Greetings Parents and Guardians of SMSA,
I am grateful to be afforded the opportunity to share our story with you and provide evidence of our accomplishments at the close of the fiscal year. Serving in the role of interim, and most recently, President at SMSA, I have had the honor and privilege of witnessing our mission, core values, and tradition of transforming lives through education, service, and faith, firsthand. I can assure you that the legacy and charism under which we were founded in 1909, by the Congregation of Sisters of St. Agnes, is alive, well, and thriving on the Ledge.
As the first day of the 2019-2020 academic year approaches, we are eager to welcome 890 students to the Ledge, representing over a 5% increase in enrollment over a three year period. Worth noting, over 100 students are new to SMSA this year and elementary grades K-5 are the largest in more than a decade, collectively representing over 350 students!
Unprecedented enrollment growth, and shifts in class size by grade level, placed focus on solutions to increase capacity in an effort to offer the courses necessary to meet the needs of our student population. As a result, the Facilities and Campus Planning Committee evaluated space constraints and proposed 2nd floor storage space, which previously housed athletic equipment and club/organization items, be converted into two classrooms. Following Board of Director consideration and approval, the project was underway at the close of the 2018-2019 school year; with completion by late August, 2019 – just in time for the new school year to begin!
Recognizing the enrollment challenges faced by a growing number of Catholic schools in our Archdiocese, and throughout the U.S., we are incredibly blessed and honored to serve a growing number of students and families at SMSA.
Staff and Faculty:
The Academy’s 130 faculty, staff, and administrators are the single greatest asset in transforming lives and sustaining the mission; therefore, it is critically important that we find ways to demonstrate their value and importance each and every day. As a result of benefactor support, beginning in the 2019-20 year, we were able to implement a multi-year salary adjustment strategy; thereby, allowing us to begin to address salary compression in our faculty compensation model. In addition to a cost of living increase, approximately $65K was invested in faculty wage adjustments toward the desired three-year salary adjustment target goal of $250K.
Much work and progress has been made to fill key roles with highly qualified faculty and administrators, each of which bring their unique strengths and talents to the SMSA community. There are three key challenges I have come to see, firsthand, in both hiring and retaining talented faculty and staff: (1) salary continues to be a barrier when seeking to hire experienced faculty, especially when competing with the public sector, (2) the cost to replace departing faculty is higher than to retain them due to teacher shortages in high-demand content areas, and (3) we must do better at hiring for mission and marketing the unique benefits one receives by joining the SMSA family. Continued professional development and a move toward a more collaborative, shared decision-making approach will serve to enhance workplace quality of life.
Reorganization of the Academic Model:
In an effort to enhance student development and improve learning outcomes, we have reconfigured SMSA to an Elementary (PreK-8) / High School (9-12) model, effective the start of the academic year. This model is supported by educational research, aligns with best practices of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, and has been embraced by SMSA faculty/staff. With the goal of providing leadership consistency and long-term sustainability, we are deploying a Principal/Assistant Principal model:
- Elementary/Middle School (PreK-8) Team: Steve Kelnhofer will serve as Principal and veteran teacher, Mitch Redig, has agreed to serve as Assistant Principal.
- High School (9-12) Team: Eamonn O’Keeffe has been hired to serve as Principal and veteran teacher, coach, and former dean, Kyle Krueger, will fulfill the newly created role of Dean of Character Development.
- System Pupil Services (K-12): Heather Reilley will serve as Director of Pupil Services as we continue to develop student support services to meet the individual needs of all Ledgers.
To learn more about the minimal impact this reorganization will have on you and your family, including school check-in and exit procedures, please refer to the Impact on You – Academic Model: Elementary/Middle and High School Reorganization, under the News & Updates header, below.
Strengthening Catholic Culture:
At SMSA, we strive to provide our students, staff and families with regular opportunities to encounter Christ through the sacraments. We have created a new Mass and prayer service rotation to provide students at all levels with more liturgical opportunities in our beautiful Lady of the Ledge Chapel. This year we will again be offering Eucharistic Adoration in the Chapel throughout the day every Friday, as well as before school on Wednesday mornings. Our chaplain will offer Reconciliation on a regular basis, and we are adding another system-wide reconciliation day in Advent, in addition to our traditional Lent reconciliation day.
For the second consecutive year, SMSA will close the 2018-19 fiscal year (as of June 30) in a strong financial position. Increasing enrollment, sound fiscal planning, and budget controls helped to maintain a balanced budget while our annual fund appeals and special events brought in $910K in System revenue, exceeding the budgeted target for a second year. This is again through the generosity and unwavering support of annual fund donors, estate gifts and high performing special events and activities.
As in prior years, Holy Family Parish has been extremely generous in supporting our System and the students we serve. During 2018-2019 school year, the Parish continued to support funding of our Campus Ministry position in addition to the services of Father John Mitchell as SMSA Campus Chaplain; providing, in total, a gift of $1.027M. This year, Father John LoCoco joins SMSA as Campus Chaplain, bringing his student-centered focus and enthusiasm to campus.
As a result of our fiscal strength this past year, below are just a few items that SMSA has been able to accomplish:
- Reinvestment in the physical plant by increasing capacity and classroom space by over 1,700 square feet through the renovation of 2nd floor storage space into two state of the art classrooms.
- Reorganization of SMSA to an Elementary (PreK-8) / High School (9-12) model; thereby, providing leadership consistency and long-term sustainability through deployment of a Principal / Assistant Principal framework.
- Title II resources from the State and Professional Development Endowment Fund provided Visible Learning Coaching for all Elementary faculty over the course of 5 days in the fall. This resulted in children taking ownership for their learning. Visible Learning is teachers partnering with students to goal set and create engaged learning. Teachers learned strategies, best practice and techniques to support high achievement student learning.
- Through generous donor support, Hutter Gymnasium received a facelift in summer 2018. The floorboards, bleachers, and basketball hoops were all replaced and upgraded. The walls received a fresh coat of paint, and new pads were installed under the basketball hoops.
- Technology enhancements, resulting in a $100K investment, include a move to 1:1 Chromebooks for high school students, thereby, placing new technology tools in the hands of 300 students. This, in addition to core technology infrastructure upgrades, helps to ensure enhanced learning opportunities for our students and demonstrates continuous improvement efforts.
- Year one of a three-year faculty wage adjustment initiative, resulted in the allocation of $65K in salary adjustments. Increases were provided to over 85% of SMSA faculty, based on years of service in the teaching profession and degree attainment.
Strategic Focus for the Year Ahead
In an effort to ensure that every child has an opportunity to maximize their God-given strengths, we must build a culture of excellence, holding students and ourselves to high expectations, and work in partnership with families to ensure individual student success. Over this academic year, and in partnership with the CESA 6 Rapid Center for Improvement, we will work to develop a cohesive leadership team, strengthen the organizational infrastructure, and provide sustained focus on quality teaching and learning – all in an effort to provide a safe, positive, and inspiring learning environment.
The CESA 6 Rapid Center for Improvement has worked with high performing school districts such as: Kaukauna, Hortonville, Oshkosh and North Fond du Lac and is “committed to developing high-performing and results-orientated school districts, using an integrated approach to continuous improvement, leadership and student advocacy/ownership.”
In closing, I would like to extend my sincere appreciation to you, for the warm welcome, support and encouragement I have received, and continue to receive, upon serving in the role of President. The experience, to date, has been transformational and has enriched me beyond words. I am blessed to serve and pledge to advance the mission and core values that define us and the Ledger Legacy!
In your service,