Seeking Knowledge, Modeling Christ, Serving Others The Saint Matthew School Strategic Plan for the Future - Progress Report November 2020

To see the progress toward our overall goals look for the 2020 Plan Update stamp and accompanying commentary, highlighted by the vertical blue bars.

"Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever."

Hebrews 13:8

In 2001, Saint Matthew School was formed as the only primary Catholic educational institution in Williamson County. Since our founding, we have abided by one principle that has always held true for our school, students and staff: to seek knowledge, model Christ and serve others.

In 2017, a group made up of the Saint Matthew administration, faculty, students, parents, and alumni participated in the 12-month strategic planning process to review what we’ve accomplished in the 18 years since our founding and determine what we want to accomplish in the future. This group took a long and in-depth look at the school’s legacy and growth, and they decided on the action steps needed to prepare the school for the future.

Throughout all the discussions, one thing remained clear: as Saint Matthew nears its 20th year and we look to the next 20 years, our school will remain focused on our one guiding principle: to seek knowledge, model Christ and serve others.

Although this guiding principle will remain, another truth emerged as well. If Saint Matthew is going to continue to seek knowledge, model Christ and serve others in the years to come, then we must take a number of critical steps to best serve the next generations of Saint Matthew students.

We will build on the recent steps we have taken to become a leader among schools in the diocese and the community. Here are just a few examples of that success.

  • 2017 was a banner year for us. We were proud and humbled when the U.S. Department of Education named Saint Matthew School a 2017 National Blue Ribbon School under the High Performing School designation. Out of the 130,000 public and private schools in the country, only 342 received the 2017 National Blue Ribbon Award, placing Saint Matthew in the top 0.3% of schools in the nation. In Tennessee, we were one of only two schools recognized as a 2017 National Blue Ribbon School.
  • Also, in 2017, we celebrated the opening of our PreK 4-year-old program that develops children emotionally, cognitively, physically, socially and spiritually. Due to our highly regarded reputation, we maintained a full classroom during our first year.
  • Our academic program has grown with an expansion of the 6-8th grade math departments and a new, guided literacy program for our elementary school students. With these new programs, we continue to offer the high caliber academics that you have come to expect from Saint Matthew.
  • We continue to put Christ first in all that we do, with a focus on modeling Christ and serving others. Therefore, for our middle school students, we started a new Campus Ministry program, which makes us the first Catholic elementary school in the diocese to have an active and defined campus ministry.
  • We implemented our “One student to One device” program, which also makes us the first elementary school in the diocese to offer this program.

While we are proud of what we’ve accomplished in such a short time, we recognize we have more to achieve. If we want to fully embrace our mission to seek knowledge, model Christ and serve others, then we cannot stop here.

Below are the immediate areas of focus and our goals for each area as we prepare for the future of Saint Matthew School, as well as a report on our progress to date.

We have set an internal completion date of Fall 2021 for the following nine initiatives, and we have determined a number of sub-dates of completion within each initiative.

Catholic Identity

Goal – Saint Matthew School will encourage and welcome all families of diverse backgrounds and beliefs to attend while maintaining a strong Catholic foundation.

  • Engage 8th grade students more fully by increasing their participation in the daily liturgies.
The school administered the Assessment for Catholic Education in September of 2019. The test was given to fifth grade and eighth grade. The test measures a number of domains, including faith, scripture, and morality. Fifth grade students scored one percentage point below the national average for Catholic school students. Eighth grade students scored five percentage points above the national average for Catholic school students.
At the conclusion of the test, students are asked affective statements. According to the survey, 90% of eighth graders believe their faith impacts their daily life. Furthermore, 85% of students attend Sunday mass on a weekly basis. According to the survey, Saint Matthew students understand the relationship between faith, worship, and service. Therefore the school cannot point to a lack of knowledge for eighth graders' lack of participation.
The school surveyed the eighth grade students to discuss their views. The survey was completed in October.
  • Review the performance of students in grades 3, 6, and 8 to attain scores on the Assessment for Catholic Religious Education that would be among the top 3 in the diocese.
  • Coordinate and promote parish youth activities within the school community in collaboration with the parish. The school will publish the youth activities in the weekly email to the parents.
Currently, the church has limited activities for middle school students. The church has invited Saint Matthew middle school students to participate in the Ignite program. Ignite is a catechetical program for confirmation preparation.
Once COVID restrictions are lifted, the school will resume a campus ministry program, including adoration, social outings, and possible Sunday evening programs.
  • Increase the number of opportunities Saint Matthew School students have to participate in Room In The Inn or similar programs. Saint Matthew School will have a focus group comprised of parents and teachers to determine if the school will have required service learning hours. The focus group will meet in the first semester of the 2018-2019 school year.
The school is continuing to look at options to maintain our commitment to Room In The Inn and other service initiatives.
Currently the school offers service day and service projects throughout the year. While these programs support Catholic teaching, they do not offer best practices for an educational institution. As the faculty and staff have done research, they continue to return to a model of service learning being offered at St. Gabriel School in Austin, TX. At St. Gabe's, each class adopts a ministry or non-profit. Lessons are then integrated into the religion curriculum and students are given the opportunity to perform hours of service in their designated ministry.
The school plans to institute this model of service learning once COVID restrictions are lifted.

Goal - Saint Matthew School will develop a plan to increase student knowledge and create lifelong learners by differentiating instruction and providing consistent support for all students.

  • Map curriculum in grades Kindergarten through 8. The first content area to be mapped will be writing. The writing map will be completed by May 2019 with curriculum recommendations to be implemented in the fall of 2019.
Saint Matthew School has vertically aligned the writing program from grades kindergarten to fifth. In the fourth quarter of last year, middle school teachers were given the writing resources for their grade level. The plans to use Title II funds to train middle school language teachers to use the Lucy Calkins method of writing.
Saint Matthew School will work with the Diocese of Nashville to vertically align the social studies curriculum for the 2020-2021 academic year. The intermediate grade level social studies teacher will serve as Saint Matthew School's representative to the diocese.
  • Saint Matthew School will implement the 6 traits of writing or a vertically aligned writing program.
  • The academic committee will also evaluate online textbooks for middle school social studies and science. This evaluation will be completed by January 2020.
  • Every enrichment class will offer one field trip or guest speaker in the academic year of 2019-2020.
This goal was accomplished last year in all enrichment areas with the exception of art. With COVID restrictions this academic year, achieving this goal will not be possible.
  • The PreK will achieve 100% academic readiness for students who are socially and emotionally ready for Kindergarten. All students will score a minimum of 55 on the Kindergarten readiness exam.
The school has full enrollment in kindergarten. It is the first time in six years that Saint Matthew has been at capacity in that grade. Of the 32 PreK students from last year, 26 matriculated to kindergarten. Of the six who did not return to Saint Matthew, three transferred to public school, two moved, and one is repeating PreK.
The school is changing its readiness test from the current assessment to the Gesell Screening. Gesell is a multi-dimensional assessment that assists educators to help identify growth patterns in children ages 2-9. It evaluates social, emotional, and developmental growth of students. The school has multiple staff members who are trained in the Gesell model.
  • Students will be expected to achieve 1.7 years beyond grade level on national standardized tests in the spring of 2020.
Due to the coronavirus, the school did not administer a nationally normed standardized test. However, the test was given in late August of 2020. Due to learning gaps from remote learning, the school does not anticipate having a significant achievement in the students' scores.
  • Saint Matthew School will continue to take steps to become an Apple certified school.
The goal is to continue to integrate best practices. Throughout the summer, teachers continued to work on their certification to become an Apple teacher. Currently, 19 of the 25 teachers have completed their Apple certification process. The school is now integrating the Apple Classroom app into teachers' lessons.
Community and School

Goal – Saint Matthew School will continue to broaden its presence in the community that bears witness by seeking knowledge, modeling Christ, and serving others.

  • Expand opportunities for students to experience Catholic social teaching,
This measurement can be achieved through the alignment of the service learning program. Also, a strong campus ministry program will be re-established once the COVID restrictions are lifted.
  • Increase students’ understanding of our school’s mission in Haiti.
By January of 2021, the school will have met with the parish Haiti Committee. The meeting will be a listening session to determine how the school can better support the Haiti Committee and Our Lady of Miracles in Gobert.
  • Investigate additional service opportunities at local organizations in our community, including NHC and the Lodge.
Student Life

Goal – Saint Matthew School will offer activities in and out of the classroom that foster the growth and development of well-rounded students; healthy in mind, body and spirit.

  • Exploring the possibilities of increasing the number of sports competing in the Harpeth Valley Athletic Conference. The school will open formal discussions with the HVAC regarding the competition of girls soccer and tennis in the fall of 2020.
The school surveyed middle school girls and spoke with fall sports coaches about girls soccer. It was determined that the school would have too few girls participate and it would negatively impact other sports being offered. The school is now participating in HVAC cross country and hosting intramural girls volleyball.
  • Offer class retreats for all middle school grades so that at the conclusion of the 2019 academic year, every middle school class will have completed a retreat.
  • Increase the number of co-curricular activities offered. By 2019, the school will have six co-curricular activities, including Model United Nations, Forensics, Science Olympiad, Drama Club, Mathletes and Youth Legislature.
  • Explore criteria for Cardinal Newman Honor Society and AdvancEd STEM certification. The curriculum director should produce a plan to be a member of the CNHS and obtain STEM certification by December 2018.
A committee was formed in September 2018 to examine STEM certification and CNHS membership. The chair of the committee attended the AdvancEd training for STEM certification in October of 2018. The process for becoming STEM certified is approximately three years. The school is continuing to pursue certification.
Saint Matthew School explored CNHS membership, but decided not to pursue membership at this time.
  • In 2019, the school will induct the first class of the Junior National Honors Society.
In January of 2020, the school inducted the first class of the Junior National Honor Society. The school will induct the second class in the winter of 2021.
Enrollment Management

Goal – Saint Matthew School will determine, achieve and sustain optimal enrollment while advancing the mission of the school.

  • Examine the possibilities of expanding the Pre-Kindergarten program to a Preschool program. The Pre-Kindergarten director will produce a report, including her recommendations, by January 2019, to determine if the school wants to proceed with a preschool program.
This past fall, Saint Matthew School opened a program for three-year-olds. The PreK at Saint Matthew is at capacity, including the three-year-olds program. Our current kindergarten enrollment is at capacity as well.
  • Develop a financial aid plan for non-parishioners.
Because of a donor's generosity, the school has money reserved for non-Catholics and non-parishioners who desire a Catholic education.
  • Examine the non-Catholic perception of Saint Matthew School.
The school survey was completed in November of 2019. Due to the small number of non-Catholic families, the survey data is small as well. With the number of non-Catholics currently enrolled, the school will resend the survey to families this fall.
  • Increase student opportunities to experience diversity.
By February of 2021, the inclusion coordinator at Saint Matthew will devise a plan to look at the long term feasibility of the inclusion program.
Advancement and Financial

As we look toward our next decade of educating future leaders and saints, we must also look toward creating a sustainable source of funds to ensure the vitality of our school for generations to come. To do so, we have identified several opportunities to increase the visibility of our Annual Fund and other giving opportunities, both within our parish and school community and within the broader Williamson County community.

Goal – Saint Matthew School will create a sustainable source of funds and ensure the vitality of the school for generations to come.

  • Saint Matthew will identify, engage, and steward the faith community and the greater community at large.
  • Saint Matthew will continue to grow the endowment with the goal of reaching $2.5 million by the spring of 2023.
  • Saint Matthew will achieve 100% participation from school families that includes all facets of fundraising.
  • Achieve $125,000 in Annual Fund giving and restricted giving of $50,000. The Mane Event will raise more than $100,000.
  • Investigate available grants related to STEM or other academic expansions.
  • The school will propose changing the financial structure in its relationship with the parish. The school would receive 20% of the weekly collections from the parish and retain all of the surplus from the previous years.
With the Paycheck Protection Program, the school did not require a subsidy from Saint Matthew Church.
Parish collections are down. However, enrollment continues to be steady at the school. Saint Matthew School does anticipate making budget for the coming year.
Despite the pandemic, Saint Matthew School came close to reaching its goals for the Annual Fund and restricted giving. The school surpassed its goal for the Main Event.
  • Begin internship program to target alumni relations. The internship will be in the fall of 2018.
  • Increase visibility of parish donations to the school.

Goal – Saint Matthew School will create and enact an effective marketing and communication plan to support the mission of the school through enrollment management, institutional advancement, fundraising, and targeted outreach to the communities served.

  • Develop differentiated marketing plans that target various communities. The marketing plans will be completed by September 2019.
In the last two years, the school has offered a variety of admissions events. The school has hosted an Open House, Trunk or Treat, Coffee with the Principal, and individual tours. With the pandemic, administration is attempting to move these events to virtual or online.
Saint Matthew School's opportunities to promote itself to Holy Family Catholic Church are limited. However, the school does participate in the Catholic schools weekend offered at Holy Family. At St. Philip, the school is very engaged.
a. The school will be the lead sponsor for the SPC Learning Center's spring fundraiser.
b. Several times during the year, the school will meet with SPC parishioners after their liturgies, including the Spanish speaking mass.
c. The school will also be a sponsor at the SPC Knights of Columbus fundraiser.
  • Create two communications targeting alumni.
  • Gather 35% of alumni contact information.
The school is continuing to update alumni information. Last spring, despite COVID, the school was able to reach via email 35% of alumni. Admissions office is also gathering a database of grandparents and parents. We will have two communications targeting alumni.

In our current educational institution landscape, it is vitally important to create and maintain a modern facility plan that ensures student safety and campus security while enhancing our students’ learning environment. The safety of our students, faculty and staff is paramount; therefore, we have identified several opportunities to maintain a safe and secure campus.

Goal – Saint Matthew School, in collaboration with the parish, will develop a modern facility plan that ensures student safety, campus security and enhances students’ learning environment.

  • Implement the recommendations given to the school by the Vigilance Group. To complete all recommendations by the Vigilance Group, Saint Matthew will develop a school safety committee. This committee will meet three times during the academic school year of 2018-2019.
  • Host a self-defense and student safety seminar by March 2019.
Last fall, the school had two trainings for faculty at Saint Matthew School. The first was given by the Williamson County Sheriff Department. A resource officer trained the school staff on A.L.I.C.E., a response system for danger. The second training was offered by Defend Systems and was required by the diocese. Defend Systems specializes in active shooter training drills. The school has invested in an instant background check for volunteers on campus, called Raptor. Every non-employee volunteering or visiting Saint Matthew School will have to submit their driver's license to the main office.
  • Continue discussions with the county regarding a school resource officer at Saint Matthew School. In the fall of 2018, the school will propose a school resource officer to the Sheriff’s Department of Williamson County.
The School met with the County Mayor's Office, the Sheriff, and the head of Resource Training. Following this discussion Saint Matthew School determined that it is not economically feasible to have a school resource officer at Saint Matthew School.

Goal – Saint Matthew School will be advised by an active, informed board comprised of diverse stakeholders from within the community.

  • Saint Matthew School will be guided by the school’s mission and a strategic plan that is monitored by the school board.
  • The Vice-Chair of the School Board will report monthly to the School Board on the status of the strategic plan.
  • The Vice-Chair will meet bi-annually with the staff of Saint Matthew School to monitor, measure, and direct the strategic plan.