June 29

Here we are, at the end of June already. Had it been any other summer season, I am certain that most of you would be either packing up for vacations, or returning from early summer vacations. Planning for August trips, booking overnight stays at theme parks, attending summer intramural sporting events…how many of us will even look to do any of those things this summer? While you know from my blog a few weeks ago that I have been heading out here and there- it is with extreme caution and usually followed up by a period of staying home. Nobody can be too careful and even now, months from when this pandemic began, there is no such thing, in my mind at least, as too safe.

I am sure many of you tuned in to hear Governor Murphy on Friday, as he released the NJ Guidelines for a return to school in the fall. I was saddened by the fact that he only saw fit to mention private and parochial schools once during his briefing. What I heard him say was what I had predicted all along- the districts will set up a plan that best ensures the health and safety of the students, that adheres to all requirements for social distancing in the guidelines, and that ensures that the faculty and staff take precautions and stay safe as well. Our Governor is trusting those who run school districts in New Jersey to make decisions for the students under their care. As he has done in other instances since COVID-19 began rampaging our state- he’s letting the experts weigh in and make decisions. 

And what of us in private education? Well, we will certainly look to the model that the district sets up; however what works for the public high schools in Jersey City may or may not be what works best for Saint Dominic Academy. As a private school, we will look to both district guidelines as well as to our own experts- our administration, teachers, parents, board members, and students themselves–because we want to ensure that, while we fully adhere to the guidelines, we offer a plan that we feel is the most beneficial, most successful and of course, the safest for the students entrusted to us. I can assure you that, as we always are, Saint Dominic Academy has been extremely proactive in planning and in evaluating the best way to safely return in September.

Our Remote Advisory Committee has been working for over a month; attending webinars, researching different models of learning, and meeting weekly with administrators via Zoom. All of our teachers will be attending Professional Development training for remote learning methods, should we need to implement them. Different department members have also been sent to training and workshops and we have more scheduled in the coming weeks. We have, just last week, surveyed our parents, asking them their thoughts about the feasibility of returning to school, of their comfort level in social distancing, after school sports and activities, et al. I thank all the parents who took the time to respond- especially those who provided written feedback in the comments section. Prior to surveying the parents, we had our students complete surveys on virtual learning for every class they took during 2019-2020 and our teachers completed surveys as well. We have had calls with consultants about social distance measures including, but of course not limited to, face shields, glass barriers in labs, temperature scans…the list is endless. 

Do I, at this moment, at the end of June have a a final plan that I can put into your hands? No- not as yet. However, I want to reassure you that we have not one, but several draft models mapped out- each one looking at different ways to ensure that your daughter gets the full Saint Dominic Academy experience; academic, athletic, and social- to the very best of our ability, while still making the health and safety of your daughters, your families, and our faculty and staff a number one priority. 

We will have our plan to you in the coming weeks…and if any parent wishes to talk one on one with a member of the administration to discuss concerns or fears about what the fall of 2020 will look like, please just reach out and we will schedule a call to talk. 

We’re not out of the woods yet…but we are, as we have been since 1878- a family, a sisterhood, and we will do everything in our power to meet your needs, exceed your expectations, and keep your children safe. I offer my continued daily prayers to all of our families- may God keep us safe, keep us healthy, and be with us as we continue to experience losses, great and small, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As always, I ask you to join me in prayer for the lives lost- may they rest in peace. 

June 22

The end of June is almost upon us already; nearly a month since our beloved Class of 2020 held the first ever virtual commencement ceremony in the history of Saint Dominic Academy. All throughout the planning process, the Administration and faculty of Saint Dominic Academy assured our seniors that, once we could- we would do our best to gather them together for a final live farewell to their teachers, their school, and each other. The memories they would have made from March to May were taken away from them, not through any controllable situation but because of the world wide pandemic of COVID-19.

The virus is, as we know, still among us. We must all still take care, be cautious and venture into this reopening of our world with tiny steps. However, we have reached the moment when we can gather together and celebrate and in a little less than a month, that is exactly what the Class of 2020 will do. 

A Save the Date for July 20, 2020 was sent out this week to our recent graduates. A faculty committee, joined by five members of the Class of 2020 has been working tirelessly to plan this event and the details, including a online RSVP link will go out by the end of this week. We at SDA cannot wait to see our seniors, decked out in their caps and gowns, gathered at SDA; to receive yearbooks and awards, to laugh and talk with friends, to pose for celebratory photos, and of course to thank the teachers who helped and guided them through their time at Saint Dominic Academy. 

My heartfelt thanks to the committee for working with the Administration on this event, to the parents and friends of the Class of 2020, for believing us when we said we would do all we could do to ensure a gathering like this took place over the summer, and most especially to our graduates—thank you, for your maturity in the face of disappointment, your understanding in the face of sadness, and above all for your patience and faith in all of us at 2572 Kennedy Boulevard. The time has come to bring you “home” one last time before college and to celebrate you the way you deserve to be celebrated!

Keep an eye on your email this week for the invite and RSVP. See you in July, Class of 2020!

June 15

Emily Dickinson tells us hope is the thing with feathers… and although I’ve been an English teacher for over 20 years, I never gave much thought to that quote before. However, it’s been running through my head this entire weekend. You see, as our state begins to re-open, I took a ride to the Jersey shore. That’s right, I went not “to the beach” but as we from NJ say proudly, “down the shore.” Now I did not venture into the ocean yet- not because of social distancing, but because it’s just too chilly for me, but on Friday evening, I took a walk on the Seaside Heights boardwalk.

Now, I’ve been walking those boards since I could walk; I remember the old Log Flume and when the Beachcomber was built out over the sand, and the roller coaster that’s now iconic, due to the haunting image of it in the sea after Hurricane Sandy. I’ve had Midway fries since I had teeth and gotten sick after eating a candy apple and going on the Tilt- A Whirl…the list is endless. However, never in almost 43 years would I describe Seaside Heights as “paradise” or a “haven”. Fun, sure! Exciting, you bet! A little wild, depending on whether you ventured into Bamboo or one of the many other nightclubs just off the boards…absolutely! But a thing of pure beauty—no even my poetic soul never saw it that way.

Until Friday night…and perhaps that change has little to do with where I was and more to do with the fact that I was somewhere. I have a feeling, people all over NJ and all over the United States are experiencing or soon will be experiencing the same emotions as I was. Play a wheel of chance? Sure- step right up; never mind that I’ve thrown out bags of boardwalk prizes in the past almost 9 years. Ice cream before dinner? Of course you can have it- sprinkle or no sprinkles? Fudge, taffy, a quick peek at the rides- not yet open but with a promising sign saying “opening soon”…well it’s enough to make anyone’s heart flutter.

Paradise, I think , for many of us is just that tangible place we venture when we want to feel hope and joy. What makes a place paradise is how it makes us feel inside. What I saw on Friday was beautiful- I saw people smiling at each other, saying excuse me, casually exchanging words like “beautiful sunset” and “so nice to be out” as they stood six feet apart in lines waiting for a snack, a drink, or a chance to play a game. I heard children’s laughter- not just the sweet laugh of one child in her house, but echoing, ringing laugher that seemed to come from everywhere all at once. I saw grandparents holding tiny hands and I would swear I saw tears on some of their cheeks-just to be able to hold that tiny hand in theirs had to be paradise for them. I myself could not stop smiling, could not stop planting kisses on my child’s cheek as she laughed and ran up and down the boardwalk, and what’s more, I could not stop noticing that everyone around us was happy, content, and just full of joy to be outside. 

Reopening has to happen slowly, I agree with that wholeheartedly. Precautions have to be taken, and regulations have to be set in place. We cannot, as a state, as a country, as the human race just skyrocket back to the way we were before and forget our lockdown as if it was a bad dream we thankfully awoke from. We have to remember and be careful, lest we wind up repeating it in the not too distant future. We have to remember it for other reasons as well- those intangible reasons that don’t have as much to do with physical health and safety as they do with our state of mind and how, now more than ever, it can encourage us all to be better, more grateful, and more appreciative people. 

I didn’t know Seaside brought me so much joy until I was home in my living room for almost 100 days. Each of you, each of us, now gets to experience a series of “firsts” over and over again- and that’s a gift we’ve earned after all our weeks at home, and that’s a gift we should treasure. First hug between grandpa and grandson. First meal at a restaurant. First time seeing friends. First time back on a swing, on a golf course, in a hair salon…and most joyful for me, the first time I’m able to step into Our Lady of Mercy Church and attend mass…well, I think for a while it will feel a little bit like Christmas morning every time we gain back one of those things we used to do with no thought to it.

It seems, now, as if we’ve done a good job of weathering the storm; we can see the rainbow on the other side. We can have hope once again. We can feel joy once again. What we have to remember to try to do- as we move forward is to retain that happiness, to let our best selves shine through, to be kind and welcoming to others at all times, and of course to take moments to pray for those we lost—

Let us not ever once forget them for a moment, as they cannot be here today to celebrate the joy we will all feel as we slowly but surely reopen our world. 

7-11th Grade Message

Normally, this blog would be the text of the speech I gave at the Commencement Ceremony. However, since the ceremony is on our social media where everyone can watch it, it seemed redundant to post the written speech when readers who want to share in my “insights” for class of 2020 can hear them by watching the ceremony. So instead, I decided to share my final message of the 2019-2020 school year, which was sent to the young ladies in grades 7 to 11 last week. They’ve all been exceptional during this period of remote learning and I wanted to motivate them to keep up their dedication to their studies during the summer months…

You’ve made it to the last week of the school year. I know it has not been the easiest year, especially from March onward ( and even before March we had our share of “adventures” this year!) but you’ve done an exceptional job and you should each be extremely proud of yourselves. 

I wanted to take today, as you begin to daydream about all the “downtime” you’ll have this summer, to share with you- for those that don’t know- that I began my teaching career 20 years ago, in 2000 as an English teacher. While the first two years, I taught SAT prep, from 2002 onward, I have always taught at least one English class during my career. You all know this has not changed, as I continue to teach an English elective at SDA each year.

Nothing was more fun for me, when I taught English full time, than to select the novels that were going to be read over the summer. I always wanted the summer reading to be fun, to be enjoyable and to inspire in each student a love of reading. Your English teachers this year have done the same and have chosen some wonderful works for you to read over the summer months.

Mrs. Good will be sharing the list with your parents, via email and I know your teachers have shared the summer reading lists with you.  Because I feel that summer reading is so important and essential- I’m also sharing it here…along with some “thoughts.”

To Kill A Mockingbird- a classic- pure and simple. In my Film class, the father in this novel is considered to be the Number 1 Hero in Film…and when you read the book, you’ll know why!

The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon-  In my top ten favorite books of ALL TIME! I miss teaching it so much- anyone who wants to chat about it over the summer…just email me. Ask any girl at SDA who took my 9th honors class about “Trisha” and they can give you an earful! You’re going to LOVE it.

Shoeless Joe-  As all American as apple pie. Sports, fantasy, family…I bet you’ll cry at the end. And if you don’t…ask your dads/grandpas if they cried at Field of Dreams!

Love Is a Mixtape- Goodness! I’ve not read it, although I’ve read others by the author. You let me know if I should give it a try!

This Side of Paradise- Anything by Fitzgerald is amazing! If you like this over the summer…wait until you get to the symbolism of the green light at the end of Gatsby’s dock next year!

On The Road-  Not going to lie- a hard read, but well worth it. And since we won’t be taking many road trips this summer, a virtual one with a acclaimed author is the way to see America over the summer!

Pride and Prejudice- I love it so much, when Abby was a baby she had the Baby Lit Board book version. It’s romantic, it’s got great leading ladies, and it’s witty. You will enjoy it!

The Metamorphosis-  read it for first time as a junior in high school- could not get over the concept so I disliked it very much. Read it again in college- it broke my heart.  Don’t wait till college to appreciate this book- it’s short enough that you can read it twice if you need to in order to get over the visual and get to the heart of the matter.

Never Let Me Go- So, you know how Facebook keeps your memories and reminds you of them? When I read this- it left such an impression that I posted about it and every year I am chilled for a few minutes when I reflect on this novel. You’ll like it…it will make you think.

The Alchemist- A must read- for AP for sure, but for everyone! 

The Glass Menagerie- know what would be fun? To get on a daily Zoom with your friends and read it aloud! Drama is meant to be read aloud and when you hear the words, you will feel the moods of the characters. The phrase “gentlemen callers” will be a part of your vocabulary  forever. 

Of Mice and Men-  Many have read it before, I know.  It has been a “staple” of English classes since I was in high school and with good reason. If you haven’t read it- get tissues for the last chapter. If you have- trust me and do the re-read…its interesting how your view can change in just four years ( see my blog on Wicked for more insights on changing viewpoints!)

Well, ladies- there’s my unsolicited advice on your summer reading and thank you for allowing me, not just as Head of School but as an English teacher at heart the chance to share with you my thoughts on the stories set before you this summer!