School benefits from strong spirituality, marketing

Second in an occasional series about successful schools in the Diocese of Camden.

RUNNEMEDE — The principal of  St. Teresa Regional School here, was talking to a visitor when she was interrupted briefly by a maintenance man. He wanted her to know that the school’s front door had been repaired.

Sister Patricia asked the man for his name — Mike — and she responded, “Mike, thank you.”

A personal touch, an emphasis on Catholic identity and effective marketing have helped make St. Teresa a strong school.

The K-8 enrollment has increased this year, from 174 students last year, to 181 students this year. As well, the school had a 100 percent retention rate from last year’s kindergarten to this year’s first grade. In addition, this year the school has begun a Pre-K program, with 21 students.

Located on the corner of Evesham Road and the White Horse Pike, the school is connected with Holy Child Parish.

The school recently partnered with the Catholic School Development Program (CSDP), a pro bono consulting service to schools in the Diocese of Camden. The partnership has helped St. Teresa school develop mission-driven fundraising, and has aided school staff in marketing and communicating the school’s message.

A few years ago, struggling with low enrollment and the possibility of closure, school officials met with CSDP to discuss ways to better bring the good news of the school to local families.

The school devised a tag line, “Forming Minds and Hearts for Leadership and Service,” and a logo that brings together a cross, heart, flower representing St. Teresa, and a flame of fire.

“We focus on helping schools help themselves,” said CSDP director Greg Geruson, who added that his organization helped St. Teresa School with enrollment and marketing strategies, such as creating a school newsletter and organizing an alumni database.

“Their accomplishments are what they achieved” themselves, said Geruson.

In addition to St. Teresa, CSDP works with 25 other schools in the Camden Diocese, and six schools in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

St. Teresa’s school includes a diverse student body coming from Runnemede and from surrounding areas such as Audubon, Barrington, Magnolia, Sicklerville, and Williamstown, of various backgrounds such as Caucasian, African-American, Asian, Filipino and Egyptian descent.

Principal at the school since summer 2008, Sister Patricia makes a point of speaking personally with prospective school parents, in her office. As well, she was instrumental in the “RACE to Achieve” campaign at the school, which encourages students to do their best through Responsibility, Academic Excellence, Catholic Identity, and Empowerment.

She said the school’s goal is to “push students to the next level,” along with helping them “realize diversity, and accept all individuals.”  The faculty consists of 10 full-time teachers, along with a librarian; 5-8th grade Spanish teacher; technology teacher; art teacher; music teacher; physical education teacher; and pre-K assistants.

All are “team players who have the best interests of the children,” said Sister Patricia. “They are always trying new strategies, and increasing ways to help the children reach their full potential.”

The school is currently in the midst of a year-long fundraising campaign, using word of mouth and mailings from school staff, parents, alumni, and Holy Child parishioners who “believe in the school, and speak freely to others,” said advancement director Lisa Colangelo.

Other school initiatives include Project Hospitality, which stresses to students the importance of helping others, and allows each grade to focus on a certain service project to perform all year.

To remind students on who they are called to be, the Saints Alive program has each class research the lives of the saints, and pick a particular one to be that class’s patron saint for the year.

In addition to the First Friday morning liturgies for the whole school at Holy Child, there is a designated time for each class to spend time in silence in front of the Blessed Sacrament.

These activities, Sister Patricia said, get to the heart of what St. Teresa Regional School is all about, to help young students in spiritual development, academic leadership and works of service.

Geruson praised the “willingness and commitment” of Sister Patricia, Colangelo, Holy Child pastor, Father Raymond Gormley, and school teachers and staff for their work in creating “a strong Catholic identity, and academic excellence” at St. Teresa.

“The school has a great responsibility, to help with the faith formation of the children,” Sister Patricia says.  “We have to educate them, so that their lived expression of the Catholic faith is a natural part of their being.”

Categories: Catholic School News

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