Thank You To The PTA!

As some of you may know, in addition to my position as Head of School at Saint Dominic Academy, I also hold another title which is almost as special to me. I am First Grade Class Mom at All Saints Catholic Academy. I’ve been the class mom for Abigail’s class since she started at ASCA in Pre-K Three. If you’ve never been a Class Parent or a room volunteer in an elementary school, I am here to say it is a great experience.

As a working mother, I will admit it is a sacrifice at times to volunteer. Most of the work that goes into my role as Class Mom is done in the late hours of the evening or the wee hours of the morning. At times, it is one more errand to run before I get home from work, or one more binge worthy TV program I do not see because I am writing reminder letters. And knowing all that, I must say, I am in constant awe of the members of the Saint Dominic Academy Parent Association. For, when I look at how much work goes into being a volunteer in the kindergarten, I have to multiply it by tenfold to fully appreciate how much work our volunteers here do!

For years, Catholic education has relied in part on the volunteers within the school who are willing to give back; to join a committee, to organize a fundraiser, to coordinate an event for students and without these volunteers in place, how could any school truly run well? Parents are an essential part of the Catholic school community; it has always been that way and it will never change. And so, as the end of the school year is always a time for heartfelt thanks, today I want to express my thanks, my gratitude and my appreciation for those members of the Saint Dominic Academy Parent Association this year.

They are as follows:

President- Mary Dowden

VP/Secretary- Maria Sasso

Treasurer- Stacey Swope

Social Media Coordinator- Peggie Marano

Communion Brunch Chairs: Kelly Lekic/Cathy Sabia

Back to School Chairs: Eileen and Chris Gill

Designer Bag Coordinator: Gigi Diaz

I thank each of you for a wonderful year and from one parent volunteer to another, I hope you know how very much you are appreciated and valued by all of us here at Saint Dominic Academy!

Graduation Remarks 2018

When I was a little girl, much younger than all of the young ladies sitting before me today, my favorite movie was The Wizard of Oz. I could watch it over and over again; much to my parents dismay I am sure. The transition from black and white to color, the sparkle of those ruby slippers, that twisting yellow brick road, and the beautiful Emerald City, where they can even dye your eyes to match your gown…not to mention a beautiful young heroine and a wicked old witch- it was the joy of my childhood whenever it was on the television.

Although I am not quite as “obsessed” with the film today, I still do watch it when it is on and more and more, it brings tears to my eyes. For in essence, the film is all about the transformation from an unsure young girl to a strong and empowered young woman…and in many ways, it tells the story of each and every young lady sitting before me today. Ladies, you are mere moments away from leaving Saint Dominic Academy; a world as unique and as special as Oz itself. Granted, we do not have yellow brick roads or flying monkeys, but over the past four, and for three of you the past five years, a life changing journey has taken place; a journey that will set you on the path for the rest of your life.

You came to SDA in the 8th or 9th grade as suddenly as that tornado dropped Dorothy into Oz. Overwhelmed, a bit confused, more than a bit disoriented, you immediately had to get to know and work with all the people who inhabited the world of Saint Dominic Academy. From the first period on your first day of school, your feet were upon an invisible yellow brick road. Just like in the film, the road turned in various ways, sometimes leading you to a new friendship that you now treasure in your heart, sometimes leading you into a situation in which you needed to work hard to overcome.

At times, you may have sought the advice of a wise mentor and at times, you may have needed to discover your inner strengths on your own. However, each and every one of you persevered, grew stronger, and grew more confident as you journeyed through high school. Today is the culmination of that journey and although I have no ruby slippers to give you; let me call to your minds the scene in the film where Dorothy realizes she has had the power to return to Kansas all the time. The gift to make yourself happy, to make yourself successful, to become the best person you can be resides inside of each of you, and has from the moment you took your first breath. Our role as your guides and helpers is done; it is now your turn to head off on your next adventure and I wish you the best of luck on whatever roads you follow in the future.

It is now time for me to say goodbye to you and I think it is only fitting that I use the words Dorothy herself used to say her final goodbye to the Scarecrow…”I will miss you most of all.” Congratulations, Class of 2018 and you will be loved always.

A World Without Creativity? Perish the Thought!

This year, the theme of the Saint Dominic Academy literary magazine, ELAN, poses the question What would the world be like without creativity? I was asked to prepare a written response to be included in the magazine and was quite honored and flattered to be included. The question is an intriguing one- for if we look around at our homes, our desks, our children’s toy boxes, television, music, the internet…we are bombarded with what has been created! No invention, no song, no show, nothing would be the same if it was not for the creative ideas of a person or group of people. All aspects of our lives, from technology to medicine, from sitcoms to must see landmarks, have all been fostered by creativity. We need only to look to the words in the Bible…7 Days of Creation…to understand that without creativity, our very world would not exist. It does not state that God invented the world or brought forth the word…no…He created the world and all its beauty. God is creativity in its purest form.

What  indeed would our world look like? A few short examples…

The cell phone would not be in your hand.

The world would not be at your virtual fingertips via the internet.

There would be no:

Yellow Brick Road or Over the Rainbow

Galaxy Far, Far Away

Jurassic Park

There would be no answer to “Who ya gonna call?”

Baby would remain in her corner

No platform 9 & ¾

No Hogwarts

No Anna and Elsa

No One Ring To Rule Them All in the land of Mordor

No Stairway to Heaven

No Walking Dead, Avatar, Game of Thrones or 13 Reasons Why

No raft ride down the Mississippi, no awakening after the kiss of a Prince

The list is endless…the mind boggles…without creativity we would no longer be ourselves.

Keep writing ladies…we need more creativity in our world each and every day.

We Offer Prayers…

Sr. Vivien Jennings, O.P. Sr. Vivien Jennings, O.P., 83, passed into the arms of our loving Lord on Saturday, May 5, 2018, in Mountainside Hospital, Glen Ridge, N.J. A Funeral Mass will be offered in St. Aloysius Church, 219 Bloomfield Ave., Caldwell, N.J., on Wednesday, May 9, at 10 a.m. Visiting will be in St. Catherine of Siena Convent, 7 Ryerson Ave., Caldwell on Tuesday, May 8, from 2 to 8 p.m. Office for the Dead will be on Tuesday at 4 p.m., in St. Catherine of Siena Convent Chapel. Sr. Vivien was a humble woman of joy, wisdom, reverence, compassion, and peace. She served her God and congregation faithfully for 66 years as a Dominican Sister of Caldwell. Born in Jersey City, N.J., Sr. Vivien knew of God’s love for her first from her parents, Mary Alice and Eugene. She entered the Sisters of Saint Dominic on Sept. 8, 1952, and received the Dominican habit on June 27, 1953, made first profession on June 28, 1954, and final profession on June 28, 1960. Sr. Vivien earned a BA in English from Caldwell College, an MA in English from Catholic University, an MS in communications from Syracuse University, and a Ph.D. in English from Fordham University. She pursued further studies in English at Oxford University, Urban Education at Harvard School of Education, and finance in higher education at Columbia Teachers’ College. Sr. Vivien served as an elementary school teacher at St. Aloysius School in Caldwell, St. Elizabeth School in Linden, N.J., Sts. Peter and Paul School in Hoboken, N.J., Our Lady of the Lake School in Verona, N.J., and St. John’s School in Clark, N.J. She then taught secondary school at Lacordaire Academy in Upper Montclair, N.J., and English at Caldwell College in Caldwell. Sister served as major superior of the Caldwell Dominican Order from 1969 to 1979; was founder of Link Educational Center, Newark, N.J.,; president of the Dominican Leadership Conference from 1978 to 1979; continuing education director at Caldwell College from 1980 to 1982; telecommunications director at Barry University from 1982 to 1983; public affairs director at Catholic Telecommunications Network in N.Y.C. from 1983 to 1984; president of Caldwell College from 1984 to 1994; Caldwell College professor from 1996 to 1999; Principal of St. Dominic Academy in Jersey City from 1999 to 2006, and director of website office for the Caldwell Dominican Order in Caldwell from 2011 to 2015. Sr. Vivien touched the hearts and brought the message of God’s patient, truthful, never-failing love to all who came to know her. She reminded us that God is always present in our lives. Sister Vivien was predeceased by her parents, Mary Alice and Eugene Jennings; her sisters, Alice White, Eugenia Smith, Marion Sheridan, Marjorie Menz, and Harriet Jennings, and nephews, Eugene Menz, Roger, John, Bill, and Tom White. She is survived by her loving Sisters of St. Dominic; her nieces, Jean-Anne Smith, Ellen (Neal) Brower, Sandy (Bob) Kahn, and Anne White, and nephews, Norman (Rita) Menz Jr., Wayne (Donna) Menz, John (Carol-Lee) Smith, James (Cathy) Smith, William (Clare) Sheridan, Mark (Joann) Sheridan, and Allen White, and many grand-nieces and grand-nephews. In lieu of flowers, memorial donations to the Sisters of St. Dominic, One Ryerson Ave., Caldwell, N.J. 07006 would be appreciated.

Published in Star-Ledger on May 6, 2018

 

This week, the Saint Dominic Academy community prays for

The repose of the soul of Sister Vivien Jennings, O.P.

We ask that God hold her in the palm of His Hand until we are able to once again reunite with her in His Glory.

Expansions Abound…

As we head into the end of our school year, I am so pleased to share with all members of the SDA community some wonderful new official expansions in terms of staffing here at Saint Dominic Academy. All of these changes will be effective for the 2018-2019 school year.

I recently had an opportunity to meet with members of the Leadership Team from Caldwell and they truly once again have blessed our school community. Our Dominican Leadership in Caldwell has graced us with a gift for our 2018-2019 school year.  A second year novitiate, who will reside at Our Lady of Sorrows Parish, will be coming to SDA daily to serve as our Campus Minister. Sister Gina will join us this coming August and will be supervising all aspects of Campus Ministry as well as showcasing and working to implement new service projects for our young ladies. I am certain our young ladies will welcome Sister Gina in September and in a matter of days she will become an integral part of the SDA Community.

Campus Ministry is not only office change for the 18-19 school year.  Ms. Kristen Mallon will be joining Andrea Apruzzese in Admissions for the next school year. Ms. Mallon, who is currently our beloved P.E./Health and Anatomy teacher and who works tirelessly with LINK Crew and the Be A Leader program, will retain her P.E. / Health classes but will sadly leave the Anatomy classroom. Her primary focus will be on recruiting; doing our school visits, High School Nights and other interactive events with prospective parents and students. We are all looking forward to see Ms. Mallon embrace this new role!

Finally, and for our dedicated Alumnae and Parent Associations, perhaps most importantly, our Advancement Office will expand as well. Anyone who has ever stopped in to see Mrs. Mary Murphy has gotten only a small glimpse of just how busy that upstairs office is.  Mrs. Murphy will continue to lead the office as Director of Advancement with Darlene Lisotta retaining her role as Administrative Assistant and Database Manager.  We will be adding a Coordinator of Special Events, a new position in Advancement with no teaching duties. I am most pleased to announce that Ms. Stephanie DeSarle, who has taught English at Saint Dominic Academy for 3 years, will move into that role as of July 1st. She will still supervise our Dramatics/Musical Theater program and anyone who has seen one of her shows well knows the precision and attention to detail she will bring to the Events office.

It’s been a springtime of change here at 2572 and I am most confident that these changes, all for the better, will help SDA continue to grow and flourish during the next school year.

If We Couldn’t Laugh…

It’s that time of year where we celebrate mothers- those women who REALLY deserve to be celebrated every single day of the year! While I am sure many of us, myself included, are able to collect a hug and kiss every night- all the hugs and kisses in the world do not fully repay all that we do in order to make certain our children’s worlds revolve and remain in perfect orbit 24/7- 365.

I wonder, when my mom had me (GULP) 41 years ago this July, did she have a sense right from the start that I was going to be a bit of a handful? Did she look past the mini tantrums, the occasional back talk, and the eye rolling that at times can persist until this day and see that I had the traits of a leader-someone who will speak my mind and who will work tirelessly to help others? I am hoping so, because as I now deal with the mini diva living in my house, I am trying hard to put things in perspective. The dramatic hand to the forehead look of shock when I say no more chocolate, the hysterical weeping if I even suggest that her Woody from Toy Story doll remain in the car while we run into a store, the hands on hips stare off when I announce it is bedtime, the tireless singing of “Let It Go” early on a Saturday morning…can I smile to myself at all of this and look to how it will shape her for the future? Well, I can try and most days I do try. Does anyone else foresee a career in the Dramatic Arts for Abigail??

The point being, my readers who are mothers and grandmothers…did you look to the future and see who your children would become? And more importantly, do your children recognize that you were shaping their lives for the better, even as you praised or scolded them?  All of us who are mothers do that, I think. We see the amazing amount of potential in the tiniest human and from the first moment of motherhood, we take on the arduous and sometimes trying role of shaping that little one so that he or she will grow far beyond initial potential and do wonderful things.

I know in my heart, just from being at Saint Dominic Academy, that every girl in this school has someone in her life loving her, seeking out the best for her, and at times, correcting her so that she can go forth and set the world on fire. And, moms of teenagers, I know what’s to come…but any insight would be helpful…. Just how many sleepless nights will I have in the future? Her first date? Her first time borrowing the car? Prom?  And if I ask my own mother, she will say the sleepless nights never really end and I know that to be true. She worries about me, she has spent a lifetime of caring for me, just as all of you do with your own children and just as I will always do with my daughter.

Motherhood is a never ending job, and a very hard one, and yet, I am willing to bet one that each of us relishes and savors and truly enjoys. As Mother’s Day fast approaches, please collect extra hugs from your children- they are so well deserved! Please know how grateful I am that you are such inspirational figures in the lives of each girl at Saint Dominic Academy. And please, maybe just for Mothers’ Day weekend- give yourselves a break. Laugh at the eye roll, smile at the tantrum, blow a kiss to the rolled eyes and content yourself with the knowledge that someday, some tiny human will be giving your daughter the exact same behavior!

 Laugh, laugh, laugh, moms, because,  as I learned very early on my journey as a mother- If we couldn’t laugh, we would all go insane!” ( Jimmy Buffet)

Inside Ms. Degnan’s classroom…

For the past few weeks, my merry band of 9th grade honors students and I have been studying the novel Treasure Island. As we are halfway through our novel we have encountered some rather fierce and black hearted buccaneers thus far. For many of my students, the pirate icons they best associate with are the infamous Captain Jack Sparrow or Captain Barbossa from Pirates of the Caribbean fame.Fun to teach in and of itself each year, however this year I had the opportunity to talk with the young ladies about how at times we as a country alter or re-shape history.

When the students who participated in the Disney YES program and I were down at the Magic Kingdom, we are all sad to see that the much beloved Pirate ride was “closed for renovations.” Most annoyed at not being able to ride one of my favorite attractions, I took to the internet to find out what the change was. Surprised by what I learned, I quickly realized how the change made to the iconic ride would be a wonderful teaching tool in my Siena Honors classroom.

My young ladies read an article explaining that the “Wench Auction” scene would be removed from the ride and would be replaced with a scene of a fearsome woman pirate helping to pillage and sack a town. The link for the article is here and please do read it before moving forward…

http://www.travelandleisure.com/travel-news/new-redd-character-pirates-of-caribbean-ride-disney-world

Interesting yes? I thought so and the question I posed for my students was this one…

Do you agree or disagree with Disney’s changing of the scene?  Is it an attempt to “re-write “ history to remove unfavorable depictions of how women were treated or is its purpose to showcase that there were female pirates in our history? Today, I would like to share with you some snippets of their responses…

Although the auction scene may contradict our beliefs now, it is accurate according to history. – Olivia

I feel altering the auction scene is disregarding history…the ride and it’s experience should  be as authentic as possible. – Alyssa

I feel (Disney) is trying to add a part of history that is often overlooked. – Persia

You cannot erase history, you cannot disregard that pirates disrespected women. – Hannah

If a child sees a woman with a rope around her neck…it is not the best image for Disney to put out there. – Courtney

I would not want my child to see a woman being sold.- Nas

I believe Disney is finally giving female pirates their proper place in history- Christina

By changing the dialogue to “We Wants The Rum” instead of “We Wants the Redhead”,  they(children) will still see a common stereotype of pirate behavior. – Olivia S.

They are erasing history, which does bother me…Disney is overanalyzing the ride. – Isabella

They (pirates) take advantage of women and treat them as objects. This is pirate history and we cannot erase it. – Milani

It ( poor treatment of women) is a topic that should be brought up…but NOT in a Disney ride. – Megan

Changing the scene …. Was to do justice to the historical female pirates forgotten through time. – Avery

Interesting and varied viewpoints, yes? While I did not share where I stood on this topic with the young ladies, I was very impressed by all they had to say. That is the gift of Saint Dominic Academy…at only the end of their 9th grade year, these young women can examine an issue thoughtful, make a strong argument and support it. The first stages of empowerment are right here…in the classrooms at SDA!

Remarks from the 19th Annual Gala

This past weekend, Saint Dominic Academy host their 19th Annual Gala.  Today, I would like to share briefly with you my opening remarks at that event…

Welcome to Saint Dominic Academy’s 19th Annual Leadership Gala.  As Head of School at Saint Dominic Academy it is my pleasure to celebrate with you this evening, as we honor distinguished alumnae and friends of Saint Dominic Academy.

As I have said often in by weekly blog posts, I am a big believer in tradition. Tradition is something everyone in the room is familiar with and all of you tonight are very lucky to be connected to a school that is so steeped in Dominican tradition and Dominican excellence.

Tonight, we are gathered together to honor devoted alumna, Cathy Carnevale as well as proud past parents and current Board of Trustee member; George and Carol Taite. As we honor them here tonight, I would like us to briefly pause for a moment to honor everyone in this room-

Each and every one of you are a gift to Saint Dominic Academy and through your generosity this evening, you will work to ensure that our school will have lasting impact on the lives of girls, just as it has since 1878.  You presence here tonight also ensures that the school’s tradition of excellence in education will carry far into the future

Anyone who knows me, know there are three very important reasons that make me so very happy to be a part of Saint Dominic Academy.

I believe in Catholic education.

I believe in girls.  

And I believe that it is in all girls schools where young women can truly become empowered to lead and to change society for the better.   

Tonight, let us celebrate the generations of women from Saint Dominic Academy, 1878 to the present who have left their impact upon so many others. Let us come together to ensure that we can continue to work to impact the lives of many future generations of students.  Thank you so much for being here and I sincerely wish all of you a most enjoyable evening.

Lounging Around…at SDA!

The long term goal of our Parent Association this year was to create a space just for our seniors; a place where they could relax and unwind, a place to study and socialize, and most importantly, a place just for them as they are the leaders of the student body.  Alumnae from years past may remember certain senior classes claiming the legendary Phone Booth as their mini lounge and more recent alumnae may have fond memories of Student Council Executive Board members allowing other seniors to hang in the STUCO Office, but those are legends of the past.

This week, I am proud to announce that our Senior Lounge, located in the rear of ELAN, in what used to be Saint Catherine, is fully furnished,  stocked with a mini fridge and microwave, and will soon be receiving a flat screen TV for SENIORS ONLY. The TV comes as a gift from Mr. and Mrs. Joe Anderson, whose daughter Megan will be able to enjoy the lounge space next year.  There is nothing like the allure of a place being “off limits” to draw curious eyes, and I have seen more than a few underclasswomen taking the back stairs for no reason in order to briefly walk through the coveted Senior Lounge. All in good time, ladies…one day in the future it will be your own private space.

For now, the movable plush couches, two papasan chairs and the ability to store snacks and lunch,  eat up meals, or simply relax during a free period belongs to the Class of 2018. These young ladies were patient with us all year as we worked to create the lounge bit, by bit.  It is due to the very hard work of our Parent Association Board, led by President Mary Dowden, mother of Megan who graduates this spring, that this lounge was even possible. To every parent who supported a Parent Association event, fundraiser or activity this year, I wish to thank you on behalf of the Class of 2018, and all of the classes that follow.  This space was much needed, long overdue, and a true gift to all of the young ladies as they face the stress and hectic nature of senior year.

As Head of School, I am always hopeful that the senior class this year and for years to come will invite me to lounge around if they are watching something of interest…but I will not hold my breath! These young ladies, the  Class of 2018, have EARNED this relaxing space after all of their hard work and I very much hope all of your daughters will enjoy it one day as well.

Keep your eye out, I sure, for the #selfiesfromtheseniorlounge. I imagine it will be coming soon to a social media site near you!

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