Earlier this month, we held an exciting Strategic Planning Convocation on campus. More than 160 people attended to share their thoughts and dreams about the future of our school. The event was a great testimony to the loyalty of many alumni and friends, and to the importance of SMHS as an Eastside anchor. My remarks follow.
“Uniting People. Faith. Vision” Convocation
March 11, 2013
Transcript of President’s Remarks
I want to begin by thanking Jim Maslar and our prayer team, Jerry Jones, John Hegarty, and Kayla Wagoner for opening our gathering and for the excellent work they do for our school. In addition, a very special thanks to all of our staff members and students who helped prepare for today—from set-up to 25 of our students who made rsvp phone calls to many of you. Our students and staff are some of the most remarkable people you could ever meet. Their enthusiasm and personal strengths are phenomenal!
I’d like to welcome you all and thank you for caring about our students. We have invited you to help us realize the theme of this initiative: “Uniting People. Faith. Vision.” Your time and talent are great gifts to help us Unite the People of our community, based on the Faith of our church, to build a shared Vision for the future.
I would like to build a context for our discussions tonight by speaking on five topics: Mission, Governance, Catholic Culture, Successes, and Strategic Growth Planning.
1. Service: A Catholic school is called to live the Gospel message of loving God and neighbor through service to the world, especially to the poor and marginalized.
Starting with mission, let us ask ourselves: “What are the defining characteristics of a Catholic school?” Our Church has a clear response to this question, and it says that a Catholic school exemplifies at least six attributes:
2. Wholeness: We are called to educate the whole child in all his or her dimensions.
3. Community: We are to be a community in which relationships among all members are channels of peace, justice, reconciliation, and faith.
4. Accessibility: Catholic schools are to be accessible to all families who desire a Catholic school education. In this day of limited resources and diverse student needs, especially in our setting, answering this call is not easy, yet we can embrace it knowing that God looks with favor on our response.
5. Excellence: Catholic schools are called to seek and deliver excellence in all that we do.
6. Faith: Finally, at the core, a Catholic school is intended to foster among its members knowledge of AND a personal relationship with God and Jesus Christ.
Our namesake—Father Thomas Scecina—is a person who knowingly and willingly laid down his life for his fellow human beings, Church, and country. While Father Scecina did not rise to the highest level of the hierarchy, his life was saintly. His inspiration was and is his commitment to service, the whole person, community, accessibility, excellence, and faith—the defining characteristics of a Catholic school.
In the Governance arena, we are a ministry of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis. Accordingly, we are here to help fulfill the priorities of the Archbishop of Indianapolis, Archbishop Joseph Tobin. The archbishop delegates governance and oversight of our work to the archdiocesan administration, primarily the Office of Catholic Education, and to a local Board of Directors.
The archdiocese is structured for Scecina Memorial High School to be an extension of the Catholic parishes and 6 Catholic elementary schools in the East Deanery of Indianapolis. While these parishes and schools are not a part of our institutional governance structure, developing and sustaining rich and mutual relationships with them is an important part of our identity and of serving our students well.
The Archbishop of Indianapolis and archdiocesan administration, the Scecina Board of Directors, the East Deanery parishes and schools, and the Scecina staff form a four-way partnership to design and deliver Catholic school education—in concert with parents as students’ first educators—in our unique setting.
Having a Catholic Culture that is integrated throughout our operation is vital. It would be easy to think that this duty falls only to the departments that we call Catholic Theology and Campus Ministry, which are extremely important departments. Having a Catholic Culture, though, means that Catholic principles guide everything from daily prayer to weekly worship to individual and group service projects to Christian Awakening Retreats to classroom and co-curricular instruction and role modeling to how we seek volunteer and financial support to recruiting, admitting, and retaining students to managing resources to the care of our buildings and grounds to our relationships with one another.
Academically, 50 percent of the Class of 2013 has already earned college credit while in high school as a result of multiple Advanced Placement and Dual Credit opportunities that our faculty and administration deliver very effectively. 45 percent of our Class of 2013 are on track to graduate with the prestigious Indiana Academic Honors Diploma, and our recent graduates are now attending more than 30 different colleges or universities throughout the country.
Within the context of a Catholic Culture, our programs and resources have experienced many successes and much growth through the support of many generous people. After a period of operating challenges, we have experienced enrollment growth and break-even or surplus budgets through generous support, wise oversight, and strong day-to-day implementation across the board.
During the last two years, we have more than doubled our Guidance Counseling staff and services, increased staff expertise and support for students who have Special Learning Needs, and expanded our Campus Ministry department.
These accomplishments, and others like them, have resulted in Scecina Memorial High School earning and maintaining the State of Indiana’s highest performance levels for academic performance and progress since 2008.
Looking ahead, by the end of this school year, our goal is for the entire school building to provide wireless access for students, teachers, and visitors. We have also begun working to try to earn the resources to bring about new academic classes and opportunities as soon as possible in science, mathematics, performing arts, and college and career readiness.
In co-curriculars, our football team has played in the IHSAA State Championship Game at Lucas Oil Stadium each of the last 2 years; our Softball team has won the City and IHSAA Sectional Championships nearly every year in the last decade, including a State Championship; our Boys Basketball Team earned an IHSAA Sectional Championship a week ago; and our Indiana Crossroads Conference Academic Superbowl Team won the conference championship last year over some very well-known schools. 95 percent of our students are engaged in 1 or more co-curricular programs, so when they look tired, you know why!
And, recognizing that growing up today can be just plain complicated, we recently began a suicide awareness and prevention program to train staff and parents in how to provide appropriate help if a student reaches out for assistance.
To improve our facility continually, in concert with the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, we have made numerous capital improvements in recent years. These enhancements include a beautiful science lab renovation, several classroom renovations, hallway and music room upgrades, aesthetic improvements here in the gymnasium and on the stage, locker room renovations, and improvements to the infrastructure inside and outside the school building.
By the summer, we hope to complete a project we are calling the Scecina Story, which will provide illustrations and captions throughout our hallways of our mission and values, our history, and our accomplishments.
I would now like to connect these results to the world of Advancement. A common understanding of Advancement is that it is an integrated and coordinated effort to articulate and attain a vision by strengthening a school’s image, enrollment, leadership, and funds for student opportunities. Just as everyone is on the Catholic Culture team, everyone is on the Advancement team!
The funds that alumi and friends have generously given Scecina Memorial High School during the last 5 years have doubled. This growth has funded needed programs and capital improvements. Your support also allows us to be accessible to the students of our community, which again is one of the defining hallmarks of a Catholic school. For example, 5 years ago, 40 percent of our students qualified for need-based financial assistance in order to attend Scecina. Today, more than 60 percent of our students qualify, and we try to meet the need of every student and family who wants to be part of our community. We offer nearly $800,000 annually in financial assistance through our Godparent Program and other avenues, which is a very high rate per student, yet it also reflects our mission of educating a diverse student body in this particular location.
Enrollment has grown more than 10 percent since 2009, and our student body hails from more than 30 different schools in the metropolitan area. Prior to attending Scecina, the majority of our students attended the East Deanery and Eastside Catholic School Partnership schools of Holy Spirit, Our Lady of Lourdes, and Little Flower.
In terms of community involvement, more than 300 people have volunteered their time and talent for our students this year alone to signify their engagement in our mission.
Strategic Growth Planning
Today, we ask you to be engaged in looking forward. Since November of 2012, members of 7 Planning Area Teams have participated in 4 Workshops to review and discuss our mission statement, core values, and vision statement; perform an analysis of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats; and suggest important Challenges for our Strategic Growth Plan to address in the context of our mission and realities. Your booklet summarizes this work for your particular Planning Area.
You will notice that the Challenges are worded in question form. We see the Challenges not as negatives, but as opportunities. In the breakouts, our facilitators will ask you to share your ideas for innovative Solutions to address the Challenges.
In mid-April, our Board of Directors and the Steering Committee for the planning process will meet to discuss the data and ideas from this evening. Then, during the several weeks that follow, we will draft and edit a plan for our Board of Directors to vote on in the summer. And then we will request an audience with the archdiocesan administration leading up to final approval.
I again want to thank you for being here today. Please share your insights, easy or not-so-easy questions, and dreams so that we can be true to the mission-critical needs of today and tomorrow. With your presence and support, I know we can do it, and I thank you again.
Mr. Frank Donaldson
It is now my pleasure to introduce our facilitator for the evening, Mr. Frank Donaldson, the President of the Institute of School and Parish Development in Slidell, Louisiana. Frank has significant experience teaching and volunteering in Catholic schools and in facilitating efforts such as ours. His corporate motto is to “Bring People, Process, and Ministry Together to Build the Kingdom of God.” Frank has been a partner on this journey since May of last year. Working with Frank has been a wonderful experience, and I know he will keep us on track tonight. Please welcome Frank Donaldson.