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A View From My Home Office

A Message from the Head of School: A View from My Home Office

Dear NDA Family,

Today is May 20th, the 10th and final week of Virtual School for the 19-20 academic year at Notre Dame Academy students. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has reported 1,504,830 total cases and 90,340 total deaths as a result of COVID-19 in the US and the World Health Organization (WHO) has reported 4,735,622 total cases and 316,289 total deaths around the world. Governor Baker has shared guidelines for a phased re-opening leading to the “new normal.”

As I sit at the desk in my home office, I am enjoying the bright sunshine coming through the windows; Mia and Bianca are elated that they may be able to go for a puppy spa day soon; the red roses that sit on my desk smell delightful; and I sip my cup of tea thinking about how I am experiencing so much gratitude for the hidden blessings that Coronavirus has brought, while simultaneously experiencing quarantine fatigue. While this time has allowed for much reflection and cherished time with my children, it has also brought moments of exhaustion fueled by a great deal of uncertainty. According to a recent article by the Cleveland Clinic, this crisis, “has drastically altered milestone celebrations and recreational activities on top of eliminating a lot of the services that we rely on daily. These major changes have brought on a lot of grief. In grieving the lives, we once knew, we find ourselves feeling drained or emotionally numb.” This cognitive overload that so many of us are feeling, leads to lack of concentration during the day and not sleeping well at night. Everyone is affected in some way by the changes over the past two months.

As I sit at the desk in my home office, I am reminded that I am part of a special community working together in support of each other - students, faculty, staff, administration, parents, alumnae, and the broader community. This support fuels my mental and physical energy and allows me to continue to be effective and productive.

Even in these challenging times, there is so much for the Notre Dame Academy community to celebrate. Yesterday, over one hundred students and family members gathered on Zoom for the 2019-2020 Awards Assembly and honored our athletic and academic award recipients. The Awards presentation can be seen here. My personal congratulations to all of the recipients who showcase the NDA values of character, community and commitment!!

This Friday is the last day of classes at NDA. On Friday, we will have a very special Year End and Class of 2020 Prayer Service in the morning and host “Senior Beep Day”! “Senior Beep Day” has become one of the favorite traditions of NDA Seniors. With some alterations to the tradition, Seniors will gather in their cars and beep for 2 minutes 20 seconds to mark their 2020 graduation before leaving campus for the last time as NDA students. (Our advance apologies to our neighbors!) Seniors will return to campus with their families at their assigned time over the course of the next week for their Senior “Walks.” Using social distancing, each senior will walk across the auditorium stage in their cap and gown. A professional photographer and videographer will capture this significant moment for each Senior. We will be compiling all of the videos into a special presentation for the Class of 2020.

As I shared in a previous communication, in addition to ensuring NDA students continued to receive a high level of education in this alternate environment, as well as planning non-traditional year-end activities and events, the NDA Leadership Team has been preparing for the 20-21 academic year. Later in June, we will share summer assignments, class schedules and book requirements with parents and students. In mid-June we will be announcing the new faculty and staff that will be joining the NDA team this fall. I am quite excited about the experience and passion that the new staff will bring to the Academy. Adding to our tenured team’s enthusiasm, we will undoubtedly have an extremely talented faculty educating and supporting our students this fall. Being able to look towards the fall with such excitement certainly does help combat quarantine fatigue.

That excitement, however, does not taint the reality that next school year will look far different from the classrooms NDA students and teachers abruptly departed 10 weeks ago. The reality is that we don’t yet know what those classrooms will look like. The NDA team is currently scenario planning our “new normal” which could include one-way hallways, desks 6 feet apart, students and teachers in masks, and teachers switching rooms rather than students. And though I am very proud of our transition to the virtual learning environment over the last few months, there were certainly many lessons learned, and these lessons provide us an opportunity to build an even better online or hybrid program moving forward if necessary. Our Health and Safety Team and our Academic and Student Experience Team will be meeting over the summer to understand the needs and develop and employ the necessary solution sets. No matter what considerations need to be made, ultimately the Leadership at NDA will ensure the first priority remains the health and safety of our students and employees while we continue to ensure a quality, personal educational experience.

As the 2019-2020 academic year ends, I will be shifting this communication to a bi-weekly correspondence. I will continue to communicate with you via “A View From My Home Office” to share all of the exciting things happening at NDA over the summer - though maybe I will be writing it from my NDA office soon! As always, if you have any questions or comments at any time, please feel free to reach out.

With my warmest regards and sincere wishes for a wonderful summer,

Lisa
Lisa Mancini ‘88 P‘18 Head of School
Notre Dame Academy
lmancini@nda-worc.org

 

A Message from the Head of School: A View from My Home Office

Dear NDA Family,

Today is May 13th, the 9th week of Virtual School for Notre Dame Academy students. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has reported 1,342,594 total cases and 80,820 total deaths as a result of COVID-19 in the US and the World Health Organization (WHO) has reported 4,098,018 total cases and 283,271 total deaths around the world. Massachusetts residents are anxious for more direction on re-openings expected from Governor Baker on March 18th.

As I sit at the desk in my home office, I am enjoying the sunshine and the bird songs make me happy; Mia and Bianca cuddle up with each other looking very content with the routine to which they have become accustomed; my heart smiles as I look at the beautiful flower arrangements given to me in celebration of Mother’s Day; and I sip my cup of tea thinking about how parenthood has been redefined for me as I get older. Apart from a much deeper appreciation for my own parents, I have come to believe that the true meaning of parenthood is cherishing all of the countless people who nurtured us during our lifetime. An entire community of people must interact with children for those children to grow into healthy adults.

As I sit at the desk in my home office, I am in awe that this academic year is drawing to a close. It seems like the NDA faculty, staff and students were just celebrating Kris Kringle before Christmas break - and now we are in the last week of classes for the Class of 2020 and have one more week of classes for the rest of the student body. Faculty and students continue to work hard right until the end.

The next few weeks are full of year-end activities that include the following:

  • Last night, Mrs. Butler and Mr. Nathan hosted “Tacos and Trivia” for the 7th and 8th grade St. Julie Division students and their families. It was a BYOT "bring your own taco” night. Congratulations to the Dynamic Dugan’s for coming in first place! Muy Bien!
  • Tomorrow at 4:30pm we are hosting a special Admissions Q&A. We invite those interested in learning more about NDA to meet some of our students, parents, and faculty and ask questions. Spread the word,
  • On 5/13, the Seniors participating in the Global Perspective Studies program will share, via Zoom, their Portfolio Reflection with Mr. Delongchamp and other members of the Faculty and Staff.
  • On 5/15, Mr. Johnson will lead our Virtual Fine Arts Assembly, sharing some of the incredible artwork of our students. The event will feature music, slam poetry, Shakespearean sonnets, Senior Project art performances, and more.
  • On 5/18, we will host a virtual Awards Assembly to celebrate athletic and academic award recipients. Junior and Senior parents are invited.
  • On 5/20, we will meet with the rising Seniors to begin planning for next year's Little Sister-Big Sister program - a favorite tradition at NDA!
  • On 5/20, we will also meet with the rising Juniors to discuss next year’s Ring Day.
  • On, 5/21 Mrs. Lubelczyk is hosting a virtual Freshman Scavenger Hunt.
  • On 5/22, the Religion Department is leading our virtual Year End and Class of 2020 Prayer Service. Senior parents are invited.
  • From 5/26 through 5/29 we will be celebrating the Class of 2020 with Senior “Walks.” Using social distancing, each senior and their family has been invited to the school. Seniors will be given their cap and gown and will walk across the Auditorium stage. Professional pictures and videos will be taken and will be compiled into a special presentation for the Class of 2020. Each family will also be able to enjoy traditional pictures on the campus during the family’s designated time.

All of these activities are very bittersweet, especially in these circumstances. Yet, I am so delighted by how creative the NDA Leadership has been in the planning of events that will allow us to celebrate the successes of our students. Along with parents and students, we worked together to find solutions that preserved the important traditions yet uphold social distancing guidelines. I am very proud that our community has been able to rally and ensure we maintain perspective about how we need to handle year end events. While the need to change plans, especially spring sports and graduation, is extremely disappointing, it is not devastating. This week, the father of one of our students passed away. That is devastating. I ask that you please join me in praying for this NDA family and all families around the world experiencing loss and grief.

The Coronavirus pandemic undoubtedly is taking many things away. Yet, I firmly believe it is also giving us many things. We are strengthening our resilience and perspective muscles; traits that will empower all of us to profoundly grow in many different ways. More than ever, we enjoy our connections (albeit virtually) that show us that we are not alone in the midst of this crisis. We are reminded of the importance of our community of people.

As promised, I will continue to communicate with you via “A View From My Home Office” on a weekly basis. As always, if you have any questions or comments in the meantime, please feel free to reach out.

With my warmest regards,

Lisa

Lisa Mancini ‘88 P‘18 Head of School
Notre Dame Academy
lmancini@nda-worc.org

A Message from the Head of School: A View from My Home Office

Dear NDA Family,

Today is May 6th, the 8th week of Virtual School for Notre Dame Academy students. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has reported 1,171,510 total cases and 68,279 total deaths as a result of COVID-19 in the US and the World Health Organization (WHO) has reported 3,525,116 total cases and 243,540 total deaths around the world. There is still an abundance of confusion and uncertainty surrounding this current pandemic.

As I sit at the desk in my home office, the sun shines brightly through my windows and I can finally see true signs of spring; Mia and Bianca bark incessantly at the squirrel who is invading their space in the yard; I enjoy this week’s bouquet of tulips that I picked up over the weekend from the “drive- through” at Wicked Tulips in Exeter, RI; and I sip my cup of tea thinking about the personal lessons that I have learned in the last eight weeks. Those lessons include realizing how little I really need to survive, how much I appreciate what and who I have in my life, and that the “normal” life before COVID-19 may never return - and in so many ways, that’s perfectly ok with me.

As I sit at the desk in my home office, I continue to plan for year-end activities while preparing for the start of a new academic year. I have spent hundreds of hours watching videos, listening to webinars, reading articles and conversing with colleagues regarding end of year activities, especially for seniors. Although disheartening, the fact is that there is no perfect solution to how to celebrate our students who have worked so hard over the last four years. That being said, we are working very hard to wrap up this unusual year by celebrating the hard work of all of our students. Last Friday was a very special celebration of the Class of 2020 with a number of parades to each seniors’ home delivering lawn signs and t-shirts.

Last week, we also announced the establishment of the Alliance for Independent Catholic Schools. I hope you have seen the many articles and news pieces on this exciting partnership between Notre Dame Academy, St. John’s High School, and Venerini Academy. All three schools have  tremendous histories. Each ministry was founded by dedicated and heroic leaders - St. Julie Billliart, Theodore James Ryken, St. Rosa Venerini. The work envisioned by each of these leaders and fulfilled by those who followed these leaders of yesteryear is the strong foundation of this Alliance.

Each of our schools has a distinctive, rich history and we are all excited to be able to work collaboratively to continue to fulfill the charisms of our founders while still being able to embody our own missions in unique ways. With this Alliance, we are proud to stand on the shoulders of all the Notre Dame, Xaverian, and Venerini giants - looking ahead towards the future - together. As a reminder, we invite members of our community to join us for a presentation and Q&A forum tonight from 5:30-6:30 pm via Google Meet. Access the forum at meet.google.com/vhk-utor-ucf or join by phone at 1-413-438-4510 PIN: 989 208 349#.

I have also been spending a lot of time thinking about the lessons that NDA has learned from this pandemic. Many of these lessons will surely help us to plan appropriately for different scenarios in which we may find ourselves in this fall. The NDA Leadership Team is pouring our energy into reevaluating our approach and re-envisioning our engagement model and success factors. Our goal is to create an environment that is safe but also dynamic. Our teachers have honed new skills and have shown creativity while developing new relationships with technology. We will now work to sustain and embrace these learnings to be able to benefit our students and fully live up to the expectations of our community. We will undoubtedly continue to provide a strong and differentiated education that also bridges social-emotional and spiritual needs. More than ever, our learning infrastructure will focus on the whole-person and our mission will be our guiding light.

Almost two years ago the Board of Trustees and the faculty and staff re-stated the Notre Dame Academy mission, “Notre Dame Academy is a dynamic, independent, Catholic school for girls in grades 7-12 sponsored by the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur. Welcoming girls of all faiths, the Academy provides transformational experiences that “teach them what they need to know for life.” Our graduates are confident women who are lifelong learners, spiritual seekers, and compassionate global citizens.” Our task now will be to re-define “transformational experiences” in a way that we could never have imagined.

In closing, I would like to wish all teachers, but especially the NDA faculty, Happy Teacher Appreciation Week! The students prepared a beautiful tribute to the teachers who work tirelessly to educate, engage, encourage, and inspire them every day. I have always been thankful for teachers but now I am in awe of their superpowers. They are multi-tasking rock stars who inspire and awaken the minds and hearts of our students. This year we are especially thankful for the teachers and staff who are leaving NDA at the end of this year to spend more time with family and friends - Mrs. Diane Anderson, Sr. Barbara Collins, Mr. Gerry Delongchamp, Mrs. Cheryl Ducharme, and Mrs. Sandy Gibson-Quigley. We will miss them all immensely!

As promised, I will continue to communicate with you via “A View From My Home Office” on a weekly basis. As always, if you have any questions or comments in the meantime, please feel free to reach out.

 

With my prayerful best wishes,

Lisa

Lisa Mancini ‘88 P‘18
Head of School
Notre Dame Academy
lmancini@nda-worc.org

A Message from the Head of School: A View from My Home Office

Dear NDA Family,

Today is April 29th, the 7th week of Virtual School for Notre Dame Academy students. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has reported 981,246 total cases and 55,258 total deaths as a result of COVID-19 in the US and the World Health Organization (WHO) has reported 2,995,758 total cases and 204,987 total deaths around the world. Governor Baker extended the Massachusetts stay at home order to at least May 18th and announced an Advisory Board to advise the administration on strategies, including in education, to reopen the economy in phases based on health and safety metrics.

As I sit at the desk in my home office, the sun shines through my windows (finally!); I look at my dogs, Mia and Bianca, and acknowledge that my pet grooming skills are abysmal; I enjoy the bouquet of tulips that I hand-picked at Ferjulian’s Farm in Hudson that are gorgeous shades of neon pink and orange: and I sip my cup of tea thinking about how much I enjoyed surprising my mother on her 73rd birthday yesterday with a Birthday Brigade. I am thankful for family, friends and the Sutton Police and Fire Departments for joining our vehicle parade to remind Mom how much she is loved, even from afar. It was a bright spot during a difficult period in all of our lives.

As I sit at the desk in my home office, I am preparing for the end to the academic year, continuing to build the infrastructure for next year, and planning on multiple scenarios that can address what the beginning of the year may actually look like for NDA. There are still so many unknowns beyond May 18th. However, what I do know is that the NDA team is committed to ensuring that our students’ academic success and physical and emotional well-being will remain at the forefront of every decision that is made.

In terms of the end of the academic year, last week’s communication shared details of the school calendar for the rest of the year. We are still finalizing plans for many year-end activities and will continue to keep NDA families informed as those decisions are made. Even though ending this year in this fashion has been deflating in some ways, I continue to see the hard work of faculty and students continue and appreciate all that NDA parents are doing to encourage their daughters to stay engaged and actively learning. As a reminder, in an effort to ensure NDA families have an opportunity to ask questions about the remainder of the school year, we will be hosting three NDA Family Q&As tonight. Parents and students are invited to attend and an email was sent with the Zoom link. The schedule for these Zoom sessions is as follows:

  • St. Julie Division (7th and 8th grade) - from 4:00pm to 4:45pm
  • Freshmen, Sophomores and Juniors (9th -11th grade) - from 5:00pm to 5:45pm
  • Seniors (12th grade) - from 6:00pm to 6:45pm

In terms of building infrastructure for next year, we shared some upcoming changes to the organizational structure last week. We have been interviewing for open positions over the last weeks and I am hopeful that we will have most filled by the end of May. The Board of Trustees has also approved the 2020-2021 budget. All of this will allow myself and the Leadership Team to focus summer activities on adjustments needed as we reopen the school building in September 2020.

In terms of next year, I have included the preliminary 2020-2021 Academic Calendar for next year as promised. We are continuing to brainstorm about possible scenarios. As a small school, NDA has unique challenges with enrollment and development, which are, of course, the main functions of the Academy’s financial success. We are grateful for the generosity of an anonymous champion of NDA, and I ask that we all do our part to help match the $100,000 gift by June 30th. This Pay it Forward Challenge Match will provide a significant boost to our operations and we are most grateful for this champion’s faith in our work as these dollars will be even more important in these challenging times and will continue to ensure financial success.

As a small school, however, NDA also has unique opportunities that will allow us to design solutions that can support the needs of our students while ensuring we abide by any potential future rules of engagement while maintaining safety in our learning environment and ensuring the strong curriculum to which NDA families are accustomed. For sure we have had so many learnings from the current virtual structure. I am confident this experience will allow us to take those learnings, embrace them, and build strategies that will position us as even a stronger leader in the education of young women in our community.

Lastly, I encourage you to keep your eye on the news this week as NDA will be announcing a new partnership which will create new academic, extracurricular and athletic opportunities for our students. I am really excited about this news and look forward to sharing more about this collaborative effort in the coming days.

As promised, I will continue to communicate with you via “A View From My Home Office” on a weekly basis. As always, if you have any questions or comments in the meantime, please feel free to reach out.

You remain in my thoughts and prayers,

Lisa

Lisa Mancini ‘88 P‘18 Head of School

Notre Dame Academy lmancini@nda-worc.org

A Message from the Head of School: A View from My Home Office

Dear NDA Family,

Today is April 22nd, the 6th week of Virtual School for Notre Dame Academy students. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has reported 776,093 total cases and 41,758 total deaths as a result of COVID-19 in the US and the World Health Organization (WHO) has reported 2,402,250 total cases and 163,097 total deaths around the world. The coronavirus crisis continues to put intense pressure on families, communities, and the world as we carry on navigating this unprecedented situation.

As I sit at the desk in my home office, the sun peaks in my windows; I look at my dogs, Mia and Bianca, and I am happy they keep me company during the day (though they don’t sound anything like the student laughter I miss so much!); I enjoy the beauty of the gorgeous pink flower arrangement my mother sent me last week, and I sip my cup of tea thinking about how I was supposed to be in Italy on the NDA Performance Tour this week. In fact, we should have been traveling to Vatican City to participate in a Papal audience and should be singing for Pope Francis today. We are all experiencing feelings of loss of what should have been.

As I sit at the desk in my home office, I am saddened that we will not be returning to finish the NDA school year at 425 Salisbury Street together; however, I do agree that not returning to the brick and mortar classrooms this year is the right decision in order to protect the health of individuals in our school community and, therefore, the broader community. Although I have only been at NDA for six months, I already adore the NDA students and love being at school every day. As a parent who witnessed the milestones and excitement of year-end celebrations for my own children, including prom and graduation, I can only imagine how heartbreaking this is for the students, most especially our Seniors.

Now that Governor Baker has announced that schools will remain in the virtual environment for the balance of the school year, I know many of you are wondering what this means for some of the activities we had planned. Today, I will share the decisions that have been made by the NDA Leadership Team to date:

  • Last Days of School - The last day of school for Seniors will remain Thursday, May 14th; however, seniors taking AP courses are expected to take the AP tests (including those scheduled after this date). The last day of school for Grades 7-11 will be Friday, May 22nd. For all grades, there will be no additional days beyond the last day of school, specifically for final exams. Over the next few weeks teachers will share details of year end exams or projects for each class. All final exams will be a component of 4th quarter grades.
  • 8th Grade Promotion Ceremony- The promotion ceremony for our 8th graders will be postponed until Tuesday, September 1st. The ceremony, in which 7th and 8th students partake, will include a lunch at the Knollwood Mansion in addition to an evening celebration with family. We will provide additional details as we get closer.

  • Junior/Senior Prom - The AC Hotel in Worcester has allowed us to postpone the prom until Friday, July 24th, assuming it is safe to host this type of event. If by July we are still not able to gather in groups, we will need to cancel Prom this year.

  • Graduation - We are planning two graduation celebrations for our Seniors. First, we will be hosting a Virtual Graduation ceremony on the planned date of May 31st at 2pm. We want to celebrate our seniors on the day they had planned to become NDA alumnae. We will be distributing caps and gowns to Seniors and will have a virtual ceremony where they can invite family to watch as we honor each of them. This will be a traditional NDA ceremony in a unique fashion. In addition, assuming we are able to do so, we will be hosting an NDA Senior Family Barbeque on Thursday, July 23rd. The goal is for Seniors to wear their decorated caps on Thursday and their prom dresses on Friday - having a “Caps to Gowns” celebration, marking the extraordinary end of their high school careers with an exclamation mark.

  • Senior Dinner and Senior Class Trip - The BBQ on Thursday, July 23rd will take the place of the Senior Dinner. The Senior Class Trip has, unfortunately, been cancelled.

  • Athletic and Academic Awards - In lieu of the Athletic Awards Night and the Class Day Awards ceremonies, we will be having a Virtual All School Awards Assembly to celebrate all Award winners on Monday, May 18th, beginning at 2:30pm. Again, details will be shared as we get closer to that date.

  • Class Elections - Class elections that are typically held at the end of the year will be postponed until we return to school in September.

  • SJD Tacos and Trivia - Tacos and Trivia Night for the St. Julie Division 7th and 8th grade students and dads (or grandads or uncles…) will be held at 6:30pm on May 12th via Zoom. It will be “make your own tacos”, but we will supply the trivia game!

  • Year End Liturgy - Although details are not yet confirmed, we will be planning a Year End/Senior liturgy.

In an effort to ensure NDA families have an opportunity to ask questions about the remainder of the school year, we will be hosting three NDA Family Q&As. Parents and students are invited to attend. The schedule for these Zoom sessions is as follows:

  • St. Julie Division (7th and 8th grade) - Tuesday, April 28th from 3:00pm to 3:45pm
  • Freshmen, Sophomores and Juniors (9th -11th grade) - Tuesday, April 28th from 4:00pm to 4:45pm
  • Seniors (12th grade) - Tuesday, April 28th from 5:00pm to 5:45pm

I know that some of these decisions are less than ideal and not what any of us had hoped for. But this pandemic is unprecedented, and the safety of our community is paramount. COVID-19 has brought a lot of heartbreak to families in the form or sickness and even death of loved ones. It is important that we all keep that perspective in mind as we lament the changes to our academic year end. I am confident that the NDA spirit will persist and, regardless of the setting, we will continue to celebrate all of our students.

It’s also important that we remember that the school year is not yet over. Although some of the focus may be on the shift of year end activities and the range of emotions that may surface, our primary focus needs to be continuing to help our students complete this academic year successfully in the virtual learning environment. I hope every NDA student is enjoying April vacation but is also ready to return to the virtual classrooms next Monday with the same enthusiasm for learning that they always have. I know the NDA faculty have many more lessons planned that will continue to “teach them what they need to know for life.”

In closing, I would like to share my sincerest thanks for all of the congratulatory notes I received last week after the Board of Trustees announced my appointment as Head of School. I feel truly blessed to be able to continue the work “of Making God’s Goodness Known” at Notre Dame Academy in Worcester. I would also like to publicly congratulate Susan Butler and Emily Haley on their promotions to 20-21 Principal and Dean of Students, respectively. The commitment of Susan, Emily, and the rest of the NDA Leadership Team, Faculty and Staff is extraordinary. I am very excited for the future of NDA!

As promised, I will continue to communicate with you via “A View From My Home Office” on a weekly basis. In next week’s communication I will also share the 20-21 Academic Calendar. As always, if you have any questions or comments in the meantime, please feel free to reach out.

You remain in my thoughts and prayers,

Lisa