Principal's News - March '16

These highlights are evidenced through the spirit, talent, and preparation by our students and staff for the following: LA Religious Ed Congress, Battle for the Paddle, basketball playoffs, Spring sports launch, Spring musical preparation, and fundraising dollars and teddy bears for our various community service projects. Though these are busy times for all of us, our students, parents, and staff continue to journey together for a common cause…a common belief: our Catholic, Salesian college-preparatory mission. From the Geramis to the Tripps, from the Ciandros to the Kellys, from Mr. Monroy to Mrs. Cmaylo, this school fosters lifelong learning in a family atmosphere of love and safety where friends are made and joy is celebrated. This has been especially visible in the solidarity and support that has been cultivated between each student within each grade level. Wow! I am continually impressed with the character and enthusiasm of this great school!

Per Fr. John Roche’s (Our first St. Francis HS President and last year’s Burgundy & Gray Honoree) recommendation, I am reading Leonard Sweet’s The Gospel According to Starbucks: Living with a Grande Passion. The basic theme of this book is awesome and simple. It presents Starbucks as a model for creating an active, engaging environment in the Church. The author explains that the Church should be more like Starbucks in that it should be EPIC. According to Sweet, Starbucks has made a fortune filling a void in our lives by being EPIC (Experiential, Participatory, Image Rich, and Communal). For me, we offer an EPIC high school experience for students and parents and we do it with a grande passion!

Leonard Sweet’s proposed model of the Church is very Biblical. As we know from our faith and Salesian training, Jesus taught experientially. Jesus called His followers to fully participate in God’s work, and Jesus used parables and rich imagery in his teachings. As we see throughout the gospels, Jesus calls the Church to a deep community. As stated so eloquently in our mission and philosophy, we partner with our parents to nurture confident, well-educated women and men of character and service in the spirit of St. John Bosco.

The third quarter is just about to finish--we have the basketball playoffs this week and the winter sports banquet on March 6th, we are preparing for Easter Break, the Breakfast of Champions is coming up on March 9th, and campus is abuzz with excitement surrounding the Battle for the Paddle on March 17th. With thanks and great pride, I can share that all of these events have grown in numbers. These events, coupled with our students’ hard work in the classroom and as leaders, are what we call “living the Salesian message”! We are so proud of all of our students for their daily accomplishments.

Our admissions and registration season is well under way and, given the extraordinary political and financial times, I am very pleased to state that incoming 9th applications are up from last year at this time. We believe the reason that so many have been able to make the commitment to St. Francis High School--and vice-versa--is due to our collective efforts to connect tuition assistance, registration, academic success, and myriad course options. Personally, I would like to thank those who will qualify for referring new students to St. Francis. The number has really grown and we all very grateful for your honesty and the conviction by which you hold St. Francis in your hearts. To quote our students, “St. Francis is the greatest school in the universe,” and it is because of all of you. Thank you again!

We are continuing to work on multiple important projects for the school:

  1. Cultivating a welcoming and supportive Salesian school climate. The Salesian School Climate Committee has started to review the results of our collective climate surveys to begin development of an action plan.
  2. Maintaining a safe learning environment for all students. Besides the above-mentioned climate committee, we have engaged more Animas and Student Ambassadors to reach out to our student community. Doing climate checks, reaching out to students on the margin, launching a unity week, inviting Detective Nick in to speak about teen drug and alcohol use, etc. are just some of the ways to address a safe learning environment. We plan on launching another student learning module for Digital Citizenship this semester as well as bring in a presentation on teen drinking and driving as well. Unique to any high school setting in the country, St. Francis has never had a fight. This year we have had 3 reports of bullying that when investigated by the Deans and me turned out not to be the case – they did not fit the defined criteria. Again, unique to any high school setting in the US we can report no found incidents of bullying or harassment. Can I say that we have not had any teasing, excessive horseplay, or inappropriate behavior? No. No one can with teenagers; however, we can say we create a safe environment for all students--safer than any surrounding public or private school on the Central Coast! Unfortunately, I have had to remove 3 students from attending St. Francis this year. This number is typical for a Salesian high school in the US. Each student violated the school’s articulated policies in different ways and, thus, compromised the safe learning environment for all students. We know each is a good person with a great future but their attendance could not be justified at this time.
  3. The launching of a Concert Band class and the growth of a pep band/drum line. Through a generous donor, we have purchased a storage bin and received UC/CSU approval. Our goal is to grow student interest, purchase instruments and music, and start supporting Mr. Dewig with a new arts class and coaching staff to grow this new venture. We will have a Pep Band!
  4. The Biomedical Science Program will launch the year #2 UC/CSU approved Science/Technology/Engineering/Math (STEM) class. The first class – Principles of Biomedical Science (BMS)--was very successful and we hope to replicate that success with the year #2 class – Human Body Systems (HBS). If you work in the medical or biomedical tech fields, please contact me to see how we can partner together to support a new STEM class over the next 3 years.

Finally, I would like to share a document just created by our new Staff Accountant, Mr. Nick Guerrero. He has tracked our Annual Fund (AF) giving by class for the last couple of years and has created a user-friendly document for me to share. The document recognizes families for giving to the Annual Fund and identifies the % of families who gave by class this school year. Some families, with multiple students per grade level, have given more than once. This list does not include all giving to the school or VAPA/sport specific donations. This list directly represents contributions to the Annual Fund (AF) only.

My goal is to grow our annual fund giving internally - for staff and parents - to be 100%. When we get this, we not only have created a vital culture, but are perpetuating that culture so much so that we are willing (no matter how great or small) to ensure its current and future implementation. It shows we value this community for our children and for our future. When I can show annual growth in giving from these two groups, it makes outside foundations and grants available to us. This data is one of the first questions I am always asked. How can you help our mission?

Please review this document. Be inspired to act. You can donate online or in person. As you know, we have a contest to help grow the Annual Fund. The class with the greatest giving percent (not dollars) by April 1 will win this year's internal competition. The prize? The winning class gets a free dress pass and lunch on April 8th, 2016. We currently have families and staff members giving as little as $25 a year, or $1.04, per paycheck for 24 pay periods. Yes, I said $1.04 twice a month…and that is gratefully received and valued. This year, we even had a current senior donate – thank you, Tori! This is inspiring and leaves me with feelings of great hope and joy.

My goal this year? Grow our current number of donors, per grade level, by 5% (e.g., the class of 2016 to 33%+ or the class of 2019 to 16%+, etc.). Even families on tuition assistance can donate to the Annual Fund; for us, the dollar amount is less important than the act of giving.

Let me leave you with this thought: St. Francis High School is committed to excellence in all areas of school life—being a home that welcomes, a church that evangelizes, a college-prep school that educates at the highest level, and a playground where students win at the highest level and make friendships for life. As I pray for you and your sons and daughters this Easter, please keep St. Francis High School in your prayers, too.

“God’s love for us is everlasting…living a spiritual life

Calls us to claim that eternal love for ourselves so that

We can live our temporal loves—for parents, brothers,

Sisters, teachers, friends, spouses, and all people who

Become part of our lives—as reflections or refractions of

God’s eternal love”

--Henri Nouewen

Yours in Christ,

President and Principal

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