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Friday, 16 August 2013 09:38

Spa Catholic Looks Ahead to New School Year

By Chelsea DiSchiano | News

SARATOGA SPRINGS — As the carpets were being cleaned, teachers redecorated their rooms and everyone began finalizing lesson plans, Saratoga Central Catholic (SCC) administrators took a moment to pause and reflect on both their past accomplishments and new challenges as they prepare for the new school year ahead. 

Principal Stephen Lombard gathered with Director of Guidance Margo Barnes and new Director of Development Sandy Tarkleson to talk about the school’s recent accomplishments and trying to assimilate both teachers and students into the state’s new Common Core Standards. 

With fresh Regents test results to analyze, both Barnes and Lombard said they were pleased with their students’ results this year.

“We did well with the Common Core,” Barnes said. “Our test scores were well above average as far as state scores are concerned, so we’re very pleased with that—it’s a very difficult Regents all around.”

Lombard said that though the percentage of passing hasn’t changed at all, the scores “are not typically as high as they have been in the past.” 

“We’re not getting the 99s and 100s we may have gotten in the past, but I haven’t seen too much of an impact overall,” Lombard said. 

Barnes explained that most schools are going through the same transition period with the Common Core standards, with SCC attempting to transition by changing the way they teach so that students are successful both in their skill sets and the way they take the new Regents tests. 

“The exams have changed—they’re more reflective of the Common Core questions and it’s a transition right now that everybody is experiencing. We’ve worked really hard on it the last three years to bring it up to speed,” she said. 

“It’s a different approach, so the teachers are adapting it and changing into that, and the kids are doing ok,” Barnes continued. “We’ve really changed the way we’re teaching versus just teaching to the test—for the kids to be successful, they have to understand how everything is integrated so we’ve looked into changing how the curriculum can be taught so that the kids can be successful.” 

Principal Lombard said the school is now emphasizing more cross-curricular teaching as part of this new strategy. 

“One of our biggest pushes here is cross-curricular teaching—I might be the social studies teacher, but we’re going to integrate science and math and English in this whole process,” he said.  

“It’s a huge shift for kids and a huge shift for teachers, so we’ve taken little steps in changing the curriculum that way,” Barnes added. “It’s a big thing and you have to pull it in little by little and it’ll all come together, so I think we’ve made great strides in that.”

In addition to the assimilation of the Core standards, the administrators said they are proud of their integration of Advanced Placement (AP) courses—a total of seven have now been implemented in the school. 

“It gets bigger and better for us every year here,” Lombard said. “We just got our numbers back and we’re doing very well with results from state and local AP exams comparatively speaking, so I’m pleased with that.”

Some of the new AP courses include World History, Art History and Physics. As a college preparatory school, SCC also offers a Hudson Valley Community College program for high school students, along with allowing students to take courses from SUNY Adirondack. 

“Most of our students go to four-year [universities] and most of them go to private schools and they receive a lot in academic scholarships,” Barnes said. “Last year’s senior class amassed just over $4 million in academic money for just 33 students, so that’s a lot of money.”

The administration is also proud of its extracurricular programs, which Lombard said probably over 80 percent of students participate in. 

“Students have wonderful opportunities here to be involved in anything they want to be involved in,” Lombard. “You’re not battling 500 other students for a role in the play or a spot on the team—it’s pretty much whatever a student wants academically or in extracurriculars, they have an opportunity to be involved in it.”

Lombard added that the school also has a growing fine arts program, with a student-directed play called “Tangled: Story of Rapunzel” to be performed by students August 25 at 4 p.m. at the St. Peter’s Parish Center. 

“It’s a wonderful undertaking, so we’re excited about that,” Lombard said.

“What’s great about these students is they go out into this community and try to do stuff on their own as well, so it really gets them encouraged to be involved in the community,” added Tarkleson.

Lombard said the fact that there is a low amount of turnover in both teachers and students builds a strong sense of community in the school. 

“Students stay and teachers stay, and they walk the whole path with us,” Lombard said. “We work on building good students in the community who are going to be an asset to the community.” 

For more information on Saratoga Central Catholic or to fill out an application for your student, visit www.saratogacatholic.org. 

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