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August 20, 2018

Monday, August 20, 2018

Dear Parents and Guardians,

Welcome back for the 2018-2019 school year!  

Once again, we have had a busy summer in preparation for the upcoming school year, and it is my pleasure to share the good news about all that has taken place.

Thanks to Pre-K parent, Mrs. Dipti Reddy, and her friends from Goldman Sachs, the second floor hallway, nurse’s office and two classrooms received a fresh coat of paint just after school ended in June.   Not only did the dozen Goldman volunteers do a great job in sprucing up our school, but the company also paid for the paint and paint supplies!  Thanks again to Mrs. Reddy for making this relationship a reality.  We look forward more great projects in the future.

Mr. Francisco has done a great job this summer getting our school ready for the start of school.  All of the classroom and hallway floors are gleaming.  Supplies and books are in place.  The gym and entry doors installed last spring have been primed and painted and Mr. Francisco painted the main office as well as the entrance aprons on 7thStreet.  He touched up the foundation and gym walls and scrubbed the place clean.  The kitchen was thoroughly cleaned with all vents, grease traps and appliances scrubbed by the kitchen cleaning service we employ.  The gym floor was screened and a fresh coat of polyurethane was laid down.  With the new lighting in the gym, we may need to issue sunglasses!  

We have installed a new double entry system in our main entrance foyer as part of our enhanced building security plan and will have 3M shatterproof film installed on all of our classroom door windows.  As you will recall, we were tasked with hiring security guards to man the entrance from 8:00 to 6:00PM each day students are present.  I am pleased to tell you that we have hired two retired police officers for the positions.  Mr. Tony Bartley served for twenty-seven years on the Hoboken Police Department and retired as a lieutenant.  Mr. Bartley headed the department’s tactical response team and trained other officers in active shooter situations.  He is an expert in martial arts and comes to us highly recommended by HPD Chief and HCA alumni parent, Ken Ferrante.  Mr. Robert Kristen retired as a lieutenant with the Rutherford Police Department after thirty years of service.  Mr. Kristen developed all of security plans for the Rutherford schools and conducted all of their school security training.  He too comes to us highly recommended.  Please join me in welcoming our new security guards to our HCA family. Thank you to the members of the Security ad Hoc Committee and to all of you for funding the security guard positions. As was indicated last spring, each family will be assessed $250, which will be paid through Smart Tuition beginning in September.

Because of the requirement that all visitors to the school must enter through the main entrance, even at dismissal, we will adjust our dismissal procedures.  Grade two will dismiss through the gym doors and grade four will dismiss through the courtyard exit.  Grades five through eight will dismiss through the gym fire exit doors under the backboard on 7thStreet.  At the end of the day, all Pre-K students will dismiss through the gym doors. However, students who are picked up at 11:30 will continue to be dismissed at the main entrance.

Miss Aggie served as our hall monitor last year, directing visitors to the office and assisting our Pre-K and Kindergarten teachers.  She will continue to work with primary teachers, helping them with preparing materials, cutting, labeling and organizing materials as she did this past school year.  However, in addition, she will monitor students going to and from the first floor lavatories and water fountain throughout the day as well as the lunch lines during the three lunch periods. 

Mr. Ippolito will now serve as a school/recess aide.  His primary responsibility will be to supervise students traveling to and from the new park and while they are at play once the park becomes available to us. The park will most likely not be completed until some time in November.  This new position will be in addition to the teachers and aides assigned to recess duty.  When not covering classes, during the non-lunch periods, Mr. Ippolito will be assigned to assist teachers in support of reading and math instruction.

As you will recall, we have said good-bye to four teachers who left us in June.  Mike Tallarida resigned to take a position outside of education, Ashley Lore decided to stay home with her new baby, Caitlin Timmerman took a position in a public school, and Frank Petagno retired.   In addition, Ashley Colona resigned early in the summer to take a position in another Catholic school.

As you can imagine it has been a busy summer and I have met with a number of teacher and security guard candidates.  In addition, I have worked on restructuring some of the positions to maximize teacher strengths.  

I am pleased to tell you that Spanish teacher, Daniella Ortega’s role has been expanded to also include computer instruction and reading and math support.   Ms. Ortega will take over the role of Tech Integrator and will be assisted by our IT support person, Stephen Kriso, in that capacity. Ms. Ortega has proven herself to be an outstanding teacher and I am thrilled that she will be with us full time.

Ms. Wilms will continue as our STEM Activities Teacher and will coordinate projects with classroom teachers in grades one to five.  I addition, Ms. Wilms will continue to provide reading and math support to our younger grade classes, and as she has done previously, will teach reading to our seventh graders.

Mr. Don Montefusco will be our new physical education teacher/athletic director.  Mr. Montefusco is a graduate of Kean University and is NJ State certified in health and physical education.  He has extensive experience working with children and has had several long-term leave replacement PE assignments at the high school, middle and primary school levels.  His current and previous supervisors provided glowing recommendations and I am thrilled to welcome Mr. Montefusco to the HCA family. 

Ms. Erin Yorke will join Ms. Gravina as our other Kindergarten teacher.  You will recall that Ms. Yorke did an excellent job as Mrs. Lore’s replacement when she left to have her baby last year.   We are thrilled to welcome Ms. Yorke back in her new role and thrilled as well that Ms. Gerard will return as the aide in that class.

We are pleased to announce that Mrs. Lorraine Seredvick will join our teaching staff as math and reading support teacher.  Mrs. Seredvick will co-teach with teachers in grades 1-5 during math and reading classes. She will join Ms. Wilms and Ms. Ortega who will spend several periods per day doing the same.  Mrs. Seredvick has taught in Catholic and public schools in and most recently served as a long-term substitute teacher in Fairfield and Parsippany. Mrs. Seredvick teaches CCD in her parish and will assist in the coordination of our daily readings, monthly masses and prayer and penance services.

Our new fourth grade homeroom teacher will be Mrs. Donna Ryan.   Mrs. Ryan brings a unique skill set to a new position here at HCA.  She has an extensive background in multiple subjects and grade levels in Catholic schools.  She is a trained catechist instructor and is currently an online adjunct professor/facilitator for the Institute of Pastoral Initiatives for the University of Dayton.  She is a licensed counselor and is an experienced G/T teacher who helped develop the gifted program in the Bloomfield schools.  During the three years she facilitated that program her students participated in the Model Congress, The Model UN, mock trials, fractured fairy tales and forensics and debate competitions.   Mrs. Ryan will incorporate her prior experiences into her teaching at HCA.

Over the past two years, fifth graders have been part of our middle school program.   They have changed classes and have had as many as five teachers for their different core academic subjects.   Though our students have done well, the middle school teachers and I have had long conversations about how we could make the transition to a departmentalized middle school better for our students.  To that end, we will move to an intermediate grade structure for students in grades four and five.  Ms. Rambaran, who is certified as an elementary school and middle school mathematics teacher, will be the fifth grade homeroom teacher and will provide math, science and social studies instruction to students in grades four and five.  Donna Ryan, who has a strong background in reading, language arts and religion, will teach those subjects to both classes.  Both teachers will teach their respective homeroom students’ health.  The classrooms have been placed across the hall from each other to facilitate easy movement between classes.  The subjects will be scheduled so that movement between classes will be minimized.  As part of the transition to middle school, fifth graders will continue to be assigned lockers. They will also be issued individual iPads for use in all classes and will be able to take part in the Prep Connection STEM Program, the Stevens Institute Engineering classes and Campus Ministry after school. This structure will allow students to move from one teacher for all subjects to content specific teachers over a two-year period, thus easing the transition to middle school. 

We are excited to report that Hoboken Catholic Academy has been selected as one of the first archdiocesan schools to receive extensive training by Apple Systems Engineers and Education Specialists.  That training began in June when four teachers attended a special session at the Apple Store at the Garden State Plaza in Paramus.  In addition, teachers had two days of iPad training through William Paterson University in June as well and I attended a session for principals conducted by a half dozen Apple specialists also in June.  The session blew me away!  Ms. Ortega attended a two-day training in August focused on teaching coding and a Systems Engineer will conduct a training session for all of our teachers on Wednesday, September 5th before students report on Thursday.  Training sessions both here at the Apple Store will take place on an ongoing basis, this year and beyond.  As we advance our iPad initiative with class sets in grades three and four, and for learning centers in grades two through Pre-K, we will take full advantage of this amazing opportunity!

All of the new iPads are in and over the course of the next two weeks, our friends from Future Generations, our technology support company, will complete the configuration and networking of the devices so they can be rolled out during the first few weeks in September. 

We will continue to incorporate STEM activities in science and math classes beginning in first grade with students in grades 5-8 taking part in the archdiocesan STEM Expo program.  We will continue as a William Paterson University Professional Development School and will welcome back Mrs. Anna D’Alto, our Professor in Residence.  Likewise, students from Stevens Institute will continue to offer engineering classes afterschool and the Ignatian Scholars from St. Peters Prep will join us for the sixth year of “The Prep Connection.”  

This year, there will be a school-wide emphasis on respectful behavior.  There will be anti-bullying and character development assemblies in October and teachers will incorporate lessons about kindness and respect in health and religion classes throughout the year.  Kindness, compassion and respect will be the theme for our Campus Ministry Program and will be the emphasis of the student council and the National Junior Honor Society, which includes character as one of its five pillars.

We are in the final stages of preparation for our Middle States Accreditation visit, which will take place from November 13ththrough the 16th.  The school planning team and I will meet with our HSA officers to finalize the details of the visit which will feature a welcome reception on the Tuesday the 13thand a culminating mass on Friday, November 16th.  In between, our four guests will spend each day at our school, visiting classes, meeting with teachers, students, parents, HSA officers, advisory board members, Fr. Remo and myself.  They will review all of the information we provided in the self-study document as well as all supporting details.  In the evenings, following dinner, the team will meet at their hotel and work well into the night reviewing what they learned and developing their report. Following the half-day dismissal Friday, the visiting team leader will meet with our staff and provide their team’s analysis and issue their preliminary report.    Formal notification about accreditation will come several months later from the Middle States Commission in their final report.  

We will continue to provide a wide range of afterschool activity choices.  The full list and schedule is attached.  There will be an instrumental music demonstration assembly on Thursday, September 13th at 1:30 in the gym.  Students from third through eighth grade will have an opportunity to hear a number of instruments and all parents are invited to attend the assembly. A variety of instruments will be highlighted and sign-up information and forms will be available.  

Several housekeeping notes:
You are reminded to make sure to update your emergency contact information prior to the start of school in our Family Access Module and School Forms Online.  In the event of an emergency, we need this information to be accurate to insure that you will receive all pertinent information in a timely manner.

All major fundraiser ticket purchases can now be made electronically through Smart Tuition.  

Parents who choose to can opt to set up a debit account for school lunches with an initial deposit of $125. Parents will be notified to replenish the account when the balance hits $25.  The form to enroll will be sent home with the September menu.

HCA will sell Dress Down Day coupon books with two coupons per month, one of which can be used for the monthly school-wide dress down day.  If two are used on random days, the school-wide day will be paid as usual.

Parents are invited to join us for AM Assembly in the Gym on Thursday, 9/6/18 at 8:15 and at our welcome back mass at St. Ann’s Church at 10:00 AM on Friday, 9/7/18.

The 2018-2019 school year at Hoboken Catholic Academy is going to be fantastic!

Thank you and God bless you all!

Matthew McGrath