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Executive Summary

“SWS considers its best asset to be the family atmosphere…”

St. Walter School Executive Summary
(Revised January 2018)

Description of the School

Saint Walter Catholic Elementary School (SWS) is a school in the Archdiocese of Chicago, the largest private school system in the United Sates. The SWS motto of “Live Faith, Learn Tradition, Achieve Excellence” summarizes the spirit and mission of SWS, honoring our school’s sixty-five year history while preparing our students with a solid academic foundation to build upon in the future.

SWS is a Pre-Kindergarten through Grade 8 school serving one-hundred forty students in the Beverly neighborhood of Chicago. SWS was founded in 1952 as part of Saint Walter Parish whose parish boundaries cover one square mile, half in Chicago and half in Blue Island.

SWS is proud of its diverse enrollment which it draws from the neighborhood and the larger community. Demographically, the students come from twenty different zip codes and racially are identified as approximately 53% African-American; 18% Caucasian; 17% Multi-racial; 10% Hispanic; and 2% other. Saint Walter School accepts children of all religious backgrounds and currently is currently 41% Catholic and 56% non-Catholic. The current socio-economic status of our school population has 43% receiving free/reduced lunch; 46% receive financial aid in the form of Caritas, Big Shoulders, or SWS Scholarship; 12% qualify for Title I services; and 6% have Individualized Catholic Education Plans.

SWS offers academic instruction of the highest quality implementing current best practices under the direction of a Principal. The faculty at Saint Walter consists of nine full-time lay teachers; two full-time religious teachers; one full-time teacher aide; one part-time Reading Specialist; and one religious Title I instructor. Members of the faculty and administration hold Professional Educator Licenses from the Illinois State Board of Education. At SWS, 60% of the teachers have more than 15 years of teaching experience and 85% hold concentrations/endorsements in content specific areas. Special area staff including the physical education teacher and the Spanish teacher are part-time and are outsourced from the Fran Center. Additional support staff includes a full-time administrative assistant, a part-time business manager, and school custodians.

SWS’s teachers participate in bi-monthly Professional Learning Committees based on grade-levels which provide opportunities for collaboration and resource support. Members of the faculty also participate in on-going professional development that aligns with the school’s Continuous School Improvement Plan (CSIP) and attend subject/classroom management specific workshops throughout the school year.

Our Catholic identity and evangelization is ever present within our classrooms with all students participating in Morning Prayer, daily religion classes and weekly mass. Additionally, the entire student body participates in reciting a decade of the rosary on Mondays and Fridays during the month of October, Advent wreath candle lighting during Advent, Stations of the Cross each Friday during Lent and a living rosary along with our May Crowning. Catholic students in Grades 2 through 8 attend Reconciliation services twice a year. All faculty members are progressing through the new Catechetical Certification process with 70% of the teachers at Level II or above.

The smaller class sizes lend itself to more personalized instruction, and teachers and students alike know everyone’s name. SWS considers its best asset to be the family atmosphere that is evident the moment you walk through the door.

School’s Purpose

Saint Walter Catholic School’s (SWS) success can be attributed to our dedicated staff, hard-working students and supportive parents. Addressing the needs of the whole child is evident within the classrooms and the foundation of our Mission Statement:

“Saint Walter School is a Catholic school dedicated to developing each child spiritually, intellectually, morally, physically and emotionally, so that each child will achieve success, advance in educational development and become a life-long learner.”

In order to provide quality levels of instruction, a master schedule has been created to give teachers and students essential uninterrupted instructional time during the school day. Students in Pre-Kindergarten through Grade 5 are in self-contained classrooms, while students in Grades 6 through 8 rotate through a departmentalized schedule. Each grade utilizes the computer lab on a daily basis during a scheduled time period, and teachers have the opportunity to use the mobile Apple iPad cart for further integration of technology within their classrooms. Teachers in Grades 1 through 8 and the computer lab are equipped with SMART Boards, and every teachers has a school issued Lenovo Think Pad to assist with curriculum planning and communications.

SWS curriculum aligns with the Illinois State Standards and the Archdiocese of Chicago Benchmarks for English Language Arts (ELA) and Math, and our science curriculum is shifting towards the Next Generations Science Standards (NGSS). Teachers have begun to utilize Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) activities which provide students with opportunities for real-world applications of learned content. Teachers design engaging lessons utilizing research-based strategies and best practices to assist students in achieving their fullest potential mindful of visual, auditory and kinesthetic learners. In order to assist students with academic challenges, Individualized Catholic Identity Plans (ICEPS) are developed, and interventions and accommodations are implemented to reinforce and build upon individual student successes. Students who qualify for Title I services based on their test scores, low-income status and school district they reside in receive individual and small group pull-out instruction. Working with a Title I instructor, students receive more focused interventions to achieve higher levels of academic proficiency. Classroom teachers utilize formative assessment and student conferencing to review student strengths and areas of need. The faculty utilizes STAR Reading, DIBELS, DAZE, EZ-CBM, and Aspire Quizlets to monitor student progress and provide data drive instruction.

The entire school works on developing good character traits and helping student understand how the Gospel message can be lived out daily in their lives. Every month, teachers submit one student’s name from their class to be recognized as a Courageous Cat. Courageous Cats exemplify good manners, demonstrate excellent behavior, lead by example and are faith-filled. Students are presented a certificate and have a pizza lunch with the principal.

In addition to academics, SWS offers students opportunities to participate in extracurricular activities that include: band, chess, National Junior Honor Society, science club and student council. Athletic activities include: basketball (boys), dance team (boys/girls), soccer (boys/girls) and volleyball (girls). Students also take advantage of the many service opportunities offered after school or on weekends by volunteering to help out for school, Athletic Association or Family and School Association events.

SWS offers an Extended Day Program to assist our parents with before-school and/or after-school care. The Extended Day Program provides supervised playtime, games, and homework assistance in a caring and nurturing environment.

Notable Achievements and Areas of Improvement

Saint Walter School (SWS) is proud of our achievements, and we have many reasons to celebrate. Saint Walter students have been recognized annually at the city and state levels for Science Fair and History Fair, and participates annually in the National Geographic Geography Bee. SWS students are offered the opportunity to write and publish their own stories through the Student Treasures Program, and student representatives participate in the Young Author Conference at Illinois State University and Trinity College.

SWS currently has students who have been awarded the S.T.E.M. (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) Scholarship through Big Shoulders. Students of SWS have been awarded Congressman Lipinski’s Exceptional Grades and Involvement Award, All American Boy Award and All American Girl Award, and the St. Rita Mustang Leadership Award. SWS is the only school to have had students received the Medal of Honor for service to community numerous years from the V.F.W. Post 50, Blue Island. SWS has been awarded the James Patterson Grant and Meemic Scholastic Grant which allowed us to purchase 74 new diverse books to enhance our library. SWS has also been the recipient of Pets in the Classroom and the Illinois Agricultural Scholarship, pulling in literature and science.

Each year, approximately 80% of our eighth grade students test and go on to Catholic high schools, with several students receiving scholarships due to high scores on the entrance exam.

While we are proud of all our achievements, we have actively worked on improving our academic excellence. In 2017, our ACT Aspire test scores saw an increase of one to two points both at grade-level and cohort-level when compared to the 2016 ACT Aspire scores. Along with implementing the goals of our Continuous School Improvement Plan (CSIP), the entire school works on school-wide goals that focus on fact fluency, grammar skills and penmanship.

For the 2017-2018 school year, the math curriculum was updated with the purchase of Go Math! for students in Kindergarten through Grade 8, including purchase of the online component. An Honors Algebra course was added to our curriculum for eighth grade students who meet the academic criteria. Our Reading Specialist has incorporated Literature Circles in the Junior High, and works cooperatively with teachers implementing our Progress Monitoring and Response to Intervention programs. The Pre-Kindergarten program at SWS adopted Big Day for Pre-K in 2017 as we begin to shift the Early Childhood curriculum to a more academic-based program. The entire faculty participates monthly in the Readers Are Leaders program, which has teachers visiting a different grade each month to share their love of literature.

For the past three years, Saint Walter School has been certified as a Common Sense Digital School, boasting several certified educators. This year, our seventh grade math students are taking part in the Big Shoulders Stock Market Program.

Professional development has focused on the goals of the CSIP, with specific attention given to the Jennifer Serravallo Reading Strategies Book. The faculty has implemented many of these strategies to enhance classroom instruction and increase test scores. Professional development workshops have also included topics on high quality teaching, strategies for motivating students to achieve more and differentiated learning.

Recent improvements and upgrades to our facility include a new fire alarm panel and technical wiring to enhance our technology program and make our building wireless. There are over a dozen new computer stations in the classrooms, a mobile iPad cart with 30 iPads, and two new projectors for our Smartboards. SWS has purchased a Dash and Dot robot to teach computer science and programming.

In the next three years, SWS looks to continue to update its curricular resources. The staff will begin to fully implement the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), and new resources will be purchased to support our science curriculum. Professional Learning Committees, started this school year (2017-2018) need to continue to take better shape and have more clearly defined objectives. While collaboration is an important element of these meetings, better time allotment to the goals of the CSIP and instructional strategies need to be discussed. Finally, increasing our enrollment numbers and marketing the school will continue to be a high priority. SWS hopes to reverse a trend of decreasing enrollment seen over the past years. An increase in enrollment numbers will not only help alleviate the financial deficit of the school, but will provide an increase in funds that can be used to rebuild our fine arts program.

Additional Information

Saint Walter School (SWS) students are encouraged to participate in a variety of activities that focus on service to the school, parish and community. These activities provide opportunities for students to give alms and other donations. Annual activities include the Giving Tree where students donate new toys for those less fortunate at Christmas time, Operation Rice Bowl during Lent, Sock-it-to-me Day where students bring in new socks for Angel’s Touch in Blue Island and providing lunches for the homeless as Confirmation service hours. SWS has taken part in many opportunities to broaden our awareness of global need by holding $1 Dress Down Days to benefit Hurricane Harvey Relief and Puerto-Rico Hurricane Relief, and bake sales to benefit the American Red Cross and the American Cancer Society.

Students are also encouraged to give of their time and talent in service to community. Fifth through eighth graders can volunteer to become altar servers for Masses both at school and on the weekends. Junior High students also sign up to work the annual Saint Vincent DePaul Soup Suppers, and other parish functions like the Saint Joseph’s table. Saint Walter students have volunteered at a local nursing home where they interacted with the elderly residents. Other students have volunteered and helped at activities for a local Veterans’ organization. NJHS members have given of their time at Feed My Starving Children, and promoted and collected donations for Misericordia Red-Nose Day.

As a school community SWS has traditionally offered a variety of extracurricular activities to enhance the educational program. Students can join Choir, Band and the Dance Team. Students are able to advance their learning through Chess Scholars, STEM classes, Science Club and Vacation Bible School. Organizations like Student Council and NJHS develop student leaders who organize activities for the school community such as Red Ribbon Week and Earth Week, after-school movies and holiday parties. Junior Achievement is offered to students in Kindergarten through Grade 8 and provides a connection between school and community.

Special programs and assemblies complement the curriculum. Presentations by a local author, Internet safety expert, WWII and Vietnam Veterans and Urban Gateways performers give our students valuable knowledge and an appreciation for diverse cultures and the arts. Additionally, St. Walter students always look forward to their chance to perform for Grandparents Day, Band Concerts, Christmas Program and the annual Talent Show.