cause of Christianity than the most powerful nations of Christendom have done for ages!” So, with this rich history, and our school traditions, we dare not steer away from this symbol.  We can, however, make it unique and special to our school.  If you look at the wheel above, you notice seven spokes, not the typical 8 or 10.  These represent the seven sacraments. In the center, the Eucharist, “the source and summit of the Christian life. (Catechism, paragraph 1324) The wheel, in light of the sacraments and the Eucharist, begins to resemble a monstrance.  Together, all these accomplish tying our past with our present, keeping our Catholic purpose at the fore and steering us on right paths for the future.

Please share your thoughts about this proposed logo with a school board member or the principal.

"Principal for the Day"

On Thursday, November 5th, St. Joseph School was managed by 2nd Grade Student, Quinn Buchan. Quinn became "Principal for the Day" as a result of the parish Fall Fest fundraiser.

Her day began with receiving her official school ID badge and lanyard. Next, Mass in the school auditorium, and then she called for a fire drill immediately following Mass. Evacuating everyone from the auditorium was new, and Principal Buchan had everyone out of the building in under 2 minutes. In addition to the fire drill, our principal visited each classroom, read a book our kindergarten classes, reviewed security camera footage, sent a few emails, used the school elevator, visited the rectory, conducted a tornado drill, and observed our preschool and daycare classrooms.

Miss Buchan did speak to Fr. Dave about raises for the teachers. However, following negotiations, it was decided that a "Free Dress Day" for teachers was the more budget friendly option, and that it, would certainly be appreciated by the teachers. Her final actions for the day were to give each teacher a pumpkin spice cupcake as a reward for their hard work, and an extra recess to all classes on the 1st floor.

Congratulations to Principal Buchan for a job well done! 

AdvancED School Improvement-Technology Use

 Last school year many AdvancED and Catholic Identity surveys were completed by parents, students, and the faculty and staff at St. Joe School. The surveys covered what our stakeholders perceived as strengths and weaknesses in our school. We have read through the results, and we are working on many areas that were seen as "areas in need of improvement." One of those noted was a lack of the use of technology in learning.

Upon our return from break, all school staff have started to receive training on Google Apps for Education. Additionally, to help with classroom implementation of technology, the 7th Grade class is also learning to use these tools to enhance the educational experience. The goal is that they will become our resident Computer GoTo people. Teachers will be able to request extra hands in their classes as they begin to try new things, knowing they will have help and support ready to make their first forays successful.

In future newsletters, we will share more of the survey findings and how that data is being used to improve our school.

Many Blessings and a Safe Fall Break to All

It is hard to believe that the entire 1st quarter is done, parent-teacher conferences completed and fall break is already upon us. It is quite clear that God had blessed me greatly, and He continues to do so every day that I get to spend at St. Joe. I pray that the blessings in your life are just as abundant. I pray, too, that all who travel during our extended break, do so safely, enjoy their vacation, and return with memories to last a lifetime. My wife and I are traveling, and we know where we will be attending Mass. The last time we traveled this same route, we spotted a very small, old parish in the middle of the country. We have tried to time our travels so that we can pass by St. Rose at just the right time to be able to attend Mass. Don't miss the opportunity to show your children that our Sunday obligation as Catholics is indeed an important one. Check your map, locate a parish, and take a small detour if necessary. It is also a great opportunity to point out the universality of our faith. May God bless you in your travels, and I cannot wait to hear the stories from the students of what they did.

Grandparent's Day and Diocesan School Accreditation

 Grandparent's Day

Next week we will be celebrating Grandparent’s Day at school. We look forward to meeting the many grandparents that do so much to guide, shape and help the students in our school in all of the fundraising efforts, homework help, and especially in forming them in their faith.  Without the help of grandparents, many families would struggle to get kids to school, practices, games, piano and guitar lessons.  We thank you for all you do, and hope to see you next Thursday at Mass.


Diocesan School Accrediation

All schools in the Fort Wayne-South Bend Diocese are currently in the process of gaining AdvancED Diocesan Accreditation. In the past, each school went through the process and received school accreditation.  Now, we are working on system level accreditation.  Part of the process at the school level includes seeking input and involvement of all stakeholders as we develop/refine our goals, mission and vision.  Parents and parishioners alike need to be represented in our school improvement plan. Many of you completed surveys during the last school year, and that data is being used as we consider changes. If you would like to assist in this effort in a more active manner, perhaps serving on a committee or disaggregating survey data, please contact the school office. 

New Website and School Facebook Page

If you are reading this, you already know the school website has been updated. Currently, over 60% of traffic to the school site comes from mobile devices and web pages don't always look the best on these. However, the new website is mobile responsive. The layout will change, pictures rearrange, and menus adapt depending upon the size and orientation of the screen you are viewing. Content about school events and student achievements will be added often.

We want to include and involve our alumni on our site as well. Since many families are second or third generation here, I am counting on you to get this effort started. If you have information about your time at St. Joseph School, including photos and related stories, we'd like feature those things on our pages. We are running the same appeal in this week's bulletin, but our current school families can serve to jump start this goal.

In addition to the website, the school now has a Facebook page. A link to our Facebook page can be found at www.stjosephdecatur.org, or you can search for St. Joseph Catholic School-Decatur from Facebook. The page was created on Wednesday, and we already have 158 followers, and our first post has reached over 2,000 people. Media release forms were sent home in the registration packets, but with the addition of Facebook and our new website, we will be featuring more student photos online. We will respect the selections you made on those forms, and rest assured, as the policy states, we will never identify students by name in any photo in our media or advertising. In instances where awards are received and recognition of students would be appropriate, direct parental consent will be obtained before posting a name with a student photo. Please visit our pages often, make suggestions, "Like" our page and share the good news about St. Joseph School with everyone you know.