Holy sisters show the way at St. Francis

HILTON HEAD — Dr. Mike Rockers, principal of St. Francis by the Sea, provided the following information. He credits the school’s success to everyone working together.

Name of school: St. Francis School.

History: St. Francis was founded in August 2005 as the regional school for three local parishes: St. Francis by the Sea, Holy Family and St. Gregory the Great. Msgr. Martin Laughlin was the pastor of St. Francis by the Sea parish at that time.
Principal: Michael Rockers, Ph.D.

Number of students: 220 with a capacity of 260.

Faculty: The school has 13 full-time and five part-time teachers.

School motto: Quality Academics in the Catholic Tradition.

Grades: Pre-kindergarten through eighth-grade.

Hours: 8:05 a.m. to 2:45 p.m.

After-school program: The after-school program is offered until 5:30 p.m. each full day of school. It provides playtime, fine arts activities, snacks and homework time.

School meals: Our school lunch program uses vendors from various restaurants and supplements that basic program with other nutritious items for $3.55/meal including milk. It is managed and staffed by parent volunteers.

School colors: Blue and yellow.

Mascot: We are “The Wolves.”

Sports: In middle school we have golf, volleyball, boys and girls basketball, cross country and tennis.

Let us brag: Our school is noted for its tremendous parental support and a quality faculty with high academic expectations. These two aspects of the school are the key components to our academic success and high achievement test scores. Included in our faculty are four Dominican Sisters from the Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist.

Foreign language: Spanish is taught to all students each week and to middle school students each day.

Advanced classes: Algebra, advanced English and Spanish for our middle school students are accepted for high school credit. Our Learning Center supports our students with remedial and advanced small-group and individual instruction.

Co-curricular teams/activities: Various plays and concerts, Quiz Bowl, Geography Bee, Spelling Bee, Chess Club, “Mathaletes,” Literary Meet Team, school band, science fair and much more.

Facilities: We are surrounded by a beautiful wooded setting on Hilton Head Island. Thanks to a generous donor and our parish capital campaign, a new fine arts center will house our art and music rooms beginning in the 2008-09 school year. The capital campaign’s next goal is the construction of a parish multi-purpose building. The building’s gym/auditorium will bless the students in many ways. When the project is completed, our facility will provide a quality space for all of our curriculum areas and co-curricular programs.

Biggest change over the years: One big change is the use of technology over the years. We recently installed 25 new computers in our computer lab and replaced computers in all the classrooms. LCD projectors allow our faculty to integrate web and computer resources, especially PowerPoint presentations, in our classrooms. Computer workshops for our teachers and weekly computer classes for our students are viewed as integral parts of our overall program.

What sets us apart: In an era when so few Catholic schools have a religious presence, we are especially grateful for the model of holiness and excellent instruction provided by the presence of our four sisters.

Our parishes and school: The pastor of St. Francis by the Sea Church is Father Michael J. Oenbrink. We also are the parish school for Holy Family Church, whose pastor is Father Hayden Vaverek. Although our school serves students of various denominations from Beaufort County, it is composed primarily of children from the local Catholic parishes, including middle school students from our sister school, St. Gregory the Great, whose pastor is Msgr. Martin Laughlin.

One change we would make to our school: We are accredited through the South Carolina Independent School Association and are associate members of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, and the Southern Association of Independent Schools. We would like to change the associate memberships to full accreditation. Our goal is to do this by March 2009.
How we demonstrate the Catholic faith: Our goal is that everything we do demonstrates our Catholic faith. Living rosaries, eucharistic processions, emphasis on living out Christian virtues through our Virtue of the Month Program and the way we treat each other as brothers and sisters in Christ are just a few of the ways we promote that goal.

Our top awards or honors are: The Knights of Columbus Council 10668 provides our students with “Student of the Month” recognition, complete with a framed certificate.

Music/art programs: Our fourth-grade chorus, school band and various musical theatre productions are an integral part of our school.

Teacher awards: Present teachers Beverly Toth, Judy Pugatch and Teresa Fitzgibbons have all been awarded the “Teacher of the Year” award from the Hilton Head Island Rotary Club.

What were your average scores on the IOWA test? Our scores average 25 percentile points higher than the national average.

What percentage of students are Catholic? 92 percent.