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August 21, 2017

Monday, August 21, 2017

Dear Parents and Guardians,

Welcome back for the 2017-2018 school year!

We have been informed that the parent reports from last March’s administration of the Terra Nova standardized test for students in grades 2-8 have finally been shipped to the school. Unfortunately, we have not yet received them. As a result, we could not include them in this summer mailing. As soon as they arrive, we will mail them home. Over the next several weeks, in addition to the reports we send home, we will post our school-wide results on the HCA website. As was indicated last spring, the new scoring company was unable to complete the scoring in the normal timeline. They have been woefully deficient. The superintendent and her staff have voiced our collective outrage with the company and have pursued legal action. If, when you receive the report, you would like to discuss the results with last year’s teacher, please contact the office so we can set up a meeting once school starts in September. Any fifth grade parents requesting  a meeting will meet with me.

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!

All four lavatories on the first and second floors have been upgraded. With new stalls and a fresh coating of epoxy paint on the old and worn tile floors, the outdated lavatories look brand new. The three undersized classrooms on the first floor which housed one-first and two second grade classes last year have been converted to two full sized classrooms which will now house both first grades. All of the windows on the Madison Street side of the building have been resealed, eliminating the leaks and potential for costly damage. One hundred full sized lockers are being installed in the gym so students in grades five to eight will no longer have to carry all of their books with them throughout the day.  Mr. Francisco painted all doorjambs, metal doors and stairway railings and scrubbed each room and corridor clean. The school looks great!

We have begun to upgrade our classroom lighting by retrofitting LED lights into the existing fixtures in the newly renovated rooms and installing new LED fixtures in one of our classrooms. (Ms. Gravina’s Kindergarten room) The goal, as recommended by the Facilities Ad hoc Committee last spring, is to replace all of the fluorescent classroom lighting with energy efficient LED fixtures. That committee will reconvene this fall to map out a plan and timeline to upgrade each classroom and the gym. Not only are the new lights much brighter, but their efficiency will result in dramatically reduced utility costs moving forward.

The middle school student 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 month of September. Middle school teachers received training in June and have had their IPads all summer.  We are all excited about the possibilities this new initiative will provide our students.

For the first time at HCA, students recommended by their teacher, will take Algebra in eighth grade. The remaining students will continue with the strong pre-Algebra program currently in place. This enhancement, will hopefully allow our students who are strong in math to move into Algebra II or geometry as high school freshman next fall.

HCA is getting healthier! The cafeteria lunches will include salad and/or vegetables or fruit and fresh fruit will be added to the snack options. In addition, all fried chips and cheese puffs have been removed and only baked chips and crackers, popcorn and pretzels will be available for snacks. All ice cream products will be made with reduced fat milk. We will continue to have soft pretzels, freshly baked cookies and Churros available, but there will be a limit to the number of these items that can be purchased.  We will add flavored seltzers to the Snapple choices currently available.

Hoboken Catholic will incorporate the Presidential Fitness Program into our current PE program. The Presidential Fitness Program emphasizes not only physical fitness, but making healthy choices to ensure lifelong health and wellness.   Students will maintain fitness journals and chronicle not only the activities done in gym class, but during recess, throughout the day in their classrooms and at home as well.  Students will also include a recording of their healthy food choices and water consumption. Students will be pre-tested in various activities to provide baseline data in strength, speed and flexibility.  Mr. Tallarida will incorporate activities in PE class for students to work on these areas. The program does not foster competition between students, but emphasizes self-improvement and working toward each individual’s personal best. The individual recording of data will begin in grade 4, however, all students, from Pre-K up will participate in the program.  Mr. Tallarida will provide more information as the year gets underway.

We will utilize the new edition of our reading series, Reading Street, in grades K-5. The new version of the series is infused with Close Reading capabilities and aligned perfectly with the training teachers have received over the last two years.  There will also be a new interactive science series in grads 6-8 that will foster discovery learning and align with the Next Generation Science Standards and our STEM initiative.

We will continue to incorporate STEM activities in science and math classes beginning in first grade with middle school students taking part in the archdiocesan STEM Expo program.

We say good-bye to two of our teachers who have moved on to new schools out of state. Fourth grade teacher, Miss Nicole Godfrey, and Pre-K teacher, Mrs. Donna Charlino have resigned. We wish both ladies well in their new positions and thank them for their dedication to our students during their time with us.

I am pleased to report that Mrs. Ashley Colona will move into the fourth grade position. Mrs. Colona is in her third year at HCA and previously taught fifth grade reading and language arts and computers. Mrs. Colona is currently working toward a Masters Degree from Felician University, having already earned an additional certificate, Teacher of Students with Disabilities. Mrs. Colona is excited to become our new fourth grade teacher.

Ms. Caitlin Timmerman will join our staff to teach reading and language arts in fifth grade. In addition, she will provide literacy support in the lower grades, co-teaching in reading classes. Ms. Timmerman is a Magna Cum Laude graduate of Seton Hall University and has experience as a middle school English teacher.  Ms. Timmerman comes to us, highly recommended from a program with a strong emphasis on student writing. She is looking forward to joining our middle school team and working with our students.

Ms. Jeanette Symmonds, a graduate of Fairfield University, will be our new Pre-K4 teacher.  Before joining us, Ms. Symmonds was a PK teacher at St. Nicholas School in Jersey City. Declining enrollment at that grade at St. Nicks enabled us to bring Ms. Symmonds to Hoboken Catholic Academy. She is looking forward to working with her aide, Ms. Geeta, and Mrs. Ferrara, her PK-4 colleague, to provide an excellent Pre-K4 experience for her students.

Mr. Stephen Kriso will be our new computer technologist. Mr. Kriso holds an MBA in Information Systems, Management and Marketing from St. Peters University and  is a Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer.  He has experience in supporting both Mac and PC platforms and has worked in an IT capacity in the private sector as well as at the Academy of Holy Angels in Demarest.  Mr. Kriso should prove to be a valuable addition to our staff as we roll out our middle school IPad program.
Ms. Rosanna Kokiadis, who served as Mrs. Lore’s kindergarten aide last year has been reassigned as an office assistant.  Ms. Kokiadis will provide additional support to our office staff and allow for greater efficiency and redundancy in all that we do.

Ms. Erin Yorke will replace Ms. Kokiadis as the new kindergarten aide in Mrs. Lore’s class. Ms. Yorke graduated Cum Laude from Rider University with a BA in Elementary Education and English with experience as a transitional kindergarten teacher at a KinderCare facility and is excited to join our school family.

Miss Aggie has also been reassigned. After many years keeping our students safe as the crossing guard at 7th and Madison Streets and serving lunches in our cafeteria, Miss Aggie will become our new hall monitor. She will be positioned at a desk in the hallway near the main office where she will monitor our security cameras, direct all visitors to the office and monitor students traveling from the modular classrooms into the building.

This year we will continue our preparations for our next Middle States Accreditation visitation. There are additional half days in this year’s calendar to allow teachers time to complete the lengthy self-study.  The parent, student and staff surveys have been completed and analyzed. They were very positive in most areas and quite instructive about areas identified as needing improvement.  Many of the areas identified by students, parents and teachers have been and/or will be addressed in the months ahead. The Middle States team will visit our school in the fall of 2018. Thank you to everyone who completed the survey. Your feedback is invaluable as we continue to move our school forward.

Along those same lines, it became clear last spring that we needed to take a hard look at our spring field trip destinations and procedures. As a result of parent and teacher feedback, the following plan will go into place this year:

  1. Coaches will be used for all field trips
  2. Spring field trips will be booked by the end of October to allow chaperones to plan ahead
  3. All chaperones must have completed Protecting God’s Children and the other volunteer requirements two weeks prior to the trip to insure correct bus counts
  4. All trips PK-Gr. 7 will be concluded by May 15, 2018
  5. Field trips by grade level:
  • PK- Central Park or Turtleback Zoo
  • Kindergarten- Children’s Museum, Florham Park, NJ
  • Grade 1- Jenkinson’s Aquarium, Pt. Pleasant, NJ
  • Grade 2- Liberty Science Center, Jersey City
  • Grade 3 – Museum of Natural History, NYC
  • Grade 4 – NJ State House, Trenton, NJ
  • Grade 5 – Camp Bernie Outdoor Education Program, Port Murray, NJ
  • Grade 6 – Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island
  • Grade 7 – Philadelphia, PA
  • Grade 8 – Washington, DC (3 day trip)

We will continue the “Prep Connection,” in which Ignatian Scholars from St. Peters Prep tutor students at all levels and facilitate STEM activities afterschool for middle school students. Mrs. D’Alto, our Math Professor in Residence from William Paterson University will continue to work with our teachers and along with Ms. Molino, offer and afterschool math enrichment program for middle school students. Engineering students from Stevens Institute of Technology will once again provide two six-week courses covering a number of engineering topics with fun, hands-on activities for middle school students. 

We will expand the number of afterschool activity choices to include, a coding class, Mad Science, Italian and Mandarin instruction and instrumental music!  We will schedule two one-hour sessions each day (3:00-4:00 and 4:00-5:00PM) to allow for current and new activities to be included and so students will be able to attend multiple activities in a day if the parent so chooses.  We are finalizing the arrangements with the new vendors.  As soon as a schedule of activities is complete, we will post it on our website.

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 now 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.

Finally, we have begun the task of upgrading our website. The new design will allow for a tremendous amount of flexibility and improved levels of information sharing.  The teacher webpages will be in a transitional state for the first few weeks of school.  The service we used for the last four years is no longer available so we are working through some options.  Your patience is appreciated.

Parents are invited to join us for AM Assembly in the Gym on Thursday, 9/7/17 and at our welcome back mass at St. Ann’s Church at 10:00 AM on Friday, 9/8/17.

The 2017-2018 school year at Hoboken Catholic Academy is going to be fantastic!

God bless you all!

Matthew McGrath