BROOKFIELD—Diocesan Schools Superintendent Dr. Steven Cheeseman and St. Joseph School Taskforce members unveiled plans for the new school model at a meeting attended by parents and educators last night at St. Joseph Church.
“The Bishop charged us with creating a school that is authentically Catholic, academically excellent, and financially viable,” Dr. Cheeseman said. “And we believe this model does all three.”
Dr. Chesseman said that based on the results of a recent survey of parents, he is optimistic that the school will reach an enrollment of 100 students.
“Most of the responses said they were likely to re-enroll their students,” he said, nothing that he hopes the group of undecided parents will be excited by the plans. Only a small number responded that their children would not return to school.
“This model will work. It comes down to if you all want it,” he said to the parents, encouraging them to register their children. “I know this will be a great educational experience for you child.”
He told parents that the multi-age plan is “not experimental,” and that it has been gradually taking hold in many private and public schools, including schools in the area, since the 1990’s.
Throughout the evening, Taskforce members offered presentations on all aspects of the plan including classroom organization, technology, finances, and other activities.
“This group of people has worked incredibly hard, giving countless hours over the last five weeks,” Dr. Cheeseman said as he thanked members for their enthusiasm and passion for the project, which will give the school “a fresh start.”
Bishop Caggiano introduced the plan for the transition of St. Joseph School of Brookfield into the new blended learning and “multi-age” model” at a meeting concerning the future of the school on January 18 in St. Joseph Church.
At that time the bishop said that parents would play a key role in the process and the diocese would be transparent in its communications.
Since that time a Taskforce of parents and educators, assisted by sub-committees of parents, have been studying the multi-age model, visiting other schools and working to shape it to the needs of St. Joseph students.
Much of what parents learned was not new because they had been updated in weekly email newsletter and the information had been posted on the website. However, the evening did introduce final plans and additional details.
The new model will change the name of the school to St. Joseph Catholic Academy Brookfield, consistent with other school reorganizations in the diocese.
The new governance model will include a Board of Directors, a Head of School and Director of Education, Dr. Cheeseman said.
The Board of Directors is expected to be in place in January 2019. In the meantime, the Superintendent of Schools and the Most Reverend Frank J. Caggiano will be the acting Board members.
Dr. Cheeseman announced that Immaculate High School President Mary Maloney has agreed to serve as Head of School. She will also continue to lead the high school. She will be responsible for overseeing the overall mission and marketing of the school, while the Education Director will manage daily operations of the school including managing instruction, and supervising the teachers.
Current plans call for 8 full-time teachers and 9 part-time teaching aids and other employees to serve the estimated 100 students who will return in the fall.
Rather than traditional classrooms, the multi-age model calls for groupings of 4 or 5 students into larger “bands.”
Placement within classes will be determined through teacher observations, student classroom assessments, standardized tests, and student progress in content areas.
“Band sizes” will not exceed 24 students. The new grouping as determined by the leadership taskforce calls for PK (ages 3 and 4) K-2; grades 3-4; grades 5-6; grades 7-8.
Dr. Cheeseman said that while the school will introduce a new education model, it would also enhance and strengthen its Catholic identity.
“The school will also provide a rigorous academic program for religious studies and catechesis in the Catholic faith,” Dr. Cheeseman said.
“With Christ as the cornerstone, students experience an education founded on core values. In collaboration with parents and community, students become life-long learners, develop technological skills, and strive toward a life of faith,” he said.
Fr. Chip O’Neill, Pastor of St. Joseph Parish, began the evening by leading a Rosary. He said that St. Joseph Schools students regularly attend Mass and develop a strong faith that will mature with them over a lifetime.
“The school motto is, “Education in the context of faith is wisdom,” he said.
Cheeseman told parents the new model is designed to provide a personalized learning environment that encourages authentic inquiry-based critical learning and leadership skills through independent and collaborative activities.
“Teachers will combine direct instruction with facilitating whole group, small group and individual lessons,” he said.
While the new model will be supported by the latest computer and learning technology, the teacher plays a key role in guiding students.
“Technology will not lead the design of learning, but will support teachers with accelerating individual student mastery of critical content and skills. The teacher will be at the center of the classroom,” he said.
One of the benefits of the “blended learning” approach and use of technology is the ability to monitor individual student progress in all subjects
The redesigned curriculum also creates a Makerspace classroom that provides creative opportunities in art, engineering, and robotics, providing additional fee-based enrichment classes after school and accessing e-texts/ educational resources utilizing technology.
St. Joseph will continue to provide its fee-based after-care program from 3:15-6 pm. Fee schedule information will be provided at registration.
School uniforms will continue to be purchased through Land’s End. Students will be allowed to transition into the new emblem embroidered items over the next two years.
Dr. Cheeseman said that by adopting the new model, the school will benefit from a balanced budget based on an enrollment of 100 students.
“A donor commitment of $250,000 for the next two years has been offered to assist us with moving forward with supporting the needs of the new academic model and for marketing and admissions activities,” he told the parents.
The school has no assumed debt effective July 1, 2018 as the Diocese will assume this debt burden. A Five-Year Strategic Plan is in the process of being developed and will be shared with the school community in September 2018, he said.
The Taskforce set the new Tuition and Fee Schedule 2018-19 K through 8 students at $5, 895 per students with early bird registration discount available until April 1.
Re-enrollment for current families in K-8 begins March 7 with a deadline of April 1. New family registration will begin on April 1. For information: https://www.sjsbrookfield.org/ To register your child visit: https://www.sjsbrookfield.org/admissions