School Task Force
School Task Force
Why was the school task force formed?
The St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic School Evaluation Task Force was formed in late June, under the direction of Father Ed, to prayerfully evaluate the past, current and future viability of the parish school, in order to provide recommendations on how to best move forward for the benefit of our children, our parish, and our community.
As you may know, St. Thomas Aquinas has been experiencing declining school enrollment over the past several years. After failing to recognize and act on this unfortunate trend sooner, we are working diligently to fully evaluate our current situation and determine the optimal path forward for our children.
How many students attend STA School currently?
We have enrolled a total of 57 students, serving 39 parish families, for the 2018-2019 school year. In order to provide a vibrant and enriching educational experience for our students, we have identified the need for at least 50 students to be enrolled at St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic School.
What is contributing to lower student enrollment numbers at STA School?
In addition to lower levels of religious involvement – not just the Catholic faith, but all religions – families have become less likely to prefer that their children receive a parochial education. Unfortunately, these issues are not unique to the Waterford area, as this trend is noticeable across Wisconsin, the Midwest and the United States.
Furthermore, the Waterford Graded School District (WGSD) is one of the most highly regarded public school districts in the state and has received a five-star rating from the state of Wisconsin.
How much does it cost to operate the school? How are operations currently being supported?
At this time, it currently costs $985,567 to operate St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic School each year.
While the St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Faith Community Pastoral and Finance Councils have indicated their unwavering support for providing a Catholic education to our parish and school families, and the community-at-large, part of the work that the task force is participating in is to ensure that our resources are being used in the best possible way to deliver on our faith community’s mission to “form intentional disciples through educational ministries.”
What is being done to ensure the viability of the school?
In the short-term, we have enriched our student experience by implementing a new curriculum and offering engaging after school clubs and social opportunities. We have also placed an emphasis on marketing to promote our school, convey the importance of Catholic education and to increase our visibility as a participant in the Wisconsin Parental Choice Program. We are also providing additional opportunities for professional growth for our faculty.
Other opportunities that we are beginning to investigate include establishing a day care center, providing an after-school latch key program, offering unique courses of study that are not offered in the public school system (i.e. a Classical education curriculum, robotics, computer courses, encouraging homeschooled children to complete some of their coursework at STA, etc.) and much more.
Our ongoing collaboration with the Archdiocese of Milwaukee in exploring all of the possibilities means that we have their full support in our efforts to not only help our school to not only survive but thrive.
I’ve been hearing about a new STEAM program at STA. What is this?
Over the summer, we were very fortunate to hire Mrs. Gina Greil, a parishioner and parent of two students at St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic School, to serve as our middle school science teacher, K-8 STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics) coordinator and the K-8 director of curriculum. With more than 15 years of teaching experience, including leadership roles such as science department chair and STEM leader, Mrs. Greil is working with our dedicated faculty and engaging our students in hands-on activities that encourage them to think creatively to solve real-life challenges.
Integrating STEAM into our rigorous curriculum proves that we are working diligently to provide an enriching educational experience and looking forward to continuing our mission of learning, living, and sharing the love of God.
The task force has been established to close the school, right?
It’s disappointing to hear that people think that we’re automatically going to close the school. The task force is working carefully to address how we can create a sustainable and vibrant St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic School for the future and deliver on a key part of our faith community’s strategic plan as it relates to “forming intentional disciples through educational ministries.”
We cannot stress enough that we are committed to Catholic education at St. Thomas Aquinas. At this time, no decisions have been made to close the school. In fact, we are currently evaluating several exciting opportunities (day care center, after-school program, unique courses of study, encouraging homeschooled children to complete some of their coursework at STA, and more) that will allow our school to survive and thrive.
What is driving the timing of the task force to deliver their recommendations by mid-December?
In order to present viable and actionable recommendations to St. Thomas Aquinas’ Finance and Pastoral Councils in advance of the 2019-2020 school year, the task force has identified the need for at least 50 students to commit their enrollment by December 11, 2018.
We thank our current school families for their commitment to giving their children a St. Thomas Aquinas education. We invite the parish families at St. Thomas Aquinas, our sister parish of St. Clare in Wind Lake, our Faith Formation families, and all families in the Waterford area to give your children an educational experience that is dedicated to educating the whole child. Give your children the gift of a St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic School education.
Who are the members of the task force? Why were they selected?
The task force includes a variety of members from the St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Faith Community (Pastor, Trustee, Finance Council, School Administration, School Family, Faith Formation, etc.) with diverse backgrounds, including organizational and business management.
In addition, the Associate Superintendent from the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, Bruce Varick, is working as a liaison to connect the task force with schools in the Archdiocese that have overcome challenges, ensure everyone has appropriate input, and begin to facilitate any shifts in curriculum that may result from the task force’s research and recommendations.
Is there anything I can do to help guide the efforts of the task force?
Yes! The task force is busy conducting research and evaluating many opportunities to ensure that St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic School remains a vibrant educational environment that serves the needs of our children. Moving forward, we’re going to rely on parish member families, school families, faculty and staff, School Committee, School Endowment Fund members to help determine which opportunities will be best suited for St. Thomas Aquinas and begin to implement them within our community.
Stay tuned for announcements indicating where the task force needs assistance. We invite you to give of your time and talents to sustain St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic School. We also ask for your prayers and support as we work diligently to deliver on our goal in moving forward in the best interest of our children.
Who should I talk to if I have questions, concerns or ideas regarding the task force and the future of the school?
How will you keep us updated regarding the status of the task force recommendations and the future of the school?
We will keep you informed on the status of the task force through letters, announcements, newsletters, other communications and more meetings and input sessions, as needed.