Rejoice in the Lord Always Live in Harmony with One Another

Many of you checked the school Facebook page and noted the smiles and happiness on the first day of school. At our opening prayer service, led very well by eighth graders, Lucy, Claire, Evelyn and Louis, we prayed on our theme of joy, harmony and togetherness. The kindergarten students were in attendance at an all-school prayer service for the first time and I invited them to stand and wave. They received a grand round of applause. I then called on the twenty-three new students in grades one through eight by grade level and they very bravely stood to cheers of welcome. And as I looked out over the community of students and teachers, I was reminded of how grateful I am to be a member.

I wish to thank and commend the teachers at St. John. They are excited about the new school year and happy to be at St. John School. Their dedication to the mission, spirit of community, and willingness to act for the common good cannot be quantified. When I listen to the news of the recent negotiations in the school districts across the state and the salary increases awarded to the public school teachers, I am reminded that many of our staff did not choose to work in Catholic schools because of the salaries. They chose to work in an environment that is Christ-centered where values are based on the teachings of Jesus.
However, as the gap between public school salaries and that of St. John increases, I feel there is a social justice issue at hand. Though editorials and news articles call the public and district budgets unsustainable, we too are called to provide our teachers with a just and living wage. The reality presented by the increases is that our highly qualified and effective teachers now earn salaries well below their state and local counterparts and they have to contend with the rising cost of living in Seattle. We certainly want to retain our teachers.

The soon to be published, St. John Strategic Plan calls for the hiring and retention of quality teachers. In order to achieve salary increases for core teachers and specialists, the long-range financial plan we have in place will need to be adjusted.  During the 2017-2018 school year we spent wisely and closed the fiscal year ahead of the budget prediction. With the permission of Fr. Crispin and the support of the Parish Executive Committee and representatives of the School Commission, we will use those funds as a base to rewrite the 2018-2019 covenants of the certified teachers to give them a slight increase in their salaries. While this gesture will not match that of the public schools, we see this as a first step toward remaining competitive in the job market and providing a just and living wage for our teachers.

The cost of the increase is more than the cash that we have in hand. I want to assure you, parents, as I assured Mrs. Ocampo that the specialist position remains in the budget and is not affected by this decision. We will access some reserves to meet the obligation, but we must take steps to replenish them. I am turning to you. In order to balance the 18-19 budget and prevent us from having a negative outcome, I am asking all of you to help! Please reach out to more friends and relatives for the Jog-a-thon and the auction! Remember that funds raised through these programs, go straight to the operating budget, eighty percent of which is salaries and benefits.

Calling all Superhero readers and mathematicians: Students who completed a summer reading or math program earned free dress tomorrow, Friday the 7th. Students who did both reading and math will pick up their treat at the courtyard after school!

Kindergarten is still on a half-day tomorrow, Friday. Next week, the students will have full days.

Parent Curriculum Night for students in Grades K-5, will be September 13, from 7:00 – 8:30. This event is for you parents to hear what is happening in the school overall. The homeroom teachers will host two break out session so you can learn about the events, procedures, and curriculum for the year ahead. The students really benefit when parents and teachers work together.

And for more togetherness, rejoicing and harmony, see you tomorrow evening at the Back-to School BBQ!  It starts at 5:30.

Thank you,
Bernadette O’Leary