ELSMERE — All Saints Catholic School partnered with the Healey Foundation two years ago, a move that changed its approach to leadership and development. The foundation recognized the school’s success since then, naming All Saints as one of two runners up for its 2018 Founder’s Award.
Mary Elizabeth Muir, All Saints’ principal, and Chantal Scott, the advancement director, visited the Healey offices in Haddonfield, N.J., in November to receive their prize: $5,000, which they said is being put to good use for the students.
The Healey Foundation noted that between 2011, when All Saints opened, and 2016, the school experienced sharp declines in enrollment. The school was formed to serve multiple parishes after the closing of Corpus Christi, St. Catherine of Siena and St. Matthew’s schools. Muir arrived before the 2016-17 academic year, and the partnership with Healey began last year.
All Saints began holding sessions for parents, students and teachers where they could discuss and identify common goals and work toward implementing them. The retention rate increased, and the number of new students coming into All Saints increased to 44 in 2017 and 47 in 2018. This year, a separate pre-kindergarten 3 class opened; last year, it had been combined with the 4-year-olds.
“This school is all about transparency and collaboration,” said Megan Famular, Healey’s director of schools. “The community of All Saints knows that you cannot succeed if you don’t have everyone moving forward together.”
The foundation cited the school’s willingness to empower its staff, laity, volunteers and parents. Scott said that included open houses and reaching out to members of its community “to make sure we’re on the same page about what’s best for everyone.”
According to Healey, All Saints demonstrated an ability to “be nimble and adapt to a changing environment. Muir said the school made some changes based on assessment scores, and the teachers implemented focus groups that improved the product.
“I think that demonstrates to parents that we hear them, we hear their feedback. And where it’s good for students and good for our school, we act on that immediately,” she said.
A third criterion is growth, but Muir said that is not necessarily measured in the overall number of students. All Saints is at 200 students this year, down from 203 last year. But she noted the aforementioned influx of youngsters in the pre-kindergarten classes and that last year’s graduating class was “probably the last largest class.” And retention has improved to about 93 percent, with a goal of 98 percent. This year’s eighth grade has 24 students, so the total enrollment should begin to move upward.
“We’re growing enrollment in the right place,” said Muir, who is in her third year leading All Saints.
The school has opened its registration for next year already, and with 19 boys and girls in pre-K4, there are only six spots available for kindergarten. All Saints is exploring open enrollment, through which it is assumed a student will stay until eighth grade.
Among the factors cited by the Healey Foundation for All Saints’ success is the use of the Renaissance STAR assessment tool to measure achievement and growth in students. Muir, the foundation noted, was among the first principals in the diocese to do that. Healey also pointed to the school’s participation in the Latino Enrollment Institute at Notre Dame University.
“The students are the most important members of this school community,” Famular said. “Every day, the faculty, administration, parents and school board ask themselves – what can we do to create the best possible educational environment for these children? They ask the questions, and they find the answers.”
All Saints is in the second year of its partnership with Healey. One of the benefits has been the addition of the advancement director’s position. According to Healey, contributions to the school’s annual fund have increased significantly.
In addition, All Saints is now led by a board of specified jurisdiction. It has representatives from all five parishes it serves – Corpus Christi, St. Mary of the Assumption, St. Catherine of Siena, St. Matthew’s and Our Lady of Fatima. Father Michael Darcy, pastor of Corpus Christi and St. Matthew’s, is a voting member of the board.