Dear Priory Family,
I hope you are have had a restful and enjoyable summer! At the end of each May, I think that most students and teachers are ready for the summer break. The summer allows us to slow down a bit and recharge. My hope is that by the end of August, most of us are refreshed and ready to start another school year at Priory.
The highlight of my summer was going to Santiago, Chile with Father Francis, Mr. Oberle, and 26 Priory students. The trip was a powerful experience that will help strengthen Priory’s Tutoria program and improve student life on campus. The trip also challenged me to think about Benedictine education and spirituality and how it shapes life at Priory.
Having returned from Chile, I am feeling energized as I assume my role as Director of Student Life at Priory. As I evaluate student life on campus, I am looking for ways to improve the student experience. My greatest resource for improving student life is you. As a parent or as a current student, you have a perspective of our school that I do not. Therefore, please feel free to come to me and share your ideas about how student life can be improved on our campus.
Getting to Know You
An area of focus for me in this first year as Director of Student Life will be strengthening relationships among the Priory community. A great thing about Priory is its size. It’s a small enough place that we know each other, and no one can remain anonymous for very long. One of my goals for this year will be to get to know every single student in the school. I will interact with many of you on a daily basis in the classroom or through other activities, but there are many of you who may not interact with me as often. Those students should feel free to come by and chat in my office in the high school, and they should not be surprised if I ask them to talk at some point this year. I think that these personal connections will allow me to better serve the needs of the student body.
A Note on Attendance
Like the monastery at the center of our campus, the school is a community. In order to live in community, the monks commit their time and energy to one another. In a similar way students and faculty must make these same commitments in order to intentionally build strong relationships. The primary commitment that we make to one another is our presence. The school day is intentionally structured with this relationship in mind. Most days start with a meeting in advisory, which is a small group that builds its own community over the course of the year. After the advisory meeting we meet together in assembly or at Mass as a school community. This time together may seem inconvenient on some mornings, but the shared experience builds a sense of togetherness that grows over the course of a year. When students are frequently absent from advisory meetings, assemblies, Mass, or classes, these communities are damaged. This year I would like to encourage students and their families to make attendance a priority. Repeated unexcused absences or tardy arrivals will be documented and addressed immediately. My hope is that this vigilance with attendance will ensure that students do not disconnect from their many communities at Priory.
Changes in Discipline
Building relationships also requires communication, and with that concept in mind the disciplinary system at Priory will be altered. In the classrooms and in the hallways of Priory, we hold each other accountable for contributing positively to the life of the school. For many years a tool for accountability has been the demerit card, but its effectiveness has waned in the high school in recent years.
In the past, the demerit system may have stopped misbehavior in the moment, but it also ceased communication and “hid” the misbehavior in a student’s pocket until a fifth demerit was received. This lack of communication and lack of transparency created problems when patterns of misbehavior were not identified and discussed immediately. In an effort to make discipline more transparent and communicative in the 2015-2016 academic year, high school students will not be issued demerit cards.
Without the demerit system, teachers will make a special effort to establish communication with students, parents, and administrators. If a student is repeatedly misbehaving, teachers will first attempt to talk to the student and establish expectations about classroom behavior focused on a mutual respect. If that conversation is not productive, parents will be contacted and made aware of a boy’s misbehavior. If this conversation with the parents does not result in a positive change, then the student will be issued a disciplinary referral. A disciplinary referral will automatically initiate a meeting of the boy, his parents, the teacher, and the Director of Student Life. This meeting will establish a course of action for the boy as well as outline more severe consequences if expectations are not met. Full details on the new discipline procedures can be found in the Student Handbook.
It is my hope that this transparent system of discipline that focuses on communication will result in a more meaningful experience of formation for students. It puts trust in a student’s intrinsic motivation to contribute to the strength of the community rather than relying on an external force that demands conformity.
When I think about Student Life on Priory’s campus, my goal is for every student to feel like he is a part of a community that knows him and cares for him. We are all a part of the larger Priory family, but what makes us feel that sense of community usually happens at a smaller scale.
It happens in advisory, or the classroom, or on the playing field. It happens when we pursue interests outside the curriculum and join a club or other student activity. Therefore I want to encourage all students to get involved and choose to be a part of something. If the selection of student activities does not appeal to you then come and talk to me about what does.
Enjoy these last few days of summer! I look forward to welcoming you back to a community that needs you!
Director of Student Life