Wednesday, January 23, 2012
With the Christmas break and the time away from school, we have not addressed the events in Newtown, Connecticut with you. The tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary has had a profound impact upon our staff, and we are re-evaluating our school’s security procedure. The staff at Sandy Hook responded with courage and professionalism, and we understand our responsibility to react in a similar manner. We have become more suspicious and cautious in allowing persons that we do not recognize into our building, so if you do not receive immediate entry and are questioned over the intercom, please do not take offense. This is especially possible in winter when people arrive at our door bundled up and wearing headwear that masks their identity. We did have an incident last week in which we granted entry to a person, and he went straight to the cafeteria rather than reporting to the office. This raised concerns about the location of the office, and I met with Scott and Father to discuss the logistics and expense of moving the office to a location near the front door. As these discussions evolve, I will attempt to keep you aware of developments.
Our Open House to kick off Catholic Schools Week will be held this Sunday, January 27, from 12:00 p.m. until 2:00 p.m. If you know of any family that may be interested in our school, please invite them to attend.
With the arrival of Catholic Schools Week and the end of the first semester, we are now past the mid-point of the school year. You will soon be receiving information about enrollment for the 2013-2014 school year. As I have mentioned in earlier letters, you will also be receiving information from a company called Smart Tuition. This will be the company that will be handling tuition collection for the school in the future. There will be paperwork that you will need to complete for this company in preparation for the coming school year.
I am also including in this packet information about an Archdiocese program entitled the Educational Scholarship Assistance Program. This is a program that began on the west side of Cincinnati in 2005, and is being expanded to include more schools within the Archdiocese with a goal to eventually include all of the Catholic schools in the Cincinnati Archdiocese. The program provides financial assistance to families who want to send their children to Catholic schools but are financially challenged. Awards are based on financial need and will require families to fill out forms such as the Private School Aide Service (PSAS) form. Please read the flyer in the packet and contact me if you have any additional questions or if you require assistance in finding the forms. The Archbishop and Catholic School Superintendent are supporting this program, and there will be an important fund raiser for this effort in the fall of 2013. We are fortunate to have our families included in this program.
I wish all of you a very happy Catholic Schools Week!
December 18, 2012
On Friday, December 15, we had scheduled a lockdown drill for our school. The events in Newtown, Connecticut, caused us to cancel the drill, especially since some of our students had become aware of those events in Newtown. Instead, we talked to the children in our morning prayer service on Monday, December 17; explained the drill; and then performed the drill later on Monday morning. We are committed to keeping your children safe, and we successfully executed a real lockdown in 2010 when the Wyoming police informed us of an intruder in the vicinity. I am including a copy of the Lockdown Procedure with this letter. We are saddened by the events in Connecticut, and the terrible and senseless loss of life. We also take pride in the professionalism of the principal, the psychologist, and the staff of the Newtown school. Please join us in praying for the families and members of the Newtown community.
I want to thank the PTA for bringing into our school Art Reach: A Division of Children’s Theater Production of “City of Immigrants.” The play was a historical look at Cincinnati’s heritage of immigration and focused on the five prominent racial and cultural groups that have played a role in the evolution of our city.
While the tragedy in Connecticut has cast a pall over the season, I want to wish you and your families a very blessed and Merry Christmas season. I look forward to seeing you and working with you and your child in the new year!
December 12, 2012
Once again, last night’s music performance was a rousing success. Mrs. Morgan is only in our school two days each week, so putting on such a performance requires patience and organization. Mrs. Morgan does a wonderful job with the children each week, and it is challenging in a day to change periods from a seventh grade class to a class of first graders. I want to thank Mrs. Morgan for her commitment to our students and to the annual music program. The children did a wonderful job of performing, and I hope that all of our parents enjoyed the program as much as I did.
With the Christmas program concluded, we will still be in session through Wednesday, December 19. Our first day of Christmas break will be Thursday, December 20. Please remember that we will continue to collect mashed potatoes and Target gift cards for Valley Interfaith through Friday, December 14. As our nation’s economy continues to struggle, we need to remember those who are less fortunate. If you can help us with these items, we will be grateful. Thanks to the kindergarten and their eight grade buddies for sponsoring this food drive.
As the weather turns colder in December, please remember that “snow days” become a possibility. If inclement weather sets in, the best indicator will continue to be the Winton Woods School District. If Winton Woods decides to close, we will probably close also because of the large number of our students who ride the Winton Woods buses. We will still make a separate decision, and it will be announced on television and radio as St. James of the Valley. Please remember that there is also a St. James in White Oak. The Catholic schools each make their own individual decisions on school closures because of weather.
We have had a number of students sick this week and we have had to send some home with one hundred degree plus fevers, and complaints of nausea. Please monitor your child in the morning, and if they complain, please take their temperature before sending them to school.
As you may remember, we had a problem with one of the First Student bus drivers on our field trip to see “Seussical” at the Taft Theater. After the incident, I sent a letter of complaint to the First Student Company because of the driver’s behavior and recklessness. First Student phoned me on Tuesday to inform me that they had conducted their own investigation (State law requires them to do so), and determined that the driver was not competent to drive a school bus. I appreciate the input from the parents who inspired me to write a letter of complaint. After seeing a segment of video cam film on the evening news of reckless bus drivers with full loads of children, I have to think that it was the right step to take.
Finally, since next Wednesday is our last day of the week, we will send the Wednesday Packet home on Tuesday. Please look for the packet on Tuesday evening, and remember to return it to school on Wednesday.
November 28, 2012
I hope that you and your family had a wonderful Thanksgiving and a restful break. As we prepare to move into the Advent season and our celebration of the birth of Jesus, it is important that we emphasize the spirit of giving. One of the ways that we do this at school is our annual participation in the food drive for the Valley Interfaith Food and Clothing Center. This drive is spearheaded by our Kindergarten and Eighth grade classes, but we encourage all of our students to participate. This year Valley Interfaith has asked us to focus our efforts on the collection of the following donations: instant mashed potatoes, Target gift cards, or money for Target gift cards. These items will then be used to feed and clothe needy people throughout the Millcreek Valley area. If you would like to know more about the Valley Interfaith program, you can visit their website at www.vifcc.com. Please join us in supporting this organization with your donations through our school. Donations will need to be collected by Friday, December 14. Valley Interfaith touches the lives of approximately 20,000 people per year, so please help us to help others.
We are including in this packet a calendar of school events for the month of December. There are two events that I need to bring to your attention. The first is the school Christmas program on the evening of Tuesday, December 11, at 7:00 p.m. All of our students are expected to attend and to participate in this program, which features musical performances by all of our classes.
The second event is the Victorian Christmas celebration on December 13. While this event involves only eighth grade students, it is worth noting for its tradition and history. For the past few weeks, the eighth grade students have been reading Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.” To culminate the literary piece, the students will leave school in the early afternoon and go to Mrs. Lange’s home. Once there, the students will begin preparing a Victorian feast using foods and recipes from the Victorian period. Once the feast is complete, the students get to savor the foods. After the dinner, the students travel to the Playhouse in the Park to view the renowned performance of “A Christmas Carol.” My college senior daughter still has fond memories of her Victorian Christmas event at Mrs. Lange’s and the Playhouse, and the tradition will continue this year. Thanks to Mrs. Lange’s generosity and hospitality, this is a Christmas event that the eighth graders love.
November 7, 2012
Now that the first quarter of the school year is over, please remember that we are having parent conferences tonight and tomorrow night. If you did not send in a conference form, please call school on Thursday to see if a conference can be arranged.
Please remember that conferences are meant to be a dialogue between school and home. Conferences should be a reasonable exchange of information. Please remember that our annual Book Fair will be going on in the cafeteria while conferences are in session. This would be a great time to pick out a few stocking stuffer gifts as the holiday approaches. The funds from the Book Fair help the school purchase additional books for the library.
Having read all of the report cards and having worked in public schools for thirty-five years, I feel the need to repeat something that I have written before. It is a sacrifice and a commitment to send your child to a Catholic school, but your commitment to your child’s education does not end at the doors of the school. Many of our students require the need to have their backpacks checked when they arrive home; their homework to be monitored, completed and checked; and their backpacks re-packed with the completed homework for return to school the next day. Some of you do this on a daily basis, others not so much and it reflects on your child’s report card. Enrolling your child at St. James of the Valley School is the first step in the commitment, but some children require monitoring on a daily basis. Please help your children get the most out of their education. Be involved with them every day.
When I talk to the children at school about disciplinary issues or responsibility in general, I emphasize the fact that as they grow older, their responsibilities and our expectations for each child increase. I noticed a lack of effort on the part of some of our students in the upper grades, and I have been having conversations with Father Jack about this issue. We will hold your children accountable for their effort and grades. If they do not meet our expectations, they may lose privileges such as athletic participation, or they may be asked to repeat a grade. Please stress to your children the importance of effort and accountability.
Finally, I need to remind you that Thursday, November 6, will be picture re-take day. LifeTouch will be here on Thursday to re-take photos of students who might have been absent on our first picture day, or for those who did not like the original shots.
October 31, 2012
The first order of business is to thank all of you who worked and helped with our Walkathon and October Party last Friday. The children had a great day and enjoyed lots of fun at both events. I especially want to thank Mr. and Mrs. Strunc for all of the time and energy that they placed in the Walkathon! There is a lot of work that goes into the planning for the Walkathon, and we are grateful for their efforts. We are still accepting donations and anxiously awaiting the numbers as pledges continue to be returned. I am confident that we are over the $14,000.00 mark. I also want to thank the PTA Board members for making both the Walkathon and the October Party so much fun for the students. The Grand Raffle and the October Party provided a lot of enjoyment for the children of our school.
On Monday, November 5, we will be sending report cards home. Please remember that we will hold report cards if you owe tuition, After School Care fees, or cafeteria fees. The report cards will be given to Mr. Dover, our business manager, and released to you on payment of the fees. The children are always disappointed when they are not given their report cards, but please remember that we are a school and also a business.
On Tuesday evening, we sent you a form for signing up for parent conferences. Parent conferences will be held on Wednesday, November 7, and Thursday, November 8, from 3:30 p.m. until 7:30 p.m. each night. Please return the form that was sent home last evening to school as soon as possible. Our hope is to schedule the conferences this Friday. Please remember that conferences are meant to be a dialogue between school and home. Parents in a Catholic school are expected to be reasonable at the conference. If you have a concern that troubles you, please stop in the office and see me. After the conference, if you have a concern that you feel is not being addressed, please call me at 821-9054.
Since we do not have a counselor at our school, I am currently exploring the possibility of purchasing some counseling and social services from the Wyoming Youth Services. This would include working with our students on isssues of tolerance for one another, bullying, social maturity, and other topics that will help our students relate better to one another. I don’t know that I can do this with Auxiliary funds, but I will find a way to make this happen.
As we enter November, let us remember to be thankful for each of our children and for all of the gifts that God has given us. While we all have our own challenges, we are blessed to be alive and to be at St. James of the Valley School. On Thursday, November 1, we will celebrate a holy day, All Saints Day, in our school Mass. I invite each of you to attend tomorrow to celebrate with us.
October 23, 2012
Walkathon week is always a busy week at St. James of the Valley School, and this week is no exception. This morning the entire school traveled to the Taft Theater to see the Children’s Theater production of “Suessical, Jr.” It was good for all of our students to experience the fun of musical theater, and the production was wonderful. I want to thank the chaperones and parents who attended.
All parents need to be aware of an important deadline that happens tomorrow. For the past week, we have displayed prizes in the cafeteria that the children have a chance to win in the Walkathon Raffle. We have also sent home flyers describing the raffle. As you know, children will receive raffle chances based upon the amount of money that they turn in by tomorrow afternoon. If they have turned in $1.00, then they will receive one chance on the prizes; if they turn in $50.00, then they will receive 50 chances on the prizes. To be eligible for chances for the Grand Prizes, they will need to have $125.00 per family turned in by the end of the school day tomorrow. The accounting process will need to be completed by Friday morning to distribute the chances for the raffle. Please remember, if you want your child to participate in the Walkathon Raffle, the money must be turned in by the end of the school day on Thursday, October 25.
Two of the areas in the parish in which we try to be flexible are with our After School Care program and our kindergarten class. We began the year with good communication between the home and the school. Lately, some of the communication from home has declined. Please let us know your plans for After School Care or for your half and sometimes full day kindergarten children. Our job is to make sure that we can account for your child(ren) at all times. Please help us by letting us know what your plans for your child are on a weekly or daily basis. If you feel that the communication problem is on our end, please let me know and I will take steps to rectify that problem.
As you know, school is about academics. But you also know that children can learn a lot of other skills beyond academics, such as social relationship skills and organizational skills. The latter skill is difficult to teach, especially without the coordination of home and school. Many of our children who struggle do so because of organization. A peek in their desk, backpack, or room at home will give an indication of a lack of organization. Please work on this skill with your child. We can work to get the homework and books home, but the next step is to get the work back to school. Please help your children with this at home.
The next two items are FYI items. The Wyoming Middle School has reported a sixth grade student with an identified case of Whooping Cough. I am mentioning this to you since many of our own students play on sports teams with Wyoming children. Please be aware that Whooping Cough has now been identified in our area. Secondly, as promised last year, the “Bed Bug Sniffing Dog” has been through the building and church and we did not have any indication of an infestation. Please be pro-active in communicating with us if you have an issue in your home. We will be as discreet as possible, but we can now treat clothing with dryer heat in our school. Please remember Paul’s letter to the Ephesians in which he emphasizes that we are all God’s church through Jesus and that we should all take care of each other.
Finally, we are excited about the Walkathon and we hope that all of your families bring in donations for our PTA. This is really an important fund raiser for our school each year, but we do need the donations. We will continue to accept Walkathon donations throughout the remaining school year. Placing your child in this school represents a commitment, but your commitment goes beyond enrollment. Please support the PTA and Walkathon. The October Party will be a fun event for your child. And, Monday, October 29, we will not have school in celebration of the end of our first quarter.
September 5, 2012
Last night, the St. James of the Valley PTA held its first meeting of the 2012-2013 school year, and I was pleased to see at least twenty-four parents in attendance. I hope that we can continue to see new faces at the PTA meetings. The PTA performs a number of important services for the school and your children. As I mentioned in an earlier letter, enrolling your child in an excellent private school should just be the beginning of your involvement in your child’s education. Parents need to be involved in the education and life of their children, and PTA is a good way to do this. Our Walkathon will be held on Friday, October 26, and this is the most important fund raiser of the year for our PTA. Last year, seventy percent of our families participated in raising money for this fundraiser. I am asking every family to participate this year.
As we move into the school year, it is imperative that we have the means to contact you or a member of your family in case of an emergency. If you have not returned your child’s Registration Form and Emergency Medical Form, please do this immediately. Please also return all of the forms that were sent in the summer packet. We also need you to return the form that signifies that you are familiar with the handbook. At some point soon, we will exclude children from school until all forms are returned.
We also need to have updated forms for the children who have medication or medical issues at school. Ohio law requires that these forms be updated each school year. If you have a child who requires any medication to be given at school or who has any medical concerns that we should be aware of, we need to receive new forms from your doctor each year. Our fax number at school is 513-821-9556. Please remember also that seventh grade students need to have the Tdap vaccination by Tuesday, September 11. Ohio law requires us to exclude students from school who do not have the vaccination by that date.
Last week I placed information in the packet letter and in the church bulletin about our need for a drama producer /director for a spring play. Thus far, I have not had any adults express an interest in this. Please talk to parents and friends about this need. I would like to have a spring play, but I do not have the skill or time to direct or produce one. If you know of anyone who might be interested, please have them contact me at 821-9054 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Finally, one of the ways in which you can help our PTA and our school is by collecting Box Tops for Education and returning them to school. This is an easy way to generate money for our school and it does help our PTA. Please send your Box Tops to our school office. We appreciate your help.
August 29, 2012
We have now completed a full week of instruction and I think that the school year is off to a great start. The upper grades seem to be adjusting to their new class schedules and all of the school is beginning to settle into daily routines. Our first school Mass was held last Thursday, led by our school staff. The school staff performed the Call to Worship, the readings, presented the gifts, and served as the Eucharistic ministers. Please remember that all parents are invited to attend all of our school Masses and we welcome your presence. I have been asked by Father Jack to remind you that a child's attendance at the school Mass on a school day does not meet the weekend Mass obligation. Please take your children to Mass on the weekend, and if you are not Catholic, please take them to a church service. Catholic Identity is one of the most important tenets of St. James of the Valley School, but it must be reinforced by the parents, who are the most important educators of children.
Along these same lines, please remember that sending your child to a Catholic school or private school is important, but it should not be the culmination of your involvement in your child's education. Please check the teacher website for assignments and messages about school, and please check your child's backpack and assignment book on a daily basis. As I mentioned above, you are the most important educator in your child's life, and your involvement in the educational process is critical to your child's success in school. Develop lines of communication with your child. Develop lines of communication with the teachers.
Thanks to the PTA, our school has purchased an administrative program called OptionC that is designed specifically for Catholic schools. I have uploaded a lot of information about the school, your family, and your child into the program, and Mrs. Hungler and I will receive training on the program in September. Once we have been trained, we can begin to utilize the program for grading, attendance, and other administrative duties. We will also need to train the teachers and staff in using the program. The reason that this should be of interest to you is that eventually we will roll out usernames and passwords that will allow you to see your child's progress on a daily basis for children in the upper grades. I do not know if this feature will be available this year, but I am committed to having it in place for the 2013-2014 school year. It should enhance communication between our school and your family. I am grateful to the PTA for purchasing this program for our school.
Last year, many of you noticed that our middle school classes did not have their annual Spring play which is performed on a Friday and Saturday night. Thanks to the help of Mrs. Kohl (who no longer had children in our school), we were able to put together a brief performance for the school. If you have any background in producing and directing plays, I would like to resurrect the annual spring play. The producer / director does not have to be a parent, but it should be someone with a little background in the theater. They will need to be fingerprinted and trained in the child protection program. If you know of any person qualified to perform this position, please direct them to me.
As we move into September, there are several important dates and events of which you need to be aware. First of all, there will no school on Monday, September 3, in recognition of Labor Day. On Tuesday, September 4, the PTA will host its first meeting of the school year. The meeting will begin at 7:00 p.m. in the school cafeteria. One of the topics of the meeting will be the 2012 Walkathon which will be held on Friday, October 26. This year the Walkathon will commemorate the 125th anniversary of the St. James of the Valley Parish. The Walkathon is the most important fund raiser of the year for the School PTA and participation by all of our families is expected. A successful fund raiser will mean that we can limit other fund raisers during the school year. Please consider attending the PTA meeting. The PTA sponsors our Ice Cream Social, our October Party, and numerous other events during the school year. As I said earlier, sending your child to a Catholic should just be the beginning of your involvement in the education of your child. Please support the PTA and all that it does.
Bulletin letter – Tuesday, August 28, 2012
St. James of the Valley School opened its doors for the 2012-2013 school year on Wednesday, August 22. Fortunately, the heat from an unusually hot summer abated somewhat, and the first several days were quite comfortable for the students. The only loss to the staff was our librarian, Mrs. Ray, whose husband was transferred to eastern Pennsylvania. She has been replaced by Mrs. Debbie Stroh. Mrs. Stroh was a substitute teacher in our school last year, and she is a parishioner at Our Lady of the Sacred Heart. She is excited by her new position and looking forward to working with our staff and children. Our enrollment on the first day of school was at 165 students, which is an increase over the last two years.
With teaching assignments changed and with an entirely new schedule for students in grades four through eight, there was some anxiety about the beginning of the new year. The staff and students quickly adapted and the new school year opened quite smoothly. We welcome to our school nineteen new kindergarten children, which is our largest class in several years. Of course, with that number of kindergarten students, our first few mornings resembled a Presidential press conference complete with photo opportunities, and there were a few tears shed among the children and parents.
Like last year, we have four of our eighth grade students beginning each school day in an Algebra I class at Roger Bacon High School. While our school day begins at 7:55 a.m., the Algebra I class begins at 7:00 a.m. Each morning, Anne Criddle, Ben Hoffman, Josh Kinser and Audrey Rieger rise early to make the trek to Roger Bacon High School. I want to thank Roger Bacon for making this opportunity available and the parents of these students for transporting the students each day. This is a sacrifice for the families, but it shows the importance that education plays within each of the families.
In summary, the SJOV School is off to a great start and we are anxiously awaiting the arrival of cooler weather. I do, however, have a request. Last year, we did not have a sponsor to produce and direct our annual spring play. If you are a parishioner with a background and interest in theater and would like to produce and direct a spring play for our school, I would be very interested in hearing from you. You can contact me by phone at 821-9054, or by email at email@example.com.
August 22, 2012
Welcome to St. James of the Valley School! We are excited to have your children and you as members of our school and our parish family. I was happy to see many of you at our Ice Cream Social last Sunday, and I want to thank our PTA for sponsoring this event. I also want to thank the Dave Rieger family for providing the delicious ice cream and John Distler for providing the music and public address system.
I hope that your child’s first day at school was a good day. In the packet that you receive today is a copy of the 2012-2013 Parent Student Handbook. Included with the handbook is a form that asks you to read the handbook, discuss it with your child, sign the form, and return it to school. We are asking you to do this so that both you and your child are aware of our school rules and policies. One of our areas of focus this year will be the dress code. Please emphasize this with your children.
One of the important pieces of communication that we need at school is information on any medical changes that your child may have experienced over the summer and any physical limitations of which we should be aware. We also need to remind you that if your child needs medication during the school day, there is a form that must be completed by you and your doctor at the beginning of every school year. If you need this form, please contact us as soon as possible. We cannot legally dispense any medication until this form is returned to us. If your child takes multiple medications, then a form must be on file for every medication. I also need to remind the parents of 7th grade students that your child must have the Tdap vaccination by Tuesday, September 12. If we do not have proof of the vaccination in our office by the 13th, we are required to exclude your child from school until the vaccination is given and confirmed.
Since we are initiating a new schedule within the school day, the first few days of the year may seem a little unorganized and confusing. Please be patient with us as we learn to work within the new schedule and times. Please assure your children that they will become familiar with the new schedule over the course of the next several weeks.
If you plan to volunteer within the school during the school year, then you must view the Archdiocese’s Child Protection Video and undergo a background check and fingerprinting. This includes parents who plan to chaperone field trips, the Walkathon, the October Party, or any other school or parish events involving children. The Child Protection Training in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati is new, and the training requires three to three and one-half hours of time. Since I am now the Safe Environment Coordinator for the parish, I will let you know when training sessions will be offered.
For parents who plan to drive their children to school in the morning, each day a drop-off lane is set up for you to use. Parents who are dropping off their children should drive into the drop-off lane from West Hill Lane, stop, drop off their children, and then drive on to the Linden Drive exit. The speed limit on the school property will be posted at 5 miles per hour. This is not an unreasonable speed limit with children present. Any driver within the drop-off lane should be aware of pedestrian traffic as many parents prefer to park and walk their children through the drop-off lane. With children involved, pedestrians have the right of way at all times in the drop off lane and on the school property.
All traffic on the lot at both arrival and dismissal times should be from south to north. Parents should enter the lot from the West Hill Lane entrance and exit to Linden Drive. Parents should not turn around and exit at West Hill Lane.
Parents are always welcome in our school. If you want to escort your children in each day, you are welcome to do so. If you plan to drop off your child and move on, use the drop off lane. If you want to park in the parking area, please walk your children through the drop off area.
At dismissal, I insist that the children stay inside the cones until the parents arrive to pick them up. This is also a safety issue. It is a little more difficult with the older students who were allowed to go to the play area in the past, and I have been trying to reinforce this since last year. My responsibility for your child ends when you pick them up, not when you want them to wait at the library or on the playground. If your child is to be picked up, I expect them to be inside the cones at dismissal waiting for you or your designee to pick them up. This is for their protection. I want your children supervised and safe at all times. In legalese, the state of Ohio uses the phrase “in loco parentis” to describe the laws and court decisions that allow schools to have jurisdiction and control over children during the school day. This phrase means “in place of their parents.” While this may be a legal concept, I think of your children as our children when they are with us
Finally, good communication between your family, the school, and the parish is essential to provide your child with a quality educational experience. I hope that you feel comfortable to contact us if there is a problem. If you have a problem, please contact me. I am looking forward to working with you.