March 14, 2018

“Thoughts and Prayers” Are as Necessary for Those Praying as for the Recipients

Just as many of you have probably kept your ear open to the responses to the incident at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School a month ago, this situation has been at the forefront of my mind as both an educator and a parent.  Today, many high schools marked the one month anniversary with student led walkouts, 17 minutes of silence, etc.  Religious high schools, including both Assumption and Alleman, held special prayer services today.  At the elementary school level, the challenge is greater.  While we don’t want to ignore what’s going on around us, we also have to work within our environment of a building that can have three year olds through 15 year olds.  I want to commend Fr. Jake, Mrs. Furlong, and the 4th graders who added just the right amount of something extra to today’s already scheduled all school Mass.  The fourth graders had a couple of pertinent petitions, and Fr. Jake’s homily had just the right touch of passing detail such that the adults and older students knew the reference to which he referred and all of us, including the youngest in attendance, could relate to the power of God’s love and prayer.

In his homily, Fr. Jake talked about the strength of a mother’s love for her children and how God’s love was even greater.  He also talked about the power of prayer and that “thoughts and prayers” are, indeed, necessary.  Not only are thoughts and prayers necessary for those whom are in need, but they are also necessary for us.  Genuine thoughts and prayers change us too, and a strong prayer life solidifies our relationship with a loving God.  Through that loving relationship with God, we can be better persons and make a difference in the world.  (Thanks, Fr. Jake, for helping me see that genuine “thoughts and prayers” are not empty platitudes.)

Campus Safety Review:  School

The Campus Safety Review:  School has been completed and is starting to be distributed to key decision making groups for the parish and school.  The board of education received it last week, and the parish and finance councils received excerpts the week earlier.  When our last major review of campus security was done in 2013, common concerns seemed to relate to how the building could be kept secure and students could be kept safe from someone coming inside the building.  Even after having just built the 2011 office addition with safety in mind, another $80,000 or more was spent on various security upgrades ranging from exterior and classroom doors and locks to communication systems and protocols.  This year’s survey of parents and staff indicated that people were fairly comfortable with the safety of students within the building.  The most common concerns this fall were related to keeping students safe when outside the building but on campus property.  While there are numerous recommendations, the three key recommendations below encompass the concerns that were of the highest priority:

  • Separate students from the parking lot.  An asphalt/blacktop/concrete play area, for example, can be installed behind the parish center and south of the east wing of the school building.  With the correct shape that connects to the play equipment area but narrows as it approaches our “alley” type drive by the ball field, a hard surface play area can be installed that would not interfere with the ball field or the main soccer field.  By connecting it with a walk to the east doors and with access from the alley type drive for snow plowing, students would be able to play outside in the back regardless of how wet the grass is.  Students would not have to play in the parking lot for any recess.  Because this new play area would be tucked behind the school and to the south of the east wing of the school building, it would also not even be visible from the apartments.  Fencing could also be completed to wrap around all of the play areas, and completing the fencing around play areas was seen by the committee as more realistic than fencing the entire 11.5+ acre property while still trying to allow access points during the day for both school and parish activities, such as preschool and funerals.  Additional strategically placed fencing in other areas of the campus, while not limiting access, would at least direct visitors toward areas more desired by the parish and school.  Privacy screening on various fencing may be considered.

As we talk to contractors regarding prices, we are using the drawing below:


  • Add security cameras to both the external and internal school campus, with external cameras being the first priority.  Security cameras can help staff monitor the entire campus.  They can serve as a deterrent, provide an early warning to potential suspicious or dangerous situations, be used by first responders should an event be in progress, and help with after the fact investigations.  This project would cost in excess of $20,000, and we are pursing grants this spring.
  • Use something other than cones for making the “safety” area.  There are many options available that would be highly visible and even portable, if needed, yet provide for a clearer delineation of the safety area.  If using portable barriers, attaching them to one another would create a more imposing delineation.  If a vehicle were to hit a better barrier rather than the current traffic cones, the driver would be much more likely to notice it, and students and staff would at least have more time to move out of the way, if necessary.  Even portable barriers might even be able to remain in place through the work week and just come down for weekends and holy days.  Options and pricing are being explored this spring, along with how protocols for before and after school might be adjusted.

Teachers will be discussing the review document on Friday, and I’ll have other updates throughout the spring.  Work to comprehensively review church and rectory safety/security should begin soon and complement the additional entryway security that was added this fall.  (FYI – All church doors are also locked during all school Masses.)

Fifth/Sixth Grade Spring Show

Between a student fainting on the risers in the afternoon and one vomiting in the evening, our 5th/6th grade spring show sure had some added excitement.  (Everyone is fine.)  Students did an outstanding job with the show and responding to the other situations.

Plant Sale

Speaking of spring, it’s time to start planning for your flowers.  Home & School is conducting a plant sale this spring.  Sales end on April 6th.  Pick up will be on campus on May 3rd and 4th from 2 – 7 p.m.

Gala Needs Volunteers

The Gala needs people who can help with many different activities — everything from making phone calls to setting up a stage for the band and decorating to just donating funds.  Please contact Angie Hillebrand at the school office.  The Gala is the largest fundraiser of OLV and JFK and supports all of our educational needs.  This year we’re trying to do a “super Gala” with funds raised above our normal net of $25,000 – $30,000 to go toward establishing the seed money for an air conditioning project.  The Gala is May 5th beginning at 6 p.m. at the Elks’ Lodge on Central Park Avenue near Emeis Golf Course.  The Gala includes fun and fellowship with live and silent auctions, a live band, and dancing.

How Do You Pay for it All?

Need help planning for your (and your children’s) financial future?  Home & School is sponsoring a presentation by Dan Lubenthal of Edward Jones, with special guests Dan Schimanski and Heather Egger of True Mortgage Lending on Thursday, March 15th at 6:00 p.m.  These financial experts will be on hand to discuss financial strategies and give tips on how to plan for your future, as well as for your children.   The presentation will start at 6:00 p.m. in the Parish Center.  The Home & School meeting starts at 7:00 p.m.

Kindergarten Round-Up and Tuition Contracts for 2018-19

If you missed kindergarten round-up, please contact the school office ASAP so we can get all of your children on a tuition contract for next school year.  Tuition contracts were mailed last week.  Turn them around quickly and take advantage of an early bird registration discount before spring break.

Preschool and Childcare Registration for 2018-19

3, 4, and 5 year old preschool and/or childcare registration has begun.  Please contact the school office before the spots you want are no longer available.

2018-19 School Calendar

The DCSD has posted its calendar for next school year.  Click HERE or use the following link/url:  JFK’s board voted to accept this calendar with two minor changes that only affect staff.

Early Dismissal and No PM Preschool on March 16

Students are dismissed at 1:00 on Friday, March 16th.  Bus service and after school care are available.  There are no afternoon preschool classes.