Seeking Knowledge, Modeling Christ, Serving Others The Saint Matthew School Strategic Plan for the Future - Progress Report November 2019

To see the progress toward our overall goals look for the 2019 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.
  • 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.
In September of 2019, the Saint Matthew 6th and 8th graders took the National Catholic Education Association’s Assessment for Catholic Religious Education. The test helps determine strengths and concerns of the religious education program and measures students’ knowledge and perceptions of the Catholic Church, church history, and liturgies. Using the data, the school can better assess the needs of our middle school students and will help determine how to engage students not just in liturgy, but also in their faith.
With a new Director of Religious Education at Saint Matthew Church, the school will continue to work with the parish to communicate parish youth activities and programs. The school will work with the parish to promote and support the middle school Ignite program, Bible study, and Servio Dio Mission Trip. The school also promotes the parish’s high school and middle school ministry program through facility use and other resources, including communication platforms.
  • 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.
Saint Matthew students volunteer at a number of organizations. Currently, eighth grade students perform service work for Confirmation. In 2018, the school added another service opportunity for 8th grade students: The Lodge at the Natchez Trace. In October 2019, the school held a parent focus group to research developing a service learning program. In November, in consultation with the Superintendent of the Diocese of Nashville, Saint Matthew School sent two teachers to study at schools in Atlanta that are utilizing best practices in regards to service learning.

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.
Each teacher serves on a committee at Saint Matthew. One of the committees include academics and vertical alignment of the curriculum. The committee met three times last year and made recommendations.
In 2018, the school invested in resources and training to vertically align the writing curriculum for grades K-5. In the fall of 2019, Saint Matthew will implement this vertically aligned writing program in grades K-5.
Saint Matthew School will work with the Diocese of Nashville to vertically align the elementary school Math curriculum. The new vertically aligned math program will be implemented in the 2020 academic year.
  • Saint Matthew School will implement the 6 traits of writing or a vertically aligned writing program.
In September 2019, the school implemented the Lucy Calkins writing program in grades K-5. In the following year, fourth and fifth grade will implement the 6 traits of writing.
  • The academic committee will also evaluate online textbooks for middle school social studies and science. This evaluation will be completed by January 2020.
In conjunction with vertically aligning the curriculum, the Academic Committee will begin to look at digital textbooks for math. Carrying over the priority from the previous year, the committee will also begin to examine online textbooks in social studies.
  • Every enrichment class will offer one field trip or guest speaker in the academic year of 2019-2020.
All enrichment classes have had or have scheduled a guest speaker or a field trip for the academic year of 2019-2020.
  • 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.
In 2018, 22 students from Saint Matthew School Pre-Kindergarten enrolled in Kindergarten. Of the students enrolling, 76 percent scored above average or high average on the Kindergarten readiness exam. Students enrolled in the Kindergarten class achieved 100% readiness.
By November of 2019, the Pre-Kindergarten team will participate in continuing education to learn best practices in the field of early childhood development.
The Pre-Kindergarten team will meet with the Kindergarten teachers to discuss gaps in learning and readiness in Pre-Kindergarten.
  • Students will be expected to achieve 1.7 years beyond grade level on national standardized tests in the spring of 2020.
Class averages of students who took the Iowa Skills Assessment in spring of 2019 were above the grade equivalent of 1.5 years. In 8th grade, the average was 4.5 years above grade level. Class averages of students for 2020 taking the Iowa Skills Assessment will be 1.7 years above grade level. The 8th grade class will be 5 years ahead of grade level.
  • Saint Matthew School will continue to take steps to become an Apple certified school.
The school has developed a three-year plan, to be completed in 2022, to become the first Catholic school in the state of Tennessee to be Apple certified.
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,
  • Increase students’ understanding of our school’s mission in Haiti.
During Catholic Schools Week, the school expanded its programs to include Haiti presentations to all of the students. The school will continue to send a teacher to Haiti, as well as raise funds for teacher and principal salaries for the school in Haiti.
By January of 2020, the school will meet with the parish Haiti committee 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.
In 2019, students participated in ongoing service projects at the Lodge. Every Wednesday, 8th grade students volunteered and visited residents. These activities will continue through the 2019-2020 school year.
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.

  • Open formal discussions with the Harpeth Valley Athletic Association about increasing the number of sports offered, including the possible organization of a girls soccer team in the fall of 2018, ready to compete by 2019.
After reviewing results from a survey sent to St. Matthew School families, it was determined that interest in an HVAC soccer league would overlap with and impact the fall cross country season. Therefore, the school is pursuing the opportunity to compete in tennis in the 2020 academic year.
  • 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.
During the 2018-2019 school year, St. Matthew School offered retreats for students in 6th, 7th, and 8th grades. Staff members from Gasper River Catholic Youth Camp ran the 6th grade retreat. The focus was on a personal relationship with God. The 7th grade retreat was in conjunction with a kindness campaign called Rachel’s Challenge. The retreat featured nationally recognized speakers from Columbine, Colorado. The 8th grade retreat was a service retreat at Camp Marymount.
  • 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.
Saint Matthew currently offers all six activities above to students in middle school.
  • 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.
  • Lay the foundation for Junior National Honor Society. The Junior National Honor Society should have its first class inducted by the fall of 2019.
The first class of the Junior National Honor Society will be inducted in the winter of 2019-2020.
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.
The Pre-Kindergarten director prepared a report for the principal regarding the expansion of offerings. There is limited, but available space, at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church for a three-year-old program. The Pre-K director will send out a survey to families by November of 2019 to determine a need and feasibility of a three-year-old program.
  • Develop a financial aid plan for non-parishioners.
When the school opened its doors in 2001, financial assistance was offered to Saint Matthew parishioners. The majority of funds were raised through church offerings and second collections. Therefore, funds for the tuition assistance exclusively benefited Saint Matthew families. With the number of children in Saint Matthew parish decreasing, this goal was developed to recruit families outside of the Saint Matthew community. In 2019, aid was given to the first non-parishioner.
In January 2019, Saint Matthew School prepared a large-scale plan for financial aid for non-parishioners. The school would like the recommendation of the school board to determine if a fund would be a restricted fund run through the parish or an endowed fund.
  • Examine the non-Catholic perception of Saint Matthew School.
In October of 2019, the school surveyed the non-Catholic members of the community to determine their perception of the school. These perceptions may change the school’s marketing initiatives.
  • Increase student opportunities to experience diversity.
In the fall of 2018, Saint Matthew School began to offer an inclusion program for students with intellectual and developmental disabilities, called the Hand-in-Hand Options Program. Three students are enrolled in the program for the 2019-2020 school year. By February of 2020, the inclusion coordinator at Saint Matthew will devise a long-term plan for the Hand-in-Hand 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.

  • Achieving $125,000 in annual fund giving and $50,000 in restricted giving by June 2019.
  • Increasing the endowment to $2.5 million by 2023.
  • Increasing the net amount raised on the Mane Event by February 2019.
  • Saint Matthew School will achieve 100% participation from school families that include all facets of fundraising.
Saint Matthew School raised approximately $116,000 in Annual Fund and $39,000 in restricted giving in 2018-2019. The Mane Event raised $50,000 more than anticipated.
Saint Matthew School will continue to grow the endowment with the goal of reaching $2.5 million by the spring of 2023.
  • 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.
A recommendation was made to the parish finance committee to change the financial structure with the parish. This recommendation is continuing to be reviewed in order to determine best practices and appropriate application for Saint Matthew School.
  • Begin internship program to target alumni relations. The internship will be in the fall of 2018.
  • Increase visibility of parish donations to the school.
Saint Matthew School will identify, engage, and steward the faith community and the greater community at large.

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.
The advancement office devised and implemented a multi-level marketing plan for the 2018-2019 academic year. The plan called for publicity within the Saint Matthew community, other Catholic parishes including Holy Family and St. Philip, and the surrounding community.
In 2018, the school hosted its first Open House to complement other admission initiatives, and was run in conjunction with the school's annual Trunk or Treat. It also hosted numerous morning events to meet the needs of working parents. Due to the success of these events, the school will continue to host the Open House and trunk or treat event, and will increase the number of Coffee with the Principal events.
The school continues to have a strong social media presence. It has recently rebranded several of its social media platforms.
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, for example:
  1. The school will be the lead sponsor for the SPC Learning Center’s spring fundraiser.
  2. The school plans to meet with SPC parishioners several times this year after their liturgies, including the Spanish-speaking Mass.
  3. The school will be a sponsor at the SPC Knights of Columbus fundraiser.
The school will continue to have a presence at community events. In 2019, Saint Matthew School was part of Westhaven’s Porchfest and Balloonfest. It will also participate in the Leiper’s Fork Christmas Parade, and possibly in the Franklin Christmas Parade.
  • Create two communications targeting alumni.
In 2018 and 2019, the school produced an alumni magazine called Corde Leonis. The magazine includes alumni updates and information about Saint Matthew School.
  • Gather 35% of alumni contact information.
Prior to 2018, the school did not collect data on graduates. Last year, the advancement office created a database for alumni. Currently, the school has demographic information on approximately 25% of alumni.
By May of 2020, the school will have contacted 35% of all alumni. Contact can be measured through social media, donations to the school, or contact through written material such as Corde Leonis.

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.
In October of 2019, the school hosted a safety training taught by the Williamson County Sheriff Department
  • 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.
Discussions continue with the Williamson County regarding 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.