After last week’s news of various school closings and mergers, I am so very grateful to be part of the thriving St. John Fisher School and Parish community. We are blessed to have 670 students walk in the doors each day, a dedicated and talented faculty and staff, and parents who support us every step of the way. Transition and change are both difficult and challenging for all of us. I wanted to reassure you about our commitment to making St. John Fisher your best choice for educating your children.
We are very pleased to announce that Mrs. Maura Nash will be the interim principal. Mrs. Nash attended Nazareth Academy for high school and then went on to study at Loras College in Dubuque where she obtained her bachelor’s degree. She obtained a Masters in Educational Leadership as well as her Type 75 administrative endorsement at Lewis University in Romeoville. Her teaching career began at Montini High School in Lombard where she taught for five years before joining the SJF faculty. She is a parishioner and a parent of three young Falcons, Charlie, Jimmy and Liam.
Our school continues to improve a rigorous program infused with Catholic/Christian values. Our goal at the beginning of every academic year is to be sure the school builds on the academic strengths of a long tradition and infuses new initiatives to complement that goal.
Like all schools in the Archdiocese, we have participated in the nationally acclaimed AdvancEd School Continuous School Improvement Program for the last six years. Our participation in this program helps us to make curricular decisions that positively impact the education of each learner.
Data from that participation has challenged our faculty to take the language arts curriculum to the next level. Four of our teachers spent last summer on a language arts curriculum planning team that has already had a significant impact on student learning. Our PreK-8 faculty is designing rigorous lessons that challenge each student to reach his/her highest potential. The teachers’ work with students is data-driven. There is a data team that collaborates closely with the entire faculty, examining a variety of data elements that help teachers understand and address the learning needs of each student.
For the first time this year, our school has implemented a new reading assessment for first and second graders called Easy CBM. Each of the younger students has been administered this assessment and will be assessed throughout the school year by two of our faculty specialists who work closely with the first and second grade teachers to better understand where each child is performing and better differentiate instruction. Third through eighth graders will take the ACT Aspire interim assessments in reading and math in January, and the ACT Aspire summative assessment in April.
The “Reading Buddies” program is also new to our school this year. The program pairs up “Big Buddies” (mainly retired teachers) with “Little Buddies.” The program is in place to develop a love of reading while also addressing phonics, vocabulary, fluency and comprehension. Participating students are showing gains in confidence and reading comprehension skills through their individual work with a caring educator.
The “Homework Club” doubled in size this year. Participating students are mentored and tutored by junior high volunteers every Tuesday and Thursday. Not only have the younger students made academic gains due to this program, they have formed important relationships with the older students. This important program is run by two of our faculty members.
Several of our math teachers have been working closely with our local Catholic high school math teachers to learn how we can better prepare our students for high school math. We are focused on providing the strongest math foundation possible at all grades. This year, we adopted a new math program for grades 1-4 called Reflex as a supplement to our existing curriculum. When utilized three times a week by students, math fact fluency will be achieved. This is an important component in the strong foundation needed to succeed at higher levels of math.
Science and technology are also important elements of the curriculum. While we were saddened to lose one of our computer labs due to the closing of the convent, we have “gone mobile,” putting devices in the hands of our students. Each of our 6th-8th grade students has been provided with a Chromebook to use 24/7 throughout the school year at no cost to families. FSA generously provided our students with a classroom set of Google Cardboard, and our fifth and sixth graders have pioneered the use of virtual and augmented reality. More teachers will be trained in the coming months about the possibilities for enriched learning experiences in science and social studies using VR and AR.
This week is the international “Hour of Code.” Every student in K-8 will do computer programming this week and for more hours to come in 2019. There is a greater focus on digital citizenship through a new online course for junior high students. We have a team of students that competes annually in a Lego Robotics event.
Aware that we are educating young people to be citizens in a global society, the Junior High Social Studies curriculum was redesigned several years ago to include elements of traditional United States History in the context of world geography, economics and current events. This year, the global studies program was implemented in fifth and sixth grades as well. This program provides opportunities for our students to better understand the impact of culture and religion on historic and current global events.
Students understanding of culture and language has been further influenced by the addition of Spanish to our third-eighth grade curriculum.
Friday, the faculty will participate in a retreat under the direction of Dr. Chermak. As mandated by the Office of Catholic Schools, every teacher in our building will have completed the necessary coursework to be a certified catechist.
The faculty at St. John Fisher is well balanced by both veteran teachers with an average of fifteen years of teaching experience and new teachers whose enthusiasm and creativity complement the wisdom and experience of the veteran staff. This group is highly committed to the education and well-being of our children and the success of our school. They don’t hesitate to take on additional responsibilities whenever the need arises. They are committed to going the extra mile during this time of transition, and will ensure that SJF continues to thrive.
The education of your children is a partnership between home and school. If you have suggestions that would benefit our students and their learning, please reach out to Mrs. Nash, Mrs. Reed, Dr. Chermak (contact information below), or any of our faculty.
Please keep Mr. Fornaciari and his family in your thoughts and prayers. Although his time here was short, we are grateful for his service to our school and his concern for the well-being of our students.
Dr. Elena Chermak, firstname.lastname@example.org
Mrs. Maura Nash, email@example.com
Mrs. Pat Reed, firstname.lastname@example.org