“I’m thrilled.” Dan Faas, St. Charles Borromeo’s principal, isn’t the only one who is excited about becoming the Partnership’s seventh school. From kindergartners to veteran teachers, from professional development to water fountains, the Partnership’s first expansion school is buzzing with changes.
Even as the Archdiocese finalized the details of adding St. Charles to the Partnership this summer, the network’s facilities team was busy applying 110 gallons of paint to the schools’ walls, replacing student desks, upgrading technology systems, refinishing the gym floor, and improving plumbing–including, to students’ delight, replacing water fountains.
“It’s so cold!” said one kindergartener, “And I’ve seen these in airports!” she mentioned, referring to the bottle-filling fountain near the main office that tracks the conservation impact of its use.
As Faas, who has led St. Charles for three years, explains, the improvements are about more than a cold drink of water: “The clean, light-filled classrooms, freshly painted hallways and high-quality furniture show our school community that we are invested in their success. They’ve already made a huge difference in helping our students and staff focus more on the important work of teaching and learning without the small distractions of a broken desk or wobbly chair.”
Even younger students perceive the impact. A second grader, noting that the new desks are less noisy to move, observed that “The quiet helps you listen better.”
It’s the listening and learning–to rigorous, engaging content–that matters most, and St. Charles’ teachers jumped into the transition to the Partnership’s curricula over the summer. Many voluntarily attended supplemental training, and the network’s Director of Professional Development, John Bacsik, spent extra time with St. Charles teachers, helping them begin using the curricula, teaching approaches and longer school day that have driven success at the other six Partnership Schools. Nine teachers gave up part of their last week of the summer to dive even deeper into the network’s instructional approach.
The entire network’s rousing opening prayer service was led by Fr. Gregory Chisolm, S.J., the pastor of St. Charles–or “The Cathedral of Harlem”, as it is also known. In a reflection that tied together the life-affirming message at the heart of the Gospels, his family’s own journey of faith and racial justice, and the current work of the Partnership schools, he exhorted and encouraged every Partnership teacher–a fitting indication that the Partnership network has much to gain as well as to share with our newest partner school.