Dear SJA Family,
In just a blink of an eye, one year has passed. Last February, I wrote this letter after only having been at St. Joan Antida for one week. I was just finding my way and asking questions in order to learn about the vision and mission of this great school. Today, I write to you with great joy and enthusiasm over the accomplishments of this past semester and academic year.
First, I am so proud of our families and young women for taking the responsibility of getting to school every day and on time. We have maintained an average daily attendance rate of 91% this school year and we are working with families over transportation issues to reach our goal of 95% attendance. This is up over 14% from this time last year. The transportation funds from a generous donor have been exhausted, but we are committed to continuing this great program to offer assistance for our girls. With God’s help, and some help from our friends, we have faith that we will be able to continue this assistance for families.
The SJA Scholars Program is in high gear. This extended day program is offering our 9th and 10th grade students enrichment programming in math and reading. Already we have seen an 81% gain in mathematical concepts and 12 young women have already reached grade level programming by completing pre-Algebra and entering Algebra 1. Next year, these young women will be with their grade level peers in their math program. Students are also making gains in reading fluency and comprehension. This is much harder to quantify, but through teaching reading in all content areas, teachers are seeing progress in content area comprehension. We are hoping that we will be able to expand this program next year to include all students and offer more club activities in conjunction with academic enrichment. We would like to see St. Joan’s become a true Community Learning Center!
After a year of investigation and planning, I am pleased to announce that on February 9th the SJA Board of Directors voted unanimously to endorse implementation of an International Baccalaureate (IB) program at SJA. This rigorous college bound program holds the key for many of our girls to break through their current socio-economic barriers and will set them boldly on their way into a post-secondary institution with the skills necessary for success. They will learn the skills of critical thinking and problem solving while exploring their interconnectedness to our world through creativity, action, and service. This is truly an exciting move for SJA!
In addition to pursuing IB accreditation, SJA will also seek an International Baccalaureate Career Certificate Program (IBCC) in Engineering to enhance the relationship already developed with Milwaukee School of Engineering (MSOE) and Project Lead the Way (PLTW). There was already an amazing PLTW Engineering program in place at SJA when I got to SJA. This certificate will increase the rigor of this program and further the preparedness of our girls to excel in the pursuit of an engineering degree in college. As our main post-secondary partner in engineering education, MSOE has been instrumental in providing tutors for our girls, college level classes for our students at SJA, summer camps in engineering and nursing, and now is expanding their program to include a MSOE Bound program for SJA students. With all of this support, nothing will stop our girls from achieving their dreams of a Science, Technology, Engineering, or Math (STEM) related career.
I strongly encourage you to stop by and check out the great things happening at SJA. The opportunities here are truly transforming lives! You are an important friend and I would love to show you how the SJAHS vision of “embracing young women and empowering them to discover their God-given potential, give voice to their passions, and change the world” is lived everyday. We are merely stewards of God’s work. St. Paul, in his second letter to the Corinthians (2 Corinthians 4:7) reminds us that we are but earthen vessels like clay jars which are fragile and temporary. It is only through God that the work can be fulfilled because the work is of God. Being reminded that God is always with us, and that the work is of Him, is comforting for me as we go through our daily work. We honor God through our stewardship of His mission at SJA.
Thank you for your generous support of SJA and blessings to you this Spring. I hope you will join us to further God’s work though the mission at SJAHS.
Peace and Blessings,
Paul T. Gessner
Head of School