In scripture, St. John’s third letter essentially begins, “Beloved, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in health; I know that it is well with your soul.” This same sentiment has been the guiding light of the relationship between St. John’s PDS and St. John’s Church this year. The reciprocal sense of gratitude, of a mutual wish for the well-being of both communities, has permeated all that we have accomplished together – it has been an omnipresent “GPS system” for us, keeping us on a journey together toward ever-increasing cooperation and communion.
This relationship found explicit expression in the development of the new Common Life Commission (CLC) last September, but its origins lay in the joint Vestry/PDS Board planning retreat in May 2009 where we determined that we needed to highlight and communicate better together about events and aspects of life in school and church. A cross-fertilization of events and information has occurred due largely to the intentionality of this process led by Kevin McGill, SJPDS Board President, and June Robinson, SJEC Senior Warden. Joint school/church activities such as the 9-11 National Day of Service Book Drive benefitting the East Baltimore Community School, the upcoming (on May 19) environmental education presentation by Ned Tillman, and the common life bookmarks help cement our respectful and caring relationship. Other manifestations of this care and concern each for the other have come in the form of broader attendance at each other’s events like the church’s One Service and Fall Homecoming as well as the school’s extremely successful Gala. The process of clarifying the separate and combined aspects of school/church accounting methods seems perhaps mundane, but it was an act of due diligence and care that took considerable time and effort in order to bring our accounting practices into line with the additional accreditation process the school is pursuing through the Association of independent Maryland Schools (AIMS) – and we greatly appreciate this endeavor! Another act of mutual care and respect is the review of the school Board’s By-Laws revisions by the Vestry. In light of the AIMS accreditation process, the SJPDS Board reviewed and revised our By-Laws to reflect a modified Vestry role of advisement rather than supervision over the school. By the time of the Annual Meeting it is hoped that the Vestry will have reviewed and approved this change in By-Laws.
The hiring of a new headmaster for the school has ushered in a number of new initiatives and a few subtle changes at the school. In an effort to have the school function more fully as a single entity rather than two disparate units, the Preschool and the Lower School, the programs for 3 and 4-year-old students is now designated as the Early Childhood program. It is no longer considered a “pre” school or something that occurs before students enter the school, but these programs are fully integrated into the overall “school.” The school’s Mission Statement has been updated, and its website is being completely rebuilt with an anticipated launch date in mid-summer. A Marketing Task Force from the Board has identified five essential elements that define the school, called the “Five Gifts,” to use in promotional materials, videos, the website, and more. These Five Gifts are: 1) spiritual growth through faith formation, 2) preservation and celebration of childhood, 3) innovative curriculum and personalized learning that lead to lifelong success, 4) confident and respectful citizens connected to local and global communities, and 5) a sense of wonder and active discovery.
What has not changed is the strong commitment of the school to provide the excellence inherent in quality Episcopal education as well as spiritual and moral development for each child. The years at St. John’s PDS provide our graduates with tremendous academic success coupled with a strength of character, both of which not only get them into their first choice schools but also provide the foundation they need for great achievement in these successor schools, public and private. Our faculty members still provide wonderful instruction interlaced with in-depth knowledge of each student and incredible care and concern for every child. St. John’s Parish Day School provides the finest of Episcopal education, a solid spiritual grounding, and comprehensive nurture for all of our students.
Grace and Peace,
Steve Harrison, Headmaster