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November 20, 2018

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Dear Parents and Guardians,

Every seven years, all Archdiocesan schools go through a rigorous evaluation that hopefully leads to accreditation by the Middle States Commission on Elementary and Secondary Schools.  Hoboken Catholic Academy was accredited just prior to the Sandy year, so the time had come to go through the process again.  That process involves a detailed self-examination and review of all school operations and the writing of a lengthy report detailing that work.  As you know from my messages for more than a year and a half, our school has undertaken the preparation for re-accreditation.  Last week we welcomed a team of educators from the Middle States Commission to our school. The team was charged with reviewing our detailed self study document, observing our school in operation and meeting with teachers and staff members, parents, students, our Advisory Board members, Fr. Remo and myself to not only learn about every aspect of our school, but to determine if we are doing what was indicated in the self study.  They would then determine if our school would be re-accredited for the next seven years. 

I am pleased to tell you that the team chairperson, Mrs. Judy Mullery, indicated in her oral report to the staff at the conclusion of their visit on Friday, that Hoboken Catholic Academy will be re-accredited by the Middle States Commission!  The final report from the Commission will follow in about four months.

I would like to thank our dedicated teachers and staff for their hard work over the last year and a half in reviewing curriculum, evaluating standardized test data, reviewing and delineating instructional practices, analyzing parent and student survey data, developing and refining our foundation documents and preparing to meet with the team.  A special thank you goes to Mrs. Angela Bernardo for assuming a leadership role throughout the process and to Maria Fusiak and Peggy Girovasi for working with Mrs. Bernardo as our school’s internal coordinators. Thanks to Mrs. Albunia for her creative flair in putting the gift bags together and in decorating the gym for the program and the dinner as well as our hallway and stairwell walls.

Thank you as well to Home and School Association President, Donna Murphy, for all of her help in preparation for the visit.  She was instrumental in securing hotel accommodations for our guests and for making sure all details at the hotel were carried out to our specifications.  She was simply amazing.  Thanks to Jenn Araneo and Nicole Jurick for the delicious additions to the gift bags for our guests and for giving the team a true taste of Hoboken!  Thanks as well to all of the HSA officers, past presidents and other parents who met with the team and shared their thoughts about our school.

The visit began with a welcome program that featured our award-winning choir under the direction of Ms. Laurie Campana, and a dramatic reading retrospective by eighth graders Liam Richardson and Tara Dean about the devastation of the Sandy year, and our school’s journey since then to National Blue Ribbon recognition last fall. The program was followed by an outstanding dinner reception coordinated and hosted by our office staff where the visiting team members ate and spoke with teachers, HSA officers and past presidents, Advisory Board members, Archdiocesan Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Margaret Dames and her assistants, as well as St. Ann Pastor, Fr. Remo and HCA visiting priest, Msgr. Paul Bochicchio.

Following dinner, Mrs. Foley and I took our guests down to Pier A Park so they could take in the breathtaking night views of the New York skyline and the Lackawanna terminal.

The visiting team came to HCA before student arrival and stayed through dismissal on Wednesday and Thursday.  They observed student arrival, departure and lunch/recess procedures, and our new security guards in action.  They visited classes and followed a detailed schedule of meetings with groups of students, parents, HSA officers, Advisory Board members, support staff members and Fr. Remo and myself.   They met with teams of teachers and staff about each of the “strands,” of the self-study on topics ranging from finances and facilities to student services, curriculum and instruction, educational programs, information and technology resources, our mission documents and our three educational and organizational objectives.

Following our one hour delayed opening thanks to the freak snowstorm on Thursday afternoon, the visiting team joined our students and staff for 10:00 Mass at St. Ann Church on Friday morning.

Upon return from mass I met with Team Chairperson, Judy Mullery, who shared the team’s oral report with me.  Following student dismissal, she presented the report to our teachers and staff who were gathered in the gym.

Naturally, we were all pleased with the findings.  Mrs. Mullery was complimentary in her comments about our school and was particularly impressed by our teachers, parents, students and our Advisory Board.  She thanked us for our hospitality and for making their stay with us an enjoyable, positive experience.

Thank you all for your patience over the last eighteen months as the teachers and I worked our way through the self-study process.   As stated earlier, the final report from the Middle States Commission will be provided in several months.  I will share the specifics of the report with you once it is received.

With all of our energies focused on the Middle States, Thanksgiving has certainly snuck up on us.  It seems like just yesterday that we watched our little ghosts and goblins parade round the gym on Halloween. 

A lot has transpired since then.  Thank you to Mrs. McGrady, Ms. Girovasi and all of our parent volunteers for their help in making our Book Fair so successful.

Our eighth graders took the High School Placement Test on November 9th and are now anxiously awaiting the results and notification regarding high school acceptances.  Please join me in wishing them well in securing placement in their school of choice. 

That same day, our Pre-K and Kindergarten classes put on their Thanksgiving program and it was beyond exceptional.  The student performers were all well prepared and their teachers and aides channeled their inner Andrew Lloyd Weber to help their students bring down the house!

Speaking of bringing down the house, sixty-five HCA students and parents surprised Nirvann Pal on Saturday, November 10th at his matinee performance of The School of Rock, on Broadway!  Nirvaan, one of our sixth graders, plays Mason in the show and is absolutely fantastic!   Nirvaan’s parents arranged for a “Talk Back,” following the show and all of the actors came out on stage to speak with our group and answer our questions.  It was an amazing experience.

Congratulations to all of our volleyball teams.  The A and B teams won their respective league championships, and our youngest team placed third in their league, winning their final match!  Our volleyball program has truly blossomed to include more than thirty girls in grades 5-8.  Thanks to coaches, Chia-Ling Garlick, and Carmella Griesbauer for their hard work and dedication to making the program so successful.

Earlier today our Pre-K classes enjoyed their pre-Thanksgiving feast in the gym.  Thanks to our class moms for arranging for great food to reinforce the teachers’ lessons about the first Thanksgiving.

On Wednesday, third graders will host our Thanksgiving Prayer Service at 8:15AM in our gym.  Parents are more than welcome to attend this special event, in which we will give thanks for all of God’s blessings. 

In addition, tomorrow will be a $2 Thanksgiving Dress Down Day.  Please remember that dress down coupons can be used in lieu of payment. 

Grades for the first Trimester will close on the 21st as well and report cards will be distributed on Friday, November 30th.

Finally, as we prepare to celebrate the most uniquely American of all of our holidays, please know that we are truly thankful to work in a school with such wonderful students and incredibly supportive families.  On behalf of everyone at Hoboken Catholic Academy, please accept my best wishes for a wonderful, blessed Thanksgiving with family and friends. 

Thank you and God Bless you all.

Matthew McGrath