Greetings Families of SMSA,
It is easy to recall the anticipation I felt for the first day of school as a young child. Our school community holds the same anticipation and excitement in our hearts as we approach the first day of the 18-19 school year. Being on the other side, as teachers, staff and administrators, our excitement is of a different kind. Yes, the smell of new books, the freshly sharpened pencils, and shiny new technology are exciting themselves, but more so, the prospect of growing our students in mind, body and spirit is where we draw our greatest joy and passion.
In the recent eLedger updates from both Steve Kelnhofer and Julie Shively, they shared the academic direction and strategic goals for the coming year, along with some of our long-range plans. Their updates outlined our focus around engaging instructional strategies, curriculum/standard alignment, technology integration tactics, diving into student assessment data, and much more. Below you will find an overview of several other items we feel you, as key stakeholders, should know about. We plan to share a mid-year progress report, and are already planning for a formal year-end “State of the Springs” report to share the outcomes of our annual goals and objectives. There are some incredible initiatives in the works, none of which are possible without the support of you as members of the Ledger family.
The last two years have shown incredible System growth. At the close of 17-18, we had 843 students. This year, we are prepared to welcome 878 students to the Ledge; 126 of which are brand new to SMSA. Our high school enrollment is the largest it has been in several years at 292, and we are prepared to welcome one of our largest freshman classes with 79 students. Due to demand in our Early Childhood program, we added a fourth Kindergarten section this year as well. Given Catholic school enrollment trends throughout the U.S., we feel incredibly blessed to have watched our enrollment continue to climb. The focus of our Facilities & Campus Planning Committee is now monitoring campus capacity and evaluating the potential for capital improvement options for the future including Hutter Gym locker renovation and classroom expansion.
Staff & Faculty:
The staff and faculty at SMSA are by far, one of our greatest assets. I have had the privilege to work alongside many of them for years and admire their desire to continually grow professionally and personally, their ability to adjust to change, and their unwavering commitment to the growth of our students. With 127 full time staff members, we continue to seek ways to both attract and retain top level talent. We lost just three faculty members this summer; two of which were due to moves out of state. This faculty retention speaks volumes to not only the culture we are growing, but their commitment to Catholic mission of SMSA. Two primary goals for our System this year include: first, a focus and commitment to supporting the physical, social, emotional and spiritual wellness of our staff/faculty and second, a proposal to adjust our faculty compensation model over the course of the next several years. If you are passionate about supporting either of these initiatives, please reach out to me for more information.
Last year was the first we introduced a formal, multi-year strategic plan. System leadership, including the Board of Directors and Administration, spent the summer months evaluating progress and charting the action plans necessary to move our plan forward, with a focus around systematic, continuous improvement for 2018-19. The sub-committees of the Board of Directors (Finance, Academic and Student Life, System Advancement and Facilities and Campus Planning) are responsible for monitoring both our progress and our metrics/outcomes for each goal and sub-goal detailed in our plan. For more information, or to read the plan in full detail, please visit our website.
SMSA ended the 2017-2018 fiscal year (June 30) in a very strong fiscal position. In fact, our annual fund/special events brought in $1,025,000 in System revenue (a 26% increase over the prior year). This was due to the incredible support of annual fund donors, a handful of unrestricted estate gifts and an incredibly successful year with special events. In our second year in the new campus, we had a much stronger sense for our new operational climate (utilities, grounds/maintenance, etc.) and were able to better predict annual expenses. As in the past, Holy Family Parish has been extremely generous in supporting our system. During 2017-2018, the Parish added to their donation the covering of a large portion of our Campus Ministry position and for a second year, the services of Father John Mitchell as SMSA Campus Chaplain; in total, a gift of $1,006,780. In addition to the annual contribution of the SMSA Foundation ($257,000 to support tuition assistance, operations and professional development), the Foundation also very generously offered to cover the first year and one half of the salary of our Chief Development Officer, with a focus on growing the outreach and efforts of the Advancement Department.
As a result of our fiscal strength last year, below are just a few things that SMSA was able to pull out of our “parking lot” and accomplish over the last several months:
- Hold tuition increase to 2% across all grade levels; lower than prior years.
- Pay down our capital loan (Second Century Campaign) by roughly $150,000, leaving a balance of $774K. Doing so not only allows us to pay down our loan, but also lessens annual interest charges of roughly $40,000 per year.
- Engage in new capital equipment leases, totaling $150,000 to introduce more technology to our students (iPads and Chromebooks). This summer we welcomed 300 new units to our fleet, bringing our resource total up to 620 units PreK-12.
- Using both our Title II resources from the State and the Professional Development Endowment Fund yield (from the SMSA Foundation), we were able to invest nearly $35,000 in the professional development of our faculty last year (historically, this number has been closer to $13,000 annually). Investing in their professional development, is a direct investment into the growth of our System and our students.
Special Needs Scholarship Program (SNSP):
SMSA decided to welcome SNSP in the 2018-2019 school year, when the State announced that scholarships were now available to students already being served inside parochial schools. This made scholarship dollars available to existing SMSA students who have active IEPs (individual education plans) or Service Plans, indicating they have a documented learning disability or health impairment. Our Student Services Department was actively supporting nearly 50 students already within the walls of SMSA, so the program now offers budgetary relief to SMSA in a department we’ve made significant investments in over the course of the last several years (roughly $275K per year).
Outside of students with IEP/Service Plans, this department continues to support students who require extra support (i.e. reading intervention at the Elementary level or a student falling behind in a high school course). However, SMSA does have limitations, and there are students who we can not support given their unique and tailored needs. We are aware of these limitations and are very honest with families about our capacity and abilities; we aim to aid families in making decisions that are in the very best interest of each and every student.
Our call to follow the lead of Jesus through service to school, church and community is part of what unites us as Ledgers. We’ve worked over the summer months to lay the foundation for new expectations of our students relative to community service requirements. Kollin Petrie, our new Campus Minister, shared details about the new high school service framework last month and more information will be shared with students and families in coming weeks. What you will be seeing is an elevated focus on community service requirements (and inclusion of hours logged to date on report cards), awards for students going above and beyond with hours, students now assisting in managing System service projects, athletic teams being required to do team community service projects and more. As parents, the opportunities for you to volunteer your time within the school building are plentiful. In fact, we once again have launched our parent volunteerism platform and are asking families to offer a minimum of four hours of their time throughout the year. Thank you in advance for supporting these efforts, we can’t do it without you!
As part of the State’s School Safety Grant program, SMSA was awarded $21,000 to use in improving campus safety. In addition to adding shatter resistant film to all entrances and doorways (a requirement of the grant parameters), we also added additional exterior cameras and will be leading staff through professional development around “Trauma Sensitive Schools.” SMSA also met with the Fond du Lac Police Department over the summer, to audit our annual safety plans and crisis response, working in partnership to make necessary adjustments. The good news is that very few modifications were needed, given the work that was done while building the school. In addition to staff/faculty response training held this week, we will be inviting the Fond du Lac Police Department back to speak to our students, as in year’s past, and will be running formal “Avoid, Deny, Defend” drills throughout the year. The safety of our students and school community is paramount and we are committed to taking every measure possible to ensure that while in our care, your children are safe and secure!
We are so very eager to welcome you and your children to The Ledge next week. Whether you are new to SMSA, or returning for another year, thank you for your commitment to the mission of SMSA and for allowing us the great gift of sharing in the lives of your children. We look forward to working in partnership with you as we continue to grow a system that is, undoubtedly, Unleashed by Faith!