A Message from Fr. Woolley
Fr. Woolley's 1st Trimester Progress Report
December 17, 2019
Dear Father John V. Doyle Parent,
The Peace of Christ be with you. As we recently ended this school year’s First Trimester, I thought I’d give you a progress report on Father John V. Doyle School, as I did this time last year. So, first, a parable!
The Parable: As most of you know, we installed an irrigation well and sprinkler system for the front of the school this past August. Ss. John and Paul parishioner Gary Bourque, owner of RI Artesian Well, generously donated the well and installed it free of charge, while the sprinklers were installed with funds raised from last year’s First Annual Alumni Appeal. FJVD Parent Jayson Jencks volunteered the time and materials to aerate, fertilize and over seed the lawns, and SSJP Parish Secretary Pam O’Neil volunteered her time and talent to plant flowers and shrubs in the four beds near the entrance. Lastly, the Class of 2019 donated a beautiful 10 foot long granite bench, which our snow removers, Ray Plante and Sons, volunteered to install for us on the side of the gym near the front entrance.
As the school year began, the front of the school was starting to look better than it ever had: the flowers around the entrance and the Blessed Mother statue continually bloomed into late November, due to the daily watering, and within a few weeks of seeding, little sprouts of green grass began to appear all over the place. But while the smaller lawns in front of the gym and middle school side of the building turned lush and green, the larger lawn to the left of the building near the flagpole, Christmas Tree and cemetery, while it’s looking a lot better, is still a work in progress; however, we’re now very hopeful it’s well on its way to looking great.
The above “Parable of the Lawn” is a perfect analogy of the present state of Father John V. Doyle School! Thanks to the hard work and dedication of our school administration, teachers, faculty, and staff, as well as thanks to the generosity and support of so many dedicated parents, alumni, parishioners, local businesses, and other benefactors, our school has made very substantial and visible improvement and growth in so many areas. Over the past year, we’ve brought back the in-school music program for Grades pre-K—8 (which may be the reason why our after-school music program has quadrupled in the number of students participating this year!), and doubled gym time for our elementary school students. And just as there’s more grass and flowers outside the school, there’s now more children inside the school as well — for the first time in ten years, we have an increase in enrollment from last year. Over the past ten previous years, enrollment decreased an average of 10% each year; this past year, enrollment increased by 4% — a 14% improvement over the ten year average. And happily, much of the growth is in the lower grades: we tripled the Kindergarten enrollment from last year’s numbers, and this year, the first grade class is double in size from what it was as a Kindergarten class (at the same time however, we continue to value our smaller class sizes; currently maintaining an average student/teacher ratio of 14 to 1!). We also made and continue to make many improvements in the classrooms, school building, and grounds: we renovated the grammar school bathrooms, did repainting in the hallways, purchased more new computers (due to our very successful 2018 school auction, which made four times the profit from the previous year), added a camera system to the gym to record sports games, purchased first aid kits for all the classrooms, musical instruments for our in-school music program, and a freezer for the cafeteria — all of which were donated by generous parents, alumni, businesses, or other benefactors In addition, every lightbulb inside and outside of the school was changed last spring, as part of a RISE energy savings program the parish took advantage of, which is saving the school thousands per year on our electrical bill, while at the same time brightening up the gymnasium, classrooms and hallways.
The RISE energy savings is just one of many ways the school has also grown financially healthier. Last year, our school fundraisers generated over $40,000 more income than the previous year; and we also greatly lowered operational expenses at the school, in large part through changes made in maintenance, service and utilities contracts. All of this has enabled us to lower the parish subsidy to the school by $121,064 from the last fiscal year.
A few weeks ago, we began our second annual alumni appeal, and donations are starting to come in; one parent of an alumni in particular, who wishes to remain anonymous, has given a very generous donation to the appeal, and has asked that each teacher in the school receive $500 from his donation, to be used for classroom supplies or other educational needs.
The school is also going to benefit in several ways from the Grateful for God’s Providence Campaign, a Diocesan-wide campaign being conducted in every parish over a two year period, which hopes to raise fifty million dollars for various endowments, parish projects, and Cathedral renovations. One year and nine months into the campaign, it has raised to date $48 million in gifts and pledges, and it looks very promising that the Diocese will go over the goal. 5 million out of the 50 million will be going into the Anchor of Hope Endowment Fund, a restricted fund that provides tuition assistance to all the Catholic Schools of the Diocese, which means that we should be able to give out more tuition aid from this fund to eligible families in the years to come.
This past September, our parish began to participate in this Campaign; the goal we received from the Diocese was one of the largest parish goals in all the Diocese. I’m very happy to state that as of this Sunday, we are now over our goal, with over $1,019,500 in gifts and pledges from Ss. John and Paul Parishioners! The parish gets to keep 40% of every dollar we raise up to goal, and 60% of every dollar raised above the goal, to be used for ten designated parish projects approved by the Diocese. I mention all of this, because four of these Campaign projects directly help the school: we will be replacing the school roofs, installing a surveillance system around the outside of the school to increase security, blacktopping and repainting the lines in the school (and Church) parking lot, and re-landscaping the parking lot islands near the school (and Church), to increase curb appeal.
In addition to all of the above “growth,” we’ve also been busy, you could say, “over seeding” by getting our school better known in the broader community. With the help especially of PTO members Jennifer Marra and Kathy Boiardi, we’ve updated our school brochure and distributed it to our Parish’s CCD parents, created surveys to get feedback from FJVD as well as public school parents, sent out postcards to parents of middle school and kindergarten children in the Coventry/EWG area, created Open House lawn signs, and ran ads in print and social media, as well as on 92 PRO-FM, Lite Rock 105, and other radio stations. We even now have a large sign up at the Fish Hill Soccer Field. Throughout Kent County and beyond, people are beginning to “Discover the Doyle Difference”! We are also reaching out to local businesses and corporations for sponsorships, applying for national grants, and recently joined the Central Rhode Island Chamber of Commerce. We are also beginning to reach out to our over 1100 alumni in other ways besides the annual appeal. Like it is when you over seed a lawn, some of the seeds we’ve spread didn’t germinate, while others are starting to sprout up nicely. For example, our Fall Open House was a great success, with a number of families already registered for next year. Furthermore, our social & fundraising events such as this year’s Car Show and Walk a Thon, continue to grow.
We’ve also been doing a lot of “fertilizing” at the school lately – that is to say, making educational enhancements which will help our students grow academically. Our principal, Kevin Peloquin, has been hard at work since he arrived this past July, working with the teachers individually, in the classroom, and as a group, to assist them in their professional development and their use of STAR data analysis. This year, through the aid of Title funding, our school has partnered with the Highlander Institute, a Providence-based educational consulting group used by many Catholic schools in our Diocese, for the purpose of enhancing personalized learning experiences at the school. Not only is Highlander working with the administration and faculty, but a Personalized Learning Design Team has also been formed, consisting of teachers and parents with a range of educational backgrounds, to seek their input as well.
In addition, Kevin has been working with teachers on improving the English language arts curriculum, reviewing standards and expectations, and working to improve continuity between grade levels. Lastly, we have been working on more effective parent/school communication: just a few weeks ago, our on-line grading portal went live, which enables middle school parents to view their child's grades for all assignment types (homework, quizzes, tests, etc.) every other week.
One can spend a lot of time, effort and expense on seeding, watering and fertilizing, but if the weeds aren't dealt with, they risk overrunning and even destroying the lawn. In a similar way, one can have a state of the art learning facility, a great curriculum, and offer the best in personalized learning, but if the school doesn't offer a safe, respectful, nurturing environment, this will greatly affect the students ability to learn; furthermore, if the moral and spiritual dimension of a child's education is neglected, the child may grow in knowledge, but not in the wisdom to use that knowledge for the betterment of society and the building up of the kingdom of God. At Father John V. Doyle School, both a “caring, safe and nurturing environment” and instructing our students to “live the Word of God” from the standpoint of the Roman Catholic Tradition are given the highest priorities. In regards to the former, we continue to work to keep disciplinary issues to a minimum in both the middle school and elementary school. The courtesy and respectfulness of our students is shown in so many little ways, whether it's the way they make eye contact and say hello when they see me in the hallways, to their opening the door for me when I'm coming in to school in the morning, to the student ambassadors who escort potential new families at our open houses.
In addition, in an effort to assist with the formation of our middle school students, last month, we began a Middle School Advisory Program, which is an interactive, student-centered program that enhances social-emotional skills, helps explain behavioral tendencies, and provides a road-map for conflict resolution, all through a uniquely Catholic lens. All middle school students attend the Advisory Program for one period each week. There is minimal impact on instructional time, as all classes are simply shortened by five minutes each Friday. Research has shown that systematic advisory programs such as this lead to lasting academic improvement, and higher quality relationships among students.
In regards to our Catholic identity, in addition to daily religion classes with their teachers, I am continuing to be present at every morning prayer service (except Fridays, my day off – I work weekends as you know!), starting the student’s school day by giving them a brief homily on the scriptures or saint of the day (parents and grandparents, by the way, are invited to this daily 8am prayer service). I also, like last year, am teaching period-long classes once a week to every grade, from Kindergarten to 8. I try to hit every class once before Christmas and once after Christmas. I also pop into the pre-K at least once a week, to visit the kids and to “ring the bell.” In addition, throughout the year, I celebrate Holy Day and other Masses, and special liturgies like the Living Rosary in October, the Eucharistic Procession and Benediction in November, the Thanksgiving and Christmas para-liturgies, St. Blaise Blessing of the Throats, Ash Wednesday Service, Stations of the Cross, and the May Crowning. All students in Grades 3—8 get an opportunity to go to confession during Lent and Advent as well. Finally, on most days of the week I am present at dismissal, and I try to attend as many extracurricular school events and sports games as my schedule permits.
And I'm not the only clergy presence at the school – Fr. Lee and Fr. Rowley are also frequently present at the morning prayer service and at dismissal, Fr. Rowley is preparing the second graders for First Penance and First Holy Communion, celebrating some of the monthly First Friday Masses, and also using his talents as a former Catholic School Math Teacher to give Math resource aid to some of our students. Fr. Lee can be frequently seen visiting the Pre-K and playing soccer with the students at recess and after school.
As I mentioned when I first came to Ss. John and Paul a year and a half ago, as Pastor of the parish, I'm giving the school my highest priority, as I believe schools like Father John V. Doyle are vital to the well being of a parish, and that giving children a Catholic School education is vital for the future well being of the Catholic Church as a whole. As I have mentioned in the past, a recent Georgetown University study revealed that Millennial Catholics aged 18-35 who went to a Catholic primary school growing up, now attend Sunday Mass each week as adults at a rate seven times higher than Catholic Millennials who didn't attend a Catholic primary school (35% Catholic Schooled versus 5% Non-Catholic Schooled). As we are called to love and serve God with all our mind, body, heart and soul, a Catholic education like the one we strive to give at Father John V. School aims at not just forming and educating the mind and body, but the heart and soul as well!
So, that's the state of Father John V. Doyle School at present – all around, the school is looking better than ever, and continues to move in a very good direction. That said, just like its front lawn, the school is still a work in progress. But, I assure you, we're working on it! Kevin and I have a lot of ideas and projects in the pipeline that are starting to germinate under the surface, many of which I'm sure you will see “sprout up” come spring time, or sooner!
I want to thank you for taking the time to read this, and for choosing to send your child to Father John V. Doyle School. If you ever wish to speak with me personally for any reason whatsoever, please know that I'd be happy to meet with you. And please, keep spreading the word about our school to everyone you meet, especially parents with school aged children!
I wish you and your family a Merry and Blessed Christmas, and a safe and enjoyable school vacation next week! Know that you will be in my prayers as I celebrate my Christmas Masses.
The Mission of Father John V. Doyle School is to provide students with a solid, well-rounded education based on Roman Catholic Tradition.
We live the Word of God in a caring, safe, and nurturing environment.