St. James Families, 

I hope this finds you all well! Since this is a bit more extensive update, I have combined my January and February Rapp Ups into one! Below you will find an important update on the strategic plan we published in the winter of 2021/2022.

As many of you know, our current strategic plan runs through 2024. This plan was created with the help of an outside consulting company organizing input from community-wide surveys and listening sessions. With guidance from students, parents, teachers, alumni, our Board of Trustees, and other community partners, we identified six strategic imperatives to be our focus for the years of 2021-2024.

The imperatives essentially focused on two things: how do we more fully live our mission, and how do we best serve the families and students seeking to be a part of that mission? 

Here you will find a high-level account of what has been accomplished under each imperative. I encourage you to take the time to read through this summary and reach out with any questions or concerns that you may have as we bring this particular plan to a close in the coming months. 

We are tentatively planning on publishing a new (though smaller in scope) strategic plan in the fall. For this more limited plan, we will be looking at three simple questions with already-identified small groups of parents, teachers, students, and alumni: What should St. James Academy START doing, what should we STOP doing, and what should we CONTINUE doing in the next three years. Our Board and administrative teams will look at the inputs from these focus groups to identify 3-4 strategic imperatives for 2024-2027. The more limited approach will allow us to make sure we continue to stay focused on supporting and enhancing the major program and facilities changes that have occurred in this last three-year cycle while ensuring we don’t get complacent. 

We also know that there are major capital projects on the horizon, which you will hear more about from Mr. Tylicki this spring, and this will certainly be a focus for our leadership in the coming years. 

As I have told our staff and students, I truly believe we are experiencing something special right now at St. James Academy, and it is because the staff and students and parents here are so willing to let God work through them. But the second we think we are better than anyone else, the second we think we’ve arrived, the second we start relying on our own strength rather than God’s, we will lose the very thing that is making this time so special: the humility to step aside and allow God to be the center. He must increase; we must decrease. 

We thank you for your partnership in this mission, for trusting us with your children, and for walking with us into the future without ever losing sight of the vision that was the gift we received from so many great people in the past. 

Your brother in Christ, 

Shane 

 

Implement Innovation Initiative

OVERALL NOTES: The Innovation Initiative included two major facilities renovations completed on time and paid for in full: the Media Center’s transformation into new classrooms and studio spaces for our Rhetoric and Media Arts program, and a new permanent home for the Spark Center for Academics. Additionally, the “Cor,” our new Campus Ministry space, is another visual and architectural reminder of our school’s priorities. The new space and curriculum rewrites for Computer Science resulted in a 500% increase in enrollment in AP Computer Science courses, and our Rhetoric and Media Arts program served 83 students this past school year.

SPECIFICS: 

  1. Rhetoric and Media Arts: assemble a teaching team, form vision and goals, write curriculum scope and sequence, plan facilities. COMPLETE
  2. Campus Ministry: update campus ministry vision; plan new campus ministry center centrally located near the chapel. COMPLETE
  3. Computer Science: evaluate and rewrite curriculum scope and sequence, plan facilities. COMPLETE
  4. Spark Center for Academics: research, plan, and implement proof-of-concept program; record data for impact reporting, plan eventual expansion and new facilities. COMPLETE
  5. Science Lab Updates: shuffle and redistribute current science storage and office spaces to create proof-of-concept lab space, research and design new Science Lab spaces. COMPLETE

Develop and Retain Faculty

Imperative: Create a plan to make the SJA staff a “destination job” for teachers, and create leadership opportunities for teachers to build their own and colleague’s instructional capacity.

OVERALL NOTES: With the support of our Board and president, we added 8 additional teachers and/or staff members between the fall of 2021 and the fall of 2023. We have had a retention rate of over 95% during this same period amongst teaching staff, with only one teacher leaving St. James each of the last two years. We have also successfully implemented a new model of teacher leadership, with 14 of our teachers being trained as Instructional Coaches so they can work with 3-4 other teachers on improving their practice in the classroom.   

  1. Create a plan to add more faculty/staff members to increase opportunities for adding electives and decrease the load of non-teaching duties on our teachers. COMPLETE
  2. Move from Department Chair Model to “Team Lead” model for faculty leadership. COMPLETE (NB: Title changed to “Faculty Coach” during process). 
  3. Implement summer development and training plan for Team Leads. COMPLETE

Ease Access and Opportunity to Attending SJA

Imperative: Increase the feasibility of attending and support while at SJA for families of students from all socio-economic situations, racial and ethnic backgrounds, and student learning abilities. 

OVERALL NOTES: Under the leadership of Wendy Leon in her new role as Director of Culture and Engagement, we have added partnerships with Lead-to-Read KC and Unbound; facilitated student learning opportunities with the Cost of Poverty Experience and Underground; added two new murals by the weight room; and more. We have also added our Spark Center, Freshmen and Sophomore Seminar, and two additional personnel in our Student Services department to support various learning needs in our student population. Further efforts are planned to be strategic in partnering with our local parishes in supporting families from diverse backgrounds who are looking for a Catholic education. 

  1. Create a visual environment that reflects the universality of the Catholic Church and helps communicate that families of all backgrounds have a place at our school and in the Church. COMPLETE
  2. Create a plan for educating our students and families on different cultures, as well as a deeper understanding of the sin of racism. COMPLETE
  3. Develop a strategic partnership with a local Catholic parish and school to increase opportunities for families of diverse socio-economic and racial/ethnic backgrounds to attend SJA. In Process

Complete Master Planning and Prep Work for Financial Feasibility Study 

OVERALL NOTES: The Master Plan was completed with the guidance and partnership of our architects at Multistudio. A feasibility study has now been completed for a capital campaign, and more information will be coming your way about this in the spring!

  1. Create a comprehensive master facilities plan which will provide guidance for future buildings AND interior alterations of current buildings. COMPLETE
  2. Develop a Financial Impact Plan (including debt retirement, endowment, campus facilities) to align with timing of onboarding new/renovated facilities. COMPLETE

Increase Course Offerings 

Imperative: Increase course offerings for students in order to deepen the intellectual life at St. James, create more options for students in pursuing their interests, and open up new avenues and methods for learning.

OVERALL NOTES: Since 2021, we have added a new academic program in Rhetoric and Media Arts and created new visions for our Career Explorations and Speech programs. We have added AP Environmental Science and moved Honors Pre-Calculus to an AP-level course. New electives have also been added, such as Authentic Masculinity, Forensic Science 2, Intro to Biomedical Science, and SJA Strong. We have surveyed students and teachers regarding interests and are beginning curriculum reviews in Math and English this spring.  

  1. Survey students and parents regarding new course interests. Student Survey Complete; Parent Survey coming Spring ‘24.
  2. Complete Academic Vision Days for each department to gather faculty input and compile into one document. COMPLETE
  3. Create a 3-5 year forecast of new courses and resources needed. IN PROCESS
  4. Revisit Departmental Visions annually.  IN PROCESS

Parent and Family Engagement 

OVERALL NOTES: This has been an area of tremendous growth in this three year cycle. We are in our third year of our “Essential Questions” initiative with overwhelmingly positive feedback on parent follow-up surveys. Our first mandatory “Parent Boot Camp” happened this fall to help support new families to St. James on everything from supporting the faith of teenagers to navigating technology and social media use, and our Mother/Daughter and Father/Son retreats have been great moments of grace. We have also rebranded and reorganized our “Mom’s Club” into “Parents Club” to increase parent volunteering efforts, and our Parent Ambassador program was rebooted this fall to help support families transitioning to life at St. James. We look forward to more opportunities to deepen this partnership in our next strategic plan!

  1. Implement the “Essential Questions” annual conversations with parents, students, and House Mentors. COMPLETE
  2. Create a formal plan for parent retreats and/or faith formation groups and liturgical opportunities. COMPLETE
  3. Host an informational session for parents once each semester that is part of an intentional four-year parent “curriculum”. CHANGED through the work of the Parent Advisory Group to Parent Boot Camp – COMPLETE.
  4. Integrate younger siblings, grandparents, and alumni into future community event plans. IN PROCESS