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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 August 12th. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has reported 5,064,171 total cases, and 162,407 total deaths resulting from COVID-19 in the US and the World Health Organization (WHO) has reported 20,162,474 total cases and 737,417 total deaths around the world.

As I sit at the desk in my home office, I can’t believe how fast the summer is going and that it’s already mid-August; I appreciate cuddle time with Mia and Bianca before heading to my NDA office; I am enjoying a bouquet of tropical flowers reminiscent of a glorious vacation; and as I sip my cup of tea, I feel refreshed and recharged thankful to be healthy and happy.

As I sit at the desk in my home office, I review my “to-do” list in my mind - fill remaining open positions, ensure the campus is thoroughly cleaned and safe, obtain additional PPE, finalize technology and air quality consultations, complete campus improvements, secure additional funding for unanticipated needs, continue to prepare curriculum for the Introduction to Business class I am teaching, and the list goes on. I reflect on the relatively small team that has made so much progress with our back to school preparations. They have “dug deep” with creative solutions, securing helpful donations, and shifting their traditional summer plans to ensure NDA is ready. I am incredibly grateful and incredibly proud of our team and their efforts.

NDA is also very fortunate to have a supportive community. A heartfelt thank you to those who have made donations to our Pandemic Preparedness Fund. Donations can still be made on-line here.

As previously shared, NDA is returning to school on campus, with the first day of classes on Thursday, September 10th. NDA Faculty and Staff and NDA families have received separate communications about the meetings and orientations that will be taking place on campus between September 1st and September 9th. Also, parents and guardians have received a separate invite for a Q&A Virtual Town Hall Meeting scheduled on Wednesday, August 19th, at 5:00 pm to ensure all questions are addressed before returning to school.

As a reminder, the current return to school plan is as follows:

  • The first full day of school is Thursday, September 10th
  • Return to In-person instruction on campus, with appropriate social distancing and masks, five days a week
  • Enhanced technology in all classrooms and increased e-learning professional development for faculty
  • Defined Safety and Wellness protocols, including mask breaks, sanitation stations, amplified daily cleaning routines, outdoor spaces
  • Synchronous virtual learning available for those families that choose this option
  • Plans in place should a hybrid or wholly virtual environment become necessary.

Both the Academic and Safety and Wellness Task Forces remain active, and members of each team are on-site preparing the campus. Multiple sessions of Professional Development for faculty, focused on technology, are occurring. The NDA Co-Athletic Directors are also monitoring MIAA communications and will provide updates to our student-athletes as soon as we have more information.

As you know, the Baker-Polito Administration released additional data on the community-level spread of COVID-19 in Massachusetts. A review of this data shows that the vast majority of NDA students and employees live in lower-risk communities. This factual data, coupled with the size of our campus and number of students, solidified our decision to be back on campus - allowing us to support the needs of the whole student - emotional, social, and academic. Of course, safety will remain at the forefront. There are certainly no easy answers, and each family will come to a different conclusion about what decision is right for them. At NDA, we will have an alternative option for those families who prefer virtual learning.

The data and the environment could change at any time, necessitating us to reconsider at any point throughout the year, but, for now, we look forward to the sounds of our students on campus at 425 Salisbury Street on September 10th.

In closing, I would also like to share my thoughts on a recent NDA social media post. The post read, “Congratulations to California U.S. Senator Kamala Harris for becoming the third woman in history to be selected as a presidential running mate. Harris is the daughter of an immigrant mother from India and an immigrant father from Jamaica, making her the first African American woman and South Asian American to be chosen as the Vice President of a running mate by the presumptive presidential nominee for a major party ticket.” The post was intended to celebrate a critical moment in history for women and was not a statement about a political party or a candidate’s endorsement. While most understood our intent, unfortunately, others did not see it as such. At NDA, we teach the importance of having a voice. We recognize the gift of diversity. We encourage respectful dialogue and questioning aimed at deepening our understanding. We salute empowered women.

I hope these updates continue to be informative. The next edition of “A View From My Home Office” on August 26th will be the last before I (happily) shift to “A View From my NDA Office.” As always, if you have any questions or comments, please feel free to reach out.

With peace and blessings for continued good health,

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 July 29th. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has reported 4,280,135 total cases, and 147,672 total deaths as a result of COVID-19 in the US and the World Health Organization (WHO) has reported 16,341,920 total cases and 650,805 total deaths around the world. The pandemic is the defining global health crisis of our time and the most significant challenge we have faced since World War II. Even more than a health crisis, it's also an unprecedented socio-economic crisis, causing a myriad of different stressors to each person. 

As I sit at the desk in my home office, I am thinking about the beautiful Summer 2020 weather we have had thus far; I stare at Mia and Bianca cuddled up beside me in a yin and yang formation, reminding me that harmony exists where complementary forces interact and form a dynamic system where the whole becomes more significant than the assembled parts; I am enjoying a bouquet of fully bloomed bright yellow roses from last week’s very memorable NDA Class of 2020 graduation celebration; and as I sip my cup of tea, I am in disbelief that we soon shall be turning the calendar to August. 

As I sit at the desk in my home office, my brain is overloaded with considerations, plans, and the necessary supplies and student, parent, and faculty and staff training needed to ensure a safe reopening in September. Due to the hard work of the NDA Executive Leadership Team, and many volunteer faculty and staff members who are spending time at NDA this summer, I am confident that we are building and will implement a well thought out plan. This plan will keep the safety of our community, as well as  the potential need to change gears, at the forefront. Much like the image of Mia and Bianca’s yin yang formation, a dynamic system is being built. I have included highlights of the plans below.

Return to School 

As mentioned in my July 15th communication, NDA has the unique ability and physical space to deliver a strong academic education and address the social-emotional health of our students, while still being able to adhere to the current safety guidelines on campus. Of course, we are also preparing plans which will allow us to alter our plan to a hybrid or wholly virtual environment, in a moment’s notice, if that becomes necessary for any reason. 

However, recent assessments have shown that we need more time to adequately prepare our faculty on the new technology and safety protocols that are being put into place. Therefore, we are making a slight change to the first day of school. Rather than September 8th, as previously communicated, the first day of school will be Thursday, September 10th. In a separate correspondence, Faculty and Staff will be given more detail about expectations for the sessions occurring September 1st through September 9th. Students and parents will be receiving independent communications with detailed information about New Student Orientation, which will take place the afternoon of September 2nd as well as the Return to School Student Meetings, which are mandatory for all students. In these two-hour sessions, each grade level will come together (using social distancing rules) at a designated time on September 8th and 9th to hear more about the new Safety and Wellness, Academic, and Technology protocols. One parent or guardian is welcome to attend with each student. 

Parents and guardians will also be receiving a separate invite for a Q&A Virtual Town Hall Meeting scheduled for Wednesday, August 19th, at 5:00 pm to ensure all questions are addressed before returning to school. 

In summary, as of today, the current return to school plan is as follows:

  • The first full day of school is Thursday, September 10th
  • Return to In-person instruction on campus, with appropriate social distancing and masks, 5 days a week 
  • Enhanced technology in all classrooms and increased e-learning professional development for faculty  
  • Defined Safety and Wellness protocols, including mask breaks, sanitation stations, amplified daily cleaning routines, outdoor spaces
  • Synchronous virtual learning available for those families that choose this option

Academic Task Force 

Though we certainly face the challenges of a changing academic landscape this fall, what has always ensured a quality Notre Dame education remains the same: a dedicated and talented faculty, a focus on the individual care of our students, and a commitment to a rigorous curriculum that will serve our students beyond our gates.  Principal Susan Butler adds that “To serve all of our students and families during this time of uncertainty, we must have clear communication, protocols, and resources in place that are consistent across all classrooms. Parents and students alike should know exactly where to find assignments, grades, and information. Our teachers are experts in their fields. It is my job to make sure that they can best communicate this expertise and passion in a format that allows them to connect to our students and families in the meaningful way that sets Notre Dame apart.”  

To this end, our faculty have begun a series of professional development sessions to hone their learning platform skills, classrooms are being equipped with technology that will allow both our “in the building” students and our students who may be learning from home a bonded classroom experience, and our technology is being tested for its capability and efficacy. Clear guidelines are being formulated for the delivery of classroom assignments and resources, grading communication, and student classroom behavior and expectations - both in school and remote. Additionally, supply lists, Bring Your Own Device (Grades 9-12) parameters, and Chromebook (Grades 7-8) distribution information will be communicated in the next two weeks.  Students will not be able to share materials in the classroom, nor will lockers be in use to ensure hallway safety and distancing. 

While we hope to see all of our students on our campus for our full academic year, plans are already in place for both a hybrid and full remote schedule if needed or required. Our hybrid schedule would break each grade level into two cohorts. Cohort A would attend school on Mondays and Tuesdays while Cohort B attends classes remotely in real-time. Wednesdays all students and teachers attend their full class schedule remotely. Cohort B would attend school on Thursdays and Fridays while Cohort A attends classes remotely in real-time. Regardless of the plan in use, all work and assignments will be communicated through our enhanced Google Suite for Education Enterprise Classrooms. This allows us to be fully remote on a moment’s notice with no loss of educational time. All of these procedures and learning platforms will be reviewed with both parents and students before starting school. 

We do understand that some families may choose to continue remote learning as we open our doors. That is a very personal decision that Notre Dame will honor and support. You will be receiving a survey within the next two weeks to ask you to let us know your plans and choices. We will also ask some questions that will help us to serve not only your student’s academic needs but also her social and emotional needs as well.

Safety and Wellness Task Force 

According to the CDC, schools are an important part of the infrastructure of communities and play a critical role in supporting the whole child, not just their academic achievement. As a small, independent school, Notre Dame is working hard to ensure the safety and wellness of its students, faculty, and staff while continuing to provide the academic and social experiences that shape a student’s education on campus. Dean of Students, Emily Haley, shares that “we are fully aware of how unprecedented these times are and that physical and mental health and safety are of utmost importance alongside academic learning. There is no doubt the return to school will look different this year, but what does not change is our commitment to helping all members of our community succeed and be well. We will communicate protocols and help everyone adapt to the necessary changes. The Guidance and Heath & Wellness team members are here to assist everyone with any concerns, anxieties, and needs as we head into the new school year.”

The Safety and Wellness Task Force has been busy preparing the building for the start of the year using state guidelines. We are implementing plans for thorough cleaning schedules, sanitizing stations, door openers, instructive signage, outdoor study space, alternate classrooms, staggered class dismissals, mask breaks, and more. PPE supplies for students and faculty are a priority and there will be updated protocols for the Nurse’s Office. Student Wellness Plans will be developed as needed for new and returning students which can aid with academic success as well as social and emotional needs during this new normal. Additionally, meetings with the Dean of Students, School Nurse, and Adjustment Counselor will be available for anyone who has specific questions or concerns. Finally, a Pandemic Protocols Handbook is being written and will be shared at the Return to School Student Meetings in September.

Athletics 

As you may know, on Tuesday, July 21st, the MIAA Board of Directors unanimously approved the COVID-19 task force’s recommendation to push back the Fall 2020 Athletic season from August 24th to September 14th. The date change was advised by the MIAA Sports Medicine Committee, but this will also give school administrations some time to work through the unforeseen challenges of the first few days of school before introducing fall sports. Come early August, DESE and the EEA will issue guidelines regarding the fall athletics season. While there are still many questions regarding what sport participation will look like this fall, the priority “is that it has to be done safely.”

As for NDA Athletics, Co-Athletic Directors, Caitlyn Germain and Patricia Provost are working collaboratively with NDA’s Safety and Wellness Task Force to identify protocol and resources needed to support our student-athletes, officials, and entire athletics staff for a safe return to sport. While we would certainly love to start our sport participation opportunities as usual, we understand that ensuring health and safety is the primary focus.

We will continue to keep the NDA Community informed of decisions made. In the meantime, we have created three new social media pages to ensure the NDA community has access to updated information related to NDA Athletics. You can like and follow via the following links. 

Twitter: https://twitter.com/ndaworcathletic

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/ndaworcathletics/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ndaworcathletics

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion 

The NDA Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Task Force is being assembled and will be meeting in early September. The group includes NDA Faculty and Staff, Students, Alum, Board of Trustee Members, and Community Members, each bringing experience or expertise in the areas of race, ethnicity, religious beliefs, gender identity, sexual orientation, differently-abled (physical and mental), and socio-economic status. I hope to share the names of the Task Force members in my next bi-weekly communication.

The faculty and staff are currently reading White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo and will participate in a group book discussion on Thursday, September 10th. NDA Alum are invited to join this discussion and can do so by emailing Lindsay Baker at lbaker@nda-worc.org for the Zoom link.  In addition, all NDA faculty/staff and students are reading Refugee by Alan Gratz. They will join school-wide discussions about the book’s message, including its connection to the Hallmarks of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur. 

We, at Notre Dame Academy, are committed to ensuring continuous dialogue, education, reflection, and necessary improvement to honor the dignity of all people. 

Board of Trustees 

This month, three new members, Mary Beth Burke, Patti Peterleitner, and Sean Rose, were appointed to the NDA Board of Trustees. I am very excited about the addition of all three as they join a dedicated group of Trustees, bringing tremendous value and insights that will help govern NDA’s future trajectory. 

Lastly, I would be remiss in closing this communication if I did not ask for your support in two areas. 

First, the US Conference of Catholic Bishops and the National Catholic Education Association is partnered with private schools and are lobbying on our behalf to ensure that Catholic schools have access to emergency relief funds. As you may know, the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act, H.R. 6800, passed the House on May 15. Currently, this bill denies Catholic Schools access to the proposed $200 billion budgeted for education funding, putting Catholic schools and students at risk. In recent weeks many people have contacted Members of Congress in support of Catholic schools, and almost 100,000 messages were delivered!  The coming days are filled with challenges for Catholic Schools as the Senate debates the bills that will directly affect US schools. To affect change that would benefit our school if the legislation is passed, I am asking you to complete this short form https://actnow.io/z4DLBe9.

Second, I fully understand that the pandemic has caused significant financial concerns for some families. However, other families have asked how they can specifically help alleviate some of NDA’s financial pressures as we prepare to return to school. The Academic and Safety Task Forces are finalizing their needs assessments and have begun to purchase necessary items. As you can imagine, the identified needs will have significant financial implications. And because many of our spring and fall fundraising events were canceled and the need for items was unknown when building our 20-21 budget, I am asking those of you who can to consider a monetary gift to help NDA through this unusual and challenging time. Enrollment is robust; a Fall Fundraiser is being planned (we will be “concentrating” funds raised on return to school expenses…. “orange” you wondering what the fundraiser will be?), a new online Spirit Shop is being built to raise funds, and best prices are being procured for all needed supplies. 

However, additional funding is still necessary to ensure we continue to accomplish our goals and serve the NDA community well. If you can donate, please do so by either visiting our website at https://www.nda-worc.org/giving/pandemicpreparednessfund and making an online donation, noting you would like your donation to be added to the Pandemic Preparedness Fund, with a credit card or PayPal or by sending a check directly to Notre Dame Academy, 425 Salisbury St, Worcester, MA 01609 Attn: Pandemic Preparedness Fund.

I hope these updates are helpful and informative. I truly appreciate the support of the entire NDA family! As promised, I will communicate with you via “A View From My Home Office” on a bi-weekly basis throughout the remainder of the summer. If you have any questions or comments at any time, please feel free to reach out.

With gratitude and blessings,

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 July 15th. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has reported 3,355,457 total cases and 135,235 total deaths as a result of COVID-19 in the US and the World Health Organization (WHO) has reported 13,119,239 total cases and 573,752 total deaths around the world. On Sunday, more than 15,000 cases were reported in Florida, alone — the highest daily tally of any U.S. state to date. At the same time, Sunday was the first day in months that New York City recorded no COVID-19- related deaths.

As I sit at the desk in my home office, I am reflecting on the wonderful and relaxing vacation spent with my family on Cape Cod last week; I am listening to Mia and Bianca tell me about the great time they had at the puppy resort while we were away, though Bianca expressed her discontent that we were not there to share her ice cream to celebrate her 2nd birthday (don’t worry we made it up to her!); I am enjoying a spectacular bouquet of hydrangeas in gorgeous shades of blue, similar to those that are covering the Cape right now; and as I sip my cup of tea, I am appreciative of the time to relax and unwind by enjoying the ocean, reading books, and spending time with my family.

As I sit at the desk in my home office, I am ready to return to the summer activity at NDA as we continue to make preparations for the fall. As promised, students have been emailed their class lists and the summer assignments have been posted on the NDA website. By the end of this week, the booklist will be available on the website as well. I am happy to be back on campus and in my “NDA Office” a few days a week and I am amazed at all of the campus improvements in process. The Learning Commons had new rugs installed, the lobby is undergoing a refresh for the first time in decades, many newer desks have been procured and each classroom has been deep cleaned. We are grateful for the many donors who have made these campus improvements possible.

COVID-19 has contributed to the permanent closure of 130 Catholic schools across 23 states, many in our own community. Additionally, surveys show ten percent of Catholic schools are now uncertain if they can open their doors this fall. For those schools that are fortunate to remain open, we will have additional unbudgeted but necessary expenses related to COVID precautions this year. At NDA, we will continue to spend funds prudently and we will also be looking at a number of new fundraising activities this fall to help defray the significant costs associated with the needs that have arisen due to this pandemic.

In order to determine the scope of these needs, which span building supplies, PPE, and technology, the Academic and Student Experience and Safety and Wellness Task Forces have met many times and are making significant progress in the planning of our specific return to school plans. Below please find some highlights shared by Mrs. Susan Butler, Principal, and Ms. Emily Haley, Dean of Students, who are leading the Academic and Safety and Wellness Task Forces, respectively.

The Academic Task Force is

  • Preparing for three types of classroom engagement- on campus, hybrid, and online - for this coming Fall
  • Utilizing feedback from family/student/faculty survey results to expand and improve all aspects of distance learning
  • Setting up physical classrooms with technology (cameras, microphones) to offer synchronous in class and distance learning while ensuring the capability of our wireless bandwidth
  • Preparing faculty to create clear, content-rich lesson plans that may be shared both in-person and via distance learning. Faculty will attend one of two three-day professional development workshops offered in July and August
  • Enhancing our G-Suite for Education platform by upgrading it with Enterprise
  • Preparing family tutorials for accessing Google Classroom materials, resources, and assignments
  • Working in collaboration with the Safety and Wellness Task Force to create classroom space that follows DESE return to school guidelines, including desks 3 feet apart

The Safety and Wellness Task Force is

  • Ordering appropriate PPE for students and staff
  • Preparing signage centered on new protocols
  • Establishing an increased cleaning schedule and checklist
  • Determining space usage (e.g. no lockers this fall, entrance/exit doors to classrooms, staggered dismissals)
  • Creating resources and wellness plans (to aid in coping with stress and anxiety)
  • Exploring options for foodservice provided by The Rebel Cafe
  • Utilizing outdoor space and additional seating for class use and free periods to encourage students to be outside whenever possible

With all of this in mind, NDA is moving forward with the primary goal to be back on campus this Fall. Of course, if at any time, the environment or government guidelines change, NDA will also be ready to alter our plan as necessary. Faculty, staff, and student safety is paramount, and we will not return to 425 Salisbury Street unless we are confident that we have completed all of the necessary planning to make it safe to do so.

As a small independent school, Notre Dame Academy has the unique ability and physical space to deliver a strong academic education while still being able to adhere to the current safety guidelines. Also, we continue to enhance our ability to address the social-emotional health of our students and families amidst a very stressful situation.

As promised, I will communicate with you via “A View From My Home Office” on a bi-weekly basis throughout the summer. As we approach the first day of school, more detailed information will be shared. As always, if you have any questions or comments at any time, please feel free to reach out.

With my wishes for continued good health and peaceful summer days,

 

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 July 1st. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has reported 2,581,229 total cases and 126,739 total deaths as a result of COVID-19 in the US and the World Health Organization (WHO) has reported 10,185,374 total cases and 503,862 total deaths around the world. In a first since the start of the pandemic, Massachusetts reported 0 new COVID-19 deaths yesterday. The aggressive interventions in Massachusetts have currently positioned the state as one of only a few to currently have low transmission rates due to mitigation efforts, but we must remain guarded and careful.

As I sit at the desk in my home office, I am dreaming about my family vacation next week; Mia and Bianca are oblivious to the fact that they will not be joining us at the beach; I am loving the purple violet plant placed on my desk that reminds me of a similar one given to me by my grandparents when I was a child; and I sip my cup of tea thinking about today being the first day of July and how the world has changed since mid-March when I began writing these communications. I feel a revived sense of purpose has been created in spite of the continuous uncertainty.

As I sit at the desk in my home office, I am proud of how much progress the NDA Leadership Team has made in the last few weeks with regard to back to school planning. By the end of this week, Ms. Haley will be communicating class lists directly to students via email and the summer assignments will be also posted on the website. In addition, we are excited about our new book partner, BN College, who will be hosting the book list through our website as well...stay tuned for more information in the near future. We appreciate the patience of our students and parents as we work to finalize these improved parts of our students’ education amidst a complete master schedule change, pandemic limitations, and hiring new faculty.

Suffice to say, it’s been a busy June.

The Academic and Student Experience and Safety and Wellness Task Forces have begun meeting and parents and students will be receiving communications with specific return to school information over the summer. Consistent with the MA Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) guidelines announced last week, NDA is exploring three models, on a continuum, for this coming Fall.

The left continuum, “On Campus” is our goal. We are looking to get as many students as possible back into schools for in-person learning—safely. In this model, all students return in person to our classrooms, which will be appropriately modified to accommodate the health and safety requirements outlined by DESE. Examples of modifications include altered classroom configurations and setting up additional learning spaces. Currently, we are still assessing space and technology in each classroom alongside the 20-21 class schedule to confirm our ability to support all classes occurring at 425 Salisbury Street on a daily basis. We will make a final decision in early August.

In the event we are unable to bring all students back to school under the health and safety requirements despite our best efforts, or in case of COVID-19 related circumstances, we will move to the middle continuum, “Hybrid” (also referred to as Blended or HyPlex). The hybrid model means that NDA would schedule teachers to be in the classrooms at school every day, while students alternate between in-person and remote learning. For instance, half of the students in each class would switch between in-person and remote learning on alternating days of the week.

We are also simultaneously working on a plan for operating a robust “Online” remote learning program. This model will be available for individual students who cannot yet return in-person, and for all students in the event of future classroom or school closures due to COVID-19. Based on the feedback from our virtual learning surveys and a number of learnings from this spring, we have many initiatives aimed at strengthening the virtual learning environment.

Our ability to deliver a personalized, strengths-based, academically rigorous and deeply engaging remote education has become critical to our mission. No doubt that whatever the setting, our best practices will be focused on motivating and inspiring students within this new educational landscape. Our goals are to continue to address the social- emotional health of our students and families; student engagement; and personalized, differentiated instruction that continues to make learning deeper and more meaningful for each student.

During the month of August, we will be communicating in multiple forums with parents and students about new safety practices that will be put into place. In addition, we are planning to share further instructions with parents, students, and faculty so that we can be sure that, if and when we return to campus, everyone understands the expectations and protocols that will be implemented.

In the two weeks since my last communication, I also continued to spend time focusing on social justice and diversity at NDA. Teachers are focusing on planning and ensuring an anti-racist curriculum for our students, and I have had very productive dialogues with local organizations who stand for respect, equality, inclusion, and justice. In addition, we are currently inviting participants to join our Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Task Force that will begin meeting in August.

July and August will continue to be busy months. Yet, we recognize the chaos of the last few months have also blessed us with the opportunity to pause, reflect, and reset. Our focus now is on connections, collaborations, cooperation, and innovation. I firmly believe that our optimism and resilience will be the keys to our success.

My continued well wishes for each of you. As promised, I will communicate with you via “A View From My Home Office” on a bi-weekly basis throughout the summer. As always, if you have any questions or comments at any time, 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 June 17th. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has reported 2,104,346 total cases and 116,140 total deaths as a result of COVID-19 in the US and the World Health Organization (WHO) has reported 7,941,791 total cases and 434,796 total deaths around the world. The economy is reopening in phases and there is still a lot of unrest around the county.

As I sit at the desk in my home office, I am thrilled that summer is here; Mia and Bianca cuddle up by my feet soaking in the sun shining through the windows; I am enjoying a mixed bouquet of flowers given to me by someone very special; and I sip my cup of tea wishing that the news was filled with more stories of health, peace, and kindness instead of sickness, conflict, and intolerance.

As I sit at the desk in my home office, I reflect on all of the activity of the last few weeks. We have made great progress with 2020-2021 planning in both typical and atypical ways. We have filled 12 of our 15 open positions and I am so excited for the NDA community to meet the new faculty and staff who will be bringing their experience, belief in our mission, and enthusiasm to NDA. We are finalizing summer assignments and the 2020-21 class schedules and will be sharing them soon. The campus looks beautiful as the maintenance team has been busy cleaning classrooms, polishing floors, and painting walls. I am very excited to see the transformation of the Main Academic Building Lobby as it is being refreshed. Next week, the Academic and Student Experience and Safety and Wellness Task Forces begin meeting and we will also be planning the final Senior events to be held in July.

In the last few weeks, I have also spent a significant amount of time having discussions with students, faculty and community members about social justice, diversity, and the role that NDA has to play in overcoming injustice for our students and the world. I am heartbroken and appalled at the murder of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and so many other black men and women, as well as the systemic racism in our country. I am also saddened that the bravery and accomplishments of so many police officers, many who are part of the NDA community, are being overshadowed by serious police misconduct by others.

Those who are close to the Academy and have watched the advancement over the last few decades know that much progress has been made, but there is still more work to do. As an ‘88 alum, parent of an ‘18 alum, a prior Member and Chair of the Board, and now Head of School, I know well the mission and values of NDA, and I commit to be a role model for our students. I fully understand that how we, individually and as a community, respond to racism will make a real difference in the lives of our students. Listening to and learning from our diverse community is an important and necessary step in this direction.

It is important to recognize the efforts that have been made at Notre Dame Academy over the last decade with regard to diversity. Curriculum has been altered, new classes have been added, the dialogue has shifted, and the student body is more diverse in terms of socio-economic status and race. In 2009-2010, 7% of the student body was non-white as compared to 29% in 2019-2020.

During the most recent academic year, 20% of the total budget was spent on financial aid and scholarships in an effort to increase the diversity of our student body. Just this year, due to a generous donor, we are also able to offer dollars in the form of “Service Scholars,” a service scholarship that is being awarded to diverse incoming and current students who require financial assistance.

Notre Dame Academy commits to continuing to build a community where diversity is organic. Some of the ways in which we commit to doing so are as follows:

  • ensuring an anti-racist curriculum for our students across disciplines and encouraging difficult dialogues about bias and diversity of all kinds while teaching empathy and understanding.
  • continuing to partner with local diverse organizations who stand for respect, equality, inclusion, and justice and advocate for policy reform that brings about systemic change, including Girls, Inc., Girl Scouts of America, Boys and Girls Club, and Investing In Girls Alliance.
  • building new relationships with local organizations such as the National Association of Advancement for Colored People (NAACP) Worcester Branch, whose principal objective is to ensure the political, educational, social, and economic equality of minority groups, and citizens of United States and eliminate race prejudice, as well as other local multicultural learning institutes, and local civil advocates who are focused on the youth movement in Worcester County.
  • making a donation to The Conscious Kid, an education, research, and policy organization dedicated to reducing bias and promoting positive identity development in youth. They partner with organizations, children’s museums, schools, and families across the country to promote access to children’s books centering on underrepresented and oppressed groups. We invite the NDA community to join us by donating here.
  • increasing diversity in our Leadership, Faculty, and Staff, as well as the Board of Trustees. In the future, we will share open faculty positions with local organizations and HBCU (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) such as Howard University, where two of our 2020 graduates will be attending this fall. The Board of Trustees has committed to increasing the diversity of its Membership and ensuring dialogue continues with regard to topics that are important to the black community.
  • gathering a Task Force including local members of our community as well as committed, passionate friends of NDA to ensure that we are taking the correct and necessary steps towards creating a more inclusive and diverse school community. The Task Force will discuss and coordinate ways to further enhance the curriculum and extracurricular events at NDA (e.g. showcasing black artists, performing shows by black playwrights.)
  • seeking out black community groups who are interested in utilizing space on campus for Theatre and Art productions and Athletic events that are open to the public.
  • continuing the planning of professional development that incorporates specific bias trainings which are designed to expose people to their unconscious biases, provide tools to adjust automatic patterns of thinking, and ultimately eliminate discriminatory behaviors.

Notre Dame Academy embraces the gift of diversity. Even when it is uncomfortable or difficult, our goal is to prepare students for lives that respect others despite any differences and honor other’s voices as equal to their own. We will continue to prioritize this discussion amidst our COVID-19 focus to re-open the doors of NDA in the fall.

In closing, I encourage your direct involvement in making change at NDA as we focus on the future. I hope that you will continue to support Notre Dame Academy, our students, and future students in meaningful, tangible, and lasting ways. In fact, there are still two weeks left to make a contribution to this year’s Annual Fund. The Annual Fund of Notre Dame Academy is the largest fundraising initiative conducted each year. Due to the generosity of an anonymous champion of NDA, our community has been challenged to match a $100,000 gift. This Pay it Forward Challenge Match will provide a significant reinforcement to our operations and we are most grateful for this champion’s faith in our work. Please consider a gift to the Notre Dame Academy Annual Fund by donating here. For those who would like your dollars to be directed specifically to scholarships for young black women, please note that.

My continued blessings for each of you. As promised, I will continue to communicate with you via “A View From My Home Office” on a bi-weekly basis throughout the summer. As always, if you have any questions or comments at any time, please feel free to reach out.

Warm wishes for a peaceful and healthy summer,

Lisa

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