A Year End Reflection

A Year End Reflection

By John O’Brien, President of the Academy of Notre Dame
June is a transitional month in the calendar whereby spring gives way to summer. At the Academy, the beginning of the month marks the culmination of the year with the fanfare and celebration of graduation and commencement ceremonies. As the days tick closer to the summer solstice, the halls go quiet and the hard work of preparing for the next school year shifts into high gear. We would be remiss, however, if we as a community didn’t reserve some time to reflect on our accomplishments. In this spirit, I offer you my final blog post for the 2018-19 school year.  

While NDA has not been immune to the enrollment fluctuations facing so many private schools, this past year we have seen revitalized Advancement and Alumni efforts under the direction of Lauren Marquis, Director of Institutional Advancement, a position that had been vacant for several years. She is assisted by someone who knows NDA well, Kristen Bowes Stella, an alumna from the Class of 2002. Elisa Lellios, Director of Admissions, also new in her position, has taken the lead in growing prospective family outreach and spearheading new initiatives to build and maintain family relationships. Faculty have come together to form a new Academic Innovation Committee to elevate the current culture of innovation in learning at NDA. All of these measures, and many more, address recommendations outlined in the Catholic Schools Management consultant report generated last spring and are aimed at enhancing the vibrancy of our school environment and planning for our future.
 
Other accomplishments during the 2018-19 school year: 

Students/Faculty 

  • Rowan McComas and Joy Tu, both juniors, participated in Art All State 2019
  • Martina Maximovich, gr. 11, won a full scholarship to the 2019 Telluride Association Summer Program at the University of Maryland, College Park
  • Danielle Wuerdeman, gr. 11, was accepted into a one week pre-med Summer Academy at Harvard University
  • Annabelle Fandozzi and Taylor Martineau (both seniors) established a chapter for the National Art Honor Society in Upper School
  • The STEAM program held its first 8th Grade Moving Masterpieces exhibit
  • Rianna Santra, gr. 7, was named the 2019 You Be the Chemist Massachusetts State Champion 
  • Rachel Korwan, gr. 8, received honorable mention in the Letters About Literature competition
  • Smaira Dhillon, K2, and Mumbi Chege, gr. 6, won the state level Zaner-Bloser handwriting contest for their grade levels
  • Teddy Pitta, gr. 1, received honorable mention for his design in the Massachusetts School Library Association’s bookmark competition
  • Ananya Pinnamaneni, gr. 6, finished 8th in the Regional Scripps Spelling Bee
  • The Middle School Mathcounts Club placed 10th in their chapter competition
  • Elizabeth Lu, gr. 7, and her synchronized skating team placed 10th in Sectional Championships
  • Charlize Jeannot, gr. 6, placed first in a Classic Junior Division dance competition and won the highest score in age group
  • Arianna Concepcion, gr. 10, finished 8th in the ladies novice division at the U.S. National Figure Skating Championships 
  • Julie Getchell and Victoria Bradley, both seniors, received full-tuition, four-year scholarships to Regis College School of Nursing
  • Lana Sukkar and Martina Maximovich (both juniors) participated in the Women in Technology program at BAE Systems
  • Aditya Prasad, gr. 8, performed a piano recital at Carnegie Hall
  • Saanvi Wadhwa, gr. 6, was recognized for her peace poster by the Tyngsboro-Dunstable Lions Club
  • Multiple stand out performances were delivered by members of the Model UN team during their competitive season
  • Bri Trullo-Lavelle, gr. 10, attended the Snow Farm Craft Summit
  • Six Middle School students participated in the National Geographic Society’s GeoChallenge
  • Dr. Enhua Wang was honored at the 2018 Amgen Biotech Experience Teacher Recognition Awards
  • Allison Clark, gr. 7, competed in the 2018 New England Regional Figure Skating Championships
  • Sydney Pho, gr. 8, won the Catholic Citizenship Essay Contest run by the Knights of Columbus Arthur U. Joyal Council 4225
  • Joe Farina, gr. 8, earned Eagle Scout credentials
  • The Class of 2019 
    • Earned more than $8.7 million in renewable merit scholarships
    • Had 100% college acceptance and matriculation
    • Accepted to 90 colleges and universities in U.S., Ireland and Canada

Advancement:

  • 27th Annual Golf Tournament grossed $70K
  • First online auction grossed $11K thanks to contributions from community members
  • The Fund for Notre Dame campaign continues to be the #1 fundraising priority and gifts are welcome until the fiscal year closes on August 31, 2019
  • Thanks to generous donors, we were able to:
    • Upgrade the auditorium sound system, including the purchase of a full mixer board 
    • Purchase four 3D printers with a grant made possible by the Parker-Hannifin Company 
    • Renovate the weight room with the support of Varsity Soccer Coach Ken Najem
    • Purchase additional Biology lab supplies and equipment
    • Refinish the Auditorium stage with parent support 
    • Install a new swing set in memory of Ann Coddaire, former faculty member
    • Create new scholarships through the generosity of families and friends of NDA
  • The Office of Institutional Advancement is working to reconnect with and engage alumni from all school divisions and class years, a process that has begun by updating constituent contact information and planning for a database conversion in the fall 

Admissions:

  • A New enrollment management plan was implemented
  • Added acceptance of the Secondary School Admissions Test (SSAT) and the Standard Application Online 
  • Added the Duolingo English Test as an option for international applicants 
  • Established admissions review committees through the Veracross Applications Reviewer role
  • Refined high school fair outreach
  • Expanded Open House events to all grade levels
  • Working with IT department, simplified the online application forms
  • Added events for both internal and external prospects: 
    • Monthly Walk-In Wednesdays
    • 6th and 7th grade Preview Night 
    • Tours during the all-school International Festival Evening and Fine Arts Night
    • Bi-weekly Tykes & Tales storytime series for prospective families
    • Coffee and Conversation for parents of our 8th grade girls
    • Revisit days for the students
    • Upper School Guidance Department 1:1 meetings and small group meetings with 8th grade girls

Academics/Programs:

All-School

  • Working with IT department, implemented modified block schedule in Middle and Upper Schools to allow for enhanced collaboration 
  • Formed curriculum committees between Middle and the Upper Schools to ensure seamless transition between grade levels

Lower/Middle School

  • School voted family favorite finalist by the Boston Parents Paper
  • Jillian Boudreau appointed Dean of Students for the Lower/Middle School and tasked with leadership development, discipline and Student Council advisor
  • Dean of Students office relocated to the third floor for administrative presence and support
  • Ministry and Mission Class updated to Faith and Wellness class offering guidance and life skills
  • The Lower/Middle School Handbook was updated 
  • Discipline policy was rewritten to outline step by step process that is gradual in age appropriate disciplinary action 
  • All Lower/Middle School specials (Art, Music, Gym, Computer and Library) including Campus Ministry, STEAM, and Makerspace were reviewed at each grade level 
  • The Early Years Mini Makerspace Exploration Center expanded and STEAM classes were added for K1 and Pre-K

Upper School

  • Earned the first College Board AP Computer Science Female Diversity Award for achieving high female representation in AP Computer Science A
  • Health and Wellness weekly seminar program was incorporated and taught by the Guidance Department and Physical Education faculty 
  • Physical Education offered in both freshman and sophomore years, once a week for the year 
  • Updates were made in the acceptance of our 8th grade students into Upper School honors level classes in Math, English and World Language
  • Joined the National Coalition of Girls Schools
  • Increased student participation in LYFT worship and Adoration Events through the theology department

Marketing: 

  • Joined the Greater Nashua Chamber of Commerce and hosted a Business After Hours in March
  • Sponsored and participated in the Nashua Holiday Stroll in November
  • Hosted a Greater Lowell Chamber of Commerce Morning Mixer in February
  • Expanded participation in the Tyngsboro Festival of Trees to include Block Party
  • Formed Parent Ambassador group
  • Joined collaborative of SND sister schools to discuss ways to pool resources
  • Established collaboration with Rivier University 
  • Reached out to real estate associations in NH and MA to increase awareness of our school
  • Placed an ad in Greater Nashua Chamber of Commerce magazine publication distributed to all residents new to Nashua
  • Placed email blast ads in both Chamber organizations to promote open houses and events
  • Coordinated two video shoots to gather footage for expanded video marketing and homepage video on new website
  • Launched website redesign project with anticipated conversion set for mid-August
  • Used SSAT mailing lists for direct mail campaigns 
  • Produced new Portrait of a Graduate graphics and wall/foyer hangings
  • Coordinated family/student surveys and post survey action plan
  • Expanded social media marketing for all grade levels 
  • Produced coloring book using student illustrations and storyline about NDA
  • Re-wrote and designed profile for Upper School
  • Participated in the GNCC Business Expo
  • Expanded church outreach to promote Open House events

Technology:

  • Added an Upper School in-house Computer class which enables girls to learn to code and satisfy pre-requisites to enroll in AP Computer Science through the VHS program
  • Integrated the online Financial Aid application with the enrollment/re-enrollment process using the Veracross portals
  • Offered online course selection for the future academic year through student and faculty portals for the Upper School
  • Worked towards ADA compliance of our website by converting all online forms to a new platform (MachForm). 
  • Contracted after-market service contract with Park Place Technologies to cover the costs and support of all HP Aruba switches and Wireless Access Points as well as our HP Sure Store Storage area network system
  • Upgraded faculty laptops in the Upper School Math department with additional memory and new Solid State hard drives to boost performance
  • Purchased and implemented Comodo One enterprise security and endpoint management system
  • Purchased and implemented Lenovo LanSchool software in our Lower school computer labs to allow the instructor/administrator to control all computers in a lab environment
  • Purchased and installed a Network Attached Storage system for local nightly backups of all File Server data as well as snapshots of every Virtual Server in our environment
  • Decommissioned FS1VM, a Virtual File server which was no longer needed and provided essential free disk space back into our Storage Area Network
  • Purchased Solid State hard drives and additional memory for all faculty and staff laptops

Facilities:

  • Roof replaced on Maintenance Garage 
  • Fire alarm system upgraded in Blanche Walsh Sports Center 
  • Working with IT department, purchased and installed three interactive Epson projectors with white boards installed 

Mission/Community Service

  • Mission Day Walkathon raised more than $13K for the SNDeN global mission projects
  • The school community raised $1261 to support the families of Notre Dame Cristo Rey who were impacted by natural gas explosions in Lawrence

Athletics:

Upper School 

  • 70 students participated in a fall sports program
  • 32 students participated in a winter sports program 
  • 56 students participated in a spring sports program  
  • One Cross Country team member named CAC All-Star 
  • Soccer team won the CAC middle division championship and qualified for states, three athletes were named CAC All-Stars and one player was voted as the league MVP
  • Two Volleyball team members were named CAC All-Stars 
  • Three Swimming & Diving team members were named MVC All-Stars and a relay team qualified for the North Sectional meet
  • The basketball team qualified for state and two team members named CAC All-Stars
  • Five Indoor Track team members were named CAC All-Stars
  • Charli Aldana Proulx, gr. 11, tied the school record in Javelin at the MIAA Division 4 State Track and Field with a throw of 116’5” originally set in 2015 by Cathryn MacGregor
  • This year’s senior class had 17 members play at least one sport
  • One senior participated in 14 total seasons (includes grades 7 & 8)
  • Five seniors were 12-season athletes
  • One senior was an 11-season athlete
  • Several other seniors participated in 8 seasons
  • One senior received the Eagle Tribune Student Athlete Award
  • One senior was a nominee for the prestigious Boston Globe Scholar Athlete Award

Lower School

  • Boys Soccer Ecumenical League Runner Up
  • Girls JV Basketball (Grades 5-6) Ecumenical League Champions for the 3rd straight year
  • Boys JV Basketball (Grades 5-6) Ecumenical League Runner Up

The Road Ahead

Planning for the 2019-2020 school year has great momentum already with strategic planning underway, the Academic Innovation committee hard at work and the prospect of a transformative gift coming to the Academy next year. It will be a busy summer for me and my administrative team as we embark on many initiatives meant to change the trajectory of enrollment numbers, address issues identified in survey results and work on expanding measures to deliver academic excellence. We look forward to kicking the year off by welcoming returning and new families to campus with a Family Barbecue in late August. Until then, I wish you all a safe and happy summer!