As Sacred Heart School began a new school year Wednesday, the administration, staff and students feel there is much to be grateful for.
“It’s nice to be back to see and hear all of the students and how they have changed and grown over the summer,” Assistant Principal Holly Wilson said. “It’s always fun to be a part of that process.”
Principal Dr. Gary Manning agreed with Wilson, adding the school is excited about many of their goals for the upcoming year and the diocese, parents, teachers and students are looking forward to working together as a team to build upon the success of the school.
“I always look forward to the start of a new year and the changes and challenges that it brings with it,” Manning said. “There are always things to work on and keep improving and through our input with our self-study and the church and diocese we are anxious to get started.
“Our main focus is for our students to be successful and that happens in many ways,” Manning added.
One focus for the parents, students and staff is a new program, “Play It Like a Champion Today.” The program is being implemented in the entire Jefferson City Diocese and focuses on sportsmanship and respect, and is run by the University of Notre Dame.
“The way we play the game reflects on all of us,” Manning said. “We realize that athletic contests are competitions but they need to be done in the right way, and that’s not just for our student athletes but it focuses on our coaches, teachers, the student body and our parents.
“The way we play the game and the way all participants act and interact is a reflection on us,” he added. “We want to be the positive role models for others.”
Father Tolton in Columbia and Helias in Jefferson City are also participating in the program, which requires training and educational programs for both the coaches and the parents of the student athletes to take part.
Manning said the program’s focus for this year is students in grades six through 12 and next year the program would be expanded district-wide.
One visible change at the school used to build upon the team concept is the addition of school uniforms throughout the school.
“One of the things we learned as a result of our self-study and from talking to others in prior years is that we wanted to try uniforms for all our students,” Manning said. “They seem to have gone over well and they look good, I think it brings us together as a school.”
A district-wide program that has already seen proven results is the school’s curriculum. Sacred Heart was notified it once again received pre-kindergarten through 12th grade accreditation recognition.
Wilson and Manning both said this was not an overnight process and is something the school has been spending months working on in the self-study required by the Diocese.
The school also received the results of its ACRE (Assessment of Catechesis Religious Education) testing. The test, which is given nationally and in the Diocese to all fifth, eighth and juniors/seniors, measures affective and content knowledge.
In information provided in a press release, Sacred Heart juniors placed first out of the three high schools in the Jefferson City Diocese (Fr. Tolton and Helias). Their score of 86.7 percent topped the national average of 81.6 percent.
Eighth grade students placed first out of 36 schools in the Diocese, scoring 89 percent compared to the the national average of 76.6 percent, while the fifth graders placed 13th out of 36 schools in the JC Diocese. Their score of 73.6 percent was again above the national average of 72 percent.
“These scores just validate what we are doing as a school,” Manning said. “We have a wonderful staff who works with the religious aspect of our curriculum.
“Just because they are the only grades tested doesn’t mean they are the only grades who are teaching the content,” he added. “This takes a team effort of all of our staff working together but also our parents and students.”
Wilson explained this year’s theme for Sacred Heart, “Our Year of Grace,” calling it a unified home and school project.
“Each year we choose a different aspect that we as a diocese, church and school focus on together,” Wilson said. “This year we are sharing ways in which we spread grace together as a family.”
School enrollment remains steady and the preschool and some elementary classes are full with waiting lists.
“There are always things we can work on to keep improving,” Manning said. “It’s a new year with changes and challenges but we are looking forward to working together for the benefit of our students.”
Hope Lecchi can be reached at 660-826-1000 ext.1484.