Dear Parent,

The purpose of this correspondence is to give you an update on progress at Saint Mary’s Catholic School.  Before reporting on our progress, we want to express our appreciation for your support, encouragement, and engagement this past year as leadership roles for the school changed.    As you may know, the search for the new principal continues.  Until the right person is identified, the current leadership at Saint Mary’s will remain the same.  Dr. Cheryl Henig has committed to remain in the position for the 2017/2018 school year.  Additionally, we have several internal assignments that have changed, and we have progress to report on our pre-renovation construction.

Four new teachers and an aid will be joining our instructional staff.  A brief introduction as well as a summary of other internal changes follows:

Middle School

Robin Rooks retired at the conclusion of the 2016-2017 school year.  She has been a valuable asset to Saint Mary’s for many years and her leadership in transition has been exemplary.  We are pleased to announce that she has agreed to return to Saint Mary’s in a part-time position as the International Baccalaureate Middle Years Programme Director.  She will mentor Pam Tuskey, who will lead our IB team in the future in addition to teaching eighth grade Social Studies.   We will be seeking a part-time Social Studies teacher in order to give Pam time to direct the IB program.

We are very fortunate to have Jessica Healy join us in the Foreign Language program.  She will be teaching Middle School French.  Jessica has spent many years studying abroad in Ireland and France, and she earned a Master’s Degree in Education at the University of Mary Washington.  She has been teaching in an IB Middle School, and she and her family are members of the parish.

Rick Short accepted a Science position at an IB Middle School in a local county.  We are very appreciative of the leadership and dedication he has given to Saint Mary’s.  At the same time, we are thrilled to welcome Carole Forkey to the Science program.  She is a veteran teacher with many awards, and has recently been a department chair and taught advanced and AP Science courses at the high school level, including Oceanography.   Her endorsements include Administration and Supervision Pk-12, Biology, Earth and Space Science, and General Science II.  She is also National Board Certified

Elementary School 

Molly Stefany, one of our Kindergarten teachers, felt called to teach in an urban settingand she will assume a new teaching position in Richmond City Schools.  Amy Turner, teacher, will team with her aid, Nicole Speck, in Kindergarten.  Kathleen Tucholka, who previously worked as a part-time aid, will stay throughout the day so that both teachers will have assistance in the afternoon.

Since our 3-year-old children’s program will no longer be offered, Heather Heishman will assume new duties to coordinate and train parent volunteers, serve as the testing coordinator as well as our afternoon receptionist in the office.  Jessica Funk, who previously worked in the 2 year old program, will serve as an aid for the lower school.  She will be assisting the teachers in grades 2 through 4 on a part time basis. We are pleased that both of these talented professionals will remain on staff at Saint Mary’s.

It was with great reservation that we accepted Kerry Louck’s resignation in the third grade.  She has left Saint Mary’s to take a teaching position in a local county.  Vicky Oliver will be assuming third grade responsibilities, teaming with Karen George.  With Vicky’s move to the lower school, we had an opening for our Technology Program.  For this position, we welcome L’Emuelle Moody.  He is currently completing a Masters in Educational Technology with Online Instruction specialization through Liberty University and he is endorsed for PK-6th grade and Middle School Science.

In Junior Kindergarten, Karen Barry retired as an aid.  Jennifer Southworth will assume her responsibilities as the new JK aid for Pat Harris.  Since Jennifer was the long term substitute teacher in JK last year, she is familiar with the program and has teamed with Pat Harris in the past.  Jennifer is endorsed in elementary education.

With the internal assignment changes, we had an opening for our 4th grade.  We are pleased to have Jessie Teller join Susan Trout and Lori Valdepenas on the 4th grade team.  Jessie holds a Master’s degree in Teaching, has taught elementary grades, and has been a gifted and talented teacher.

Other Staff Changes

Anne Marie Donlon, Director of Saint Cecilia Band has accepted a position as choirmaster and organist at St. Joseph Church in Petersburg.  We are working on several options and feel confident that we will have something in place to continue to offer band when school begins.

With the increase in athletic activities and offerings, we felt the need to have an Athletic Director.  Scott Schaefer will assume that responsibility, in addition to teaching Middle School English.  Our appreciation goes to Meaghan Brown, parent volunteerwho graciously volunteered to coordinate our sports activities in the past.

School Renovations

As we welcome these talented teachers to our community, we also have an opportunity to share exciting news about the physical environment in which our students learn. The original wing of our school is fifty years old. It continues to serve us well, but it is also ‘showing its age’ in a number of ways. Last summer, working with members of the school administration and faculty, we hired an architectural firm that specializes in school construction and renovation to lead us in a thorough study of our facilities, especially the oldest portion of our school buildings. That process continued throughout the past school year.

We are now preparing to present the results of that planning process to the diocese and broader community. Our current plan is to use the summer of 2018 to undertake a thorough renovation of the original wing of our school, upgrading windows, lighting, HVAC, floors and classroom furniture. In addition, we plan to create a new front entrance to the school which will enhance the safety of the school and increase a sense of welcome and hospitality. We also plan to upgrade our current library and technology space. These exciting physical improvements to our school buildings will ensure that our students and teachers have a wonderful environment in which to engage the learning process.  We are undertaking some minor construction tasks this summer, which will help facilitate the work we will do next summer. We will share more details about these projects as the school year commences.

We look forward to seeing you all at Meet the Teacher afternoon on August 17th to meet the newest members of our Saint Mary’s family.  We are confident that you will be as excited as we are about our new faculty.  Although we have made significant changes in our staffing, we are confident that these dedicated professionals will enhance our programs with their faith, talent, and enthusiasm so that our high standards will be maintained.  With your continued support and participation, we will continue the tradition of excellence that has been the hallmark of St. Mary’s.

In Christ,

Fr. Renninger and Dr. Henig