Notes from the Principal's Desk: February 6, 2018

As we come away from an eventful Catholic Schools Week, I reflect on the wonderful community we are blessed to be a part of here at Cathedral. Together, as a community of faith, we support the student's academic and spiritual well-being by focusing on the education of the whole child, so we can prepare young minds to meet the leadership needs of a rapidly-changing world. Thank you to all of the parents, students, faculty, and staff who made Catholic Schools Week such a wonderful success.

As you may remember from one of my previous presentations or newsletters, I have three core values through which I view education. My first core value is that every student can learn. Secondly, teachers are the most important and vital component to ensure that students meet with success, more so than any textbook, set of standards or curriculum. Finally, teacher professional development is vital to ensure our faculty understands and uses the most effective instructional methods and practices when in the classroom.

I revisit these three concepts as a way of updating the community on two initiatives happening this year. To begin with, I am happy to announce that the School Board has reaffirmed its commitment to the Teacher Excellence Fund by directing a small portion of our tuition revenue to endow this professional development fund. In case you may have forgotten, the Teacher Excellence Fund provides financial assistance to teachers to take classes, attend conferences, and join professional organizations with no out-of-pocket cost, after which faculty reimburse the fund through the receipt of Title IIA funds. We are grateful of the Board's commitment to teacher excellence.

Second, after evaluating our current math series, Envision, we embark on a math pilot this trimester to find a resource that better fits the needs of our community of learners. While I do still believe that teachers are more important than any textbook series, the proper math series serves as a valuable tool for instructors in the classroom. Effective textbooks address a variety of needs and provide for flexibility within the learning environment. This math pilot will be sure to follow the current scope and sequence of the curriculum to ensure that students do not miss any instructional content. Below you will find some of the highlights of the pilot program.

  • Grades K-5 will pilot the Bridges in Math textbook series

    • We choose Bridges do its emphasis on Focus & Coherence, Rigor, Math Practices, and Usability
  • Grade 6 will pilot the Glencoe Math series
  • Grade 7 and 8 will continue to use the current Glencoe series

    • As one of the three schools with the highest math scores in the Archdiocese (even performing better than independent schools on the HSPT), we believe it is important to remain with the current series in 7th and 8th grade.
  • Each math teacher will teach 1 Unit (4 modules or about 20 lessons) from Bridges in Math that aligns with the scope and sequence. The start date for the launch will be February 20 and be completed by March 28.
  • Weekly feedback will be provided by the teachers to the department heads and administration
  • Weekly co-planning meetings will take place with the math teachers, administration and department heads.
  • On April 9, we will send a Math Survey soliciting feedback from parents
  • On April 11, we will host two Math Pilot feedback sessions. One will be from 8am to 9am, and the second will be from 1:30pm to 2:30pm.
  • Should we decide to move forward with the new math series, we will communicate this fact to the community. We will intend to have a Math Information Night on May 2 from 6pm to 7pm. This session will provide us an opportunity to share with the community the many resources, philosophy and scope of the math program and the new series being used.

We are looking forward to piloting the Bridges in Math series in Kindergarten through 5th grade and the Glencoe 6th Grade Math series. By reflecting on our practices and resources, we endeavor to provide our students with the most effective tools and strategies within the classroom.

I would like to give an update to our community regarding School Closings and Delays. As you are aware, there are many times when a particular school system such as Baltimore City or Baltimore County may close school, delay opening school or close school early. In the past we have followed these school systems, most recently Baltimore City, to aid in the ease of communication to our community. However, it has become apparent that these school systems face needs and have requirements that do not align with the school community's needs. This results in Cathedral closing school or delaying opening school when in fact we could have remained open or opened on time.

For this reason, and in consultation with the faculty and staff, CASPA, the School Board, and the Rector, we will be moving to communicating independently when school will open late or close. This change is effective today, Tuesday, February 6. Closings and delays will be made in consultation with the facilities team, the Rector, and, when possible, other local independent schools.

Our primary method to communicate closings and delays will be on the television. In fact, you may have already seen the notices some mornings on WBAL or ABC2 when we have had inclement weather. We have also put measures in place to assure a timely communication of closings and delays via the school website, this email list, and social media. Furthermore, we are currently in process to determine how we can best manage a Text Alert System to communicate with parents as well. As for traditional forms of media, we currently communicate through WBAL and ABC2. We are waiting for protocols from FOX45 and WJZ, so we can communicate through those stations as well.

We believe this transition will best serve our community by letting families know as soon as possible when there is a change to the normal school day schedule so arrangements may be made for drop off, pick up or child care.

Thank you and God Bless.

Michael Wright