Oct. 27-Nov.2, 2005
St. Peter’s School
Stephanie Salerno created a t-shirt woth her name on it during the school’s summer program
By St. Peter’s School/ SUN contributing writer
SUN photo(s) submitted
Helping Hands and Open Hearts UTICA — The students and the families of St. Peter’s School in Utica are well known for their support of those less fortunate. Classrooms have mission banks to help the hungry and homeless in all parts of the world. There are also yearly projects around the holidays that those in the community are familiar with. But this year the children and their families have reached out to those in need right in their own backyard.
Working in conjunction with the other Catholic schools in the Utica area, St. Peter’s families began the year by collecting articles of food and clothing to help the victims of Hurricane Katrina. Diapers and canned food arrived by the boxful. The hallway near the office began to look like a grocery store. Then on Sunday, Sept. 26 students from grades five and six lent a helping hand to runners in the Falling Leaves Road Race by manning a water station. Parents and children handed out water, smiles, and cheers as over a thousand runners took to the streets of Utica. The children were rewarded with the thankfulness of many a parched runner.
And yet St. Peter’s children still had one more group to help, the orphaned animals at the local Humane Society. During the month of October, pet food items were brought to school to be given to the Steven-Swan Humane Society. Each year, the children bring their pets to be blessed on the Feast of St. Francis, but they also remember those homeless pets as well. Pet food is still be accepted by the school.
The motto of St. Peter’s is “Where Everyone Is Someone.” The children live that by giving of themselves everyday. Middle States Accreditation Team Visits
In May, three professionals in the field of education visited St. Peter’s School to determine if the school met the qualifications of the Middle States Elementary School Accreditation Agency. The team, consisting of two principals and one teacher, visited the school for four days and did a very thorough evaluation. The team spent countless hours questioning teachers, students, parents and administrators. They sought out school records in safety, academics, finances, and governance.
The school was evaluated on twelve standards and after hours of discussion a final report was drafted that stated that the school met all twelve standards. The second step of the process was to highlight two long-term goals. These goals are a part of the school’s overall strategic plan and are very detailed. The two goals that St. Peter’s School chose were (1) to increase the passing rate of fourth graders in the New York State English/Language Arts test and (2) to increase the contact hours that students have with technology. These goals were very important to the team writing the goals because they allowed for the students to become more competitive with their counterparts in other schools. The acquisition of laptop computers made the second goal very feasible.
As of this writing, the school is anxiously awaiting the response of the Middle States Agency. The meeting of the standards does not automatically guarantee accreditation. Judy Hauck, principal of St. Peter’s School states, “Even if the results are less than anticipated, the process was well worthwhile and allowed for us to do a self-evaluation.”
An End to Summer
This past summer St. Peter’s School ran for its fourth year, a summer care program. The weather this year lent itself to countless hours at the local pool in North Utica. Camp counselors offered craft ideas, picnics, and field trips. Among the highlights was a trip to the Syracuse Zoo.
St. Peter’s students also met up with other summer programs to have a field day of games and activities, a picnic lunch and a swim in the pool. Summer faded too fast.
A Family in a Classroom
When anyone hears of a multi-age classroom the most common thought runs to the one room schoolhouse. In many ways the multi-age classroom is similar. This year at St. Peter’s there are two sections of multi-age classes including students in grades one through three. The children are taught based on themes and on ability. The children have already studied the rainforest this year and are currently working on monsters. Each student conferences with the teacher on his/her writing daily. The students also share the literature that is read regardless of age level, but reading skills are taught based on ability. Math is still being taught by grade level.
The idea behind multi-age is the fact that school is the only place in a person’s life where one is divided up based on age. Students in a traditional school then proceed through the next twelve years with children about their same age. In life, that never happens. At home there is a mixture of ages, in higher education there is a mixture of ages and in the work place there is a mixture of ages. The school is typically the only place where it is not.
At St. Peter’s, Dorothy Stacy and Janet Davis have taken on the challenge of teaching a multi-age group. The workload has increased, but there are some definite advantages to this system. Both teachers have some students that they had last year. The teacher already knows where those children are academically. With the mixing of ages, there is much better socialization. The children do less tattling and there is a much more nurturing relationship on the part of the older children.
Parents have been invited to visit the classrooms and see multi-age in action. It is still going through its growing pains. What is exciting is the enjoyment the children have about their learning. All they think is that this new way is fun and they don’t want to go back to the way it was. If learning is fun. . .well you know the rest.