Dear Members of the Archmere Community:
By the start of the school year in 1934, Fr. Michael McKeough, O.Praem., the first Headmaster of Archmere Academy, had deep concerns about the future viability of the school, which he communicated with then Abbot Bernard Pennings, O.Praem.. In a letter to Mr. John Raskob, who held the mortgage on Archmere for the Norbertine Fathers, Abbot Pennings wrote, “It is evident that we cannot meet our obligation on Archmere because it seems that the hope for outside support to any substantial amount cannot be obtained at the present time and probably not for a long time to come. It is also a well known fact that no school can be operated without such support, whether it be a Catholic or non-Catholic institution. For this reason we fear that we may have to give up Archmere and look for a smaller place at a much lower expense.” (November 26, 1934). Fortunately, Mr. Raskob responded with delayed terms on the repayment of the debt, recognizing the important educational work already being accomplished at the school. And so, 80 years later, we continue to live the founding mission of Archmere, executed through our Strategic Plan.
Now, in year three of the plan, we celebrate the work accomplished and are excited about the work to be done. We are achieving our goals because of the collaborative efforts and support of so many. As Abbot Pennings stated in his letter to Mr. Raskob, “. . . no school can be operated without such support . . . “ We are grateful for all of the blessings we have been given as an Academy, and I am pleased to share with you the following quarterly update of activities and accomplishments in each of the five focus areas of our Strategic Plan.
The Immaculate Conception Oratory in Saint Norbert Hall is nearing completion in the last quarter of the year with the re-installation of the Stations of the Cross (original to the 1959 chapel in Saint Norbert Hall) and the installation of a three-part icon, created by artist, Peter Pearson, entitled “Communion of Saints.” The work will depict the unique Norbertine charism – past and present – and be a wonderful teaching tool for our students and Archmere community. Our hope is to bless the work at our school-wide Mass on December 8, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.
The recently completed Meditation Garden with the Stations of the Cross (located between The Patio and the science center) received the first phase of a large outdoor art installation this fall. Mrs. Jody Hoffman, Art Department Chair, worked with art students to develop a design, executed in glass tile, based on the Fibonacci Sequence. Since it is such a large project, it will be completed in three phases and will cover three large walls adjacent to the Science Center. At the annual Mothers’ Guild Rosary and Tea on the Feast of the Holy Rosary (October 7), Father McLaughlin blessed the first phase of the artwork, which depicts the eternal creative nature of God – a God who has made a world that is in a constant birth-life-death-life cycle.
Six faculty members over the last two years have visited Norbertine communities in Europe, spreading out from Normandy, France, through Belgium, and into Holland. These first-hand experiences of our school heritage, combined with concepts for global learning, have been distilled and are resulting in international student programming unique to Archmere in the summer of 2015. Three Archmere teachers who attended this pilgrimage addressed our faculty and staff at our annual retreat on September 26 at Daylesford Abbey, and they will address the students about their experiences as well.
Father Joseph McLaughlin, O.Praem., continues to serve as Chaplain for the Academy and attends numerous weddings, funerals, and other sacramental functions for the members of the Archmere community. He has been joined by Father John Zagarella, O.Praem., who serves as Freshman Class Counselor and is adding to the lived Norbertine experience at Archmere. Father Zagarella is also teaching an elective course on Saint Norbert to juniors and seniors.
The Patio continues to be renovated and re-engaged in the daily life of the school. Now the home of all non-academic administrative offices, the Patio will also serve as home to additional student activities with the completion of renovations to the lower level. The original bowling alley, which was destroyed by water damage in the basement over the years, has been renovated into a large multi-purpose room with hardwood floors and large wall mirrors for a variety of student activities. The lounge on the lower level is also being renovated and should be available for meetings of volunteer groups, classes, and other activities by the end of the calendar year.
We welcomed 143 freshman to Archmere’s Class of 2018 – the second largest class in the history of Archmere. The freshman class average test score on the entrance exam was two points higher than the class admitted the year before.
We have negotiated a new lease arrangement with Apple for the upgrade from MacBook Pros for all students to Mac Book Air laptops. This “refresh” of our 1:1 laptop program involves more than 600 student and faculty computers and underscores the Academy’s designation as the only “Apple Distinguished School” in Delaware.
We have engaged in a partnership with the Music School of Delaware and the University of Delaware to bring the members of the Seraphin String Quartet to Archmere as instructors in the new string program. They are teaching master classes for advanced string students and lab classes for beginning string players. These accomplished musicians, holding chair positions with the Philadelphia Orchestra and other prominent groups, will add depth and richness to the second year of a growing instrumental program.
We have implemented a comprehensive performance evaluation program for faculty and staff. In its second year, the process continues to be refined to be most efficient and effective and has become the foundation for the introduction of a merit-based compensation program. These two initiatives are creating a learning community that is based on best practices and excellence, supportive of and rewarding innovation, creativity, and growth, as well as hard work and diligence.
We welcomed new staff members this year, replacing some current positions and also filling new positions due to growing enrollment: Mr. Kyle Bardeer, history teacher, Mrs. Lisa Beatson, science/math teacher, Mr. Chris Boehm, college counseling director, Mrs. Joyce Campion, reading specialist, Ms. Katie Eissler, foreign language teacher, Mrs. Karen Linton, English teacher/learning support specialist, Ms. Francesca Pileggi ‘06, counselor, Ms. Catherine Souza, assistant college counselor, Ms. Kathryn Hudson and Mr. Thomas Mengers ‘10, religion teachers, Father John Zagarella, O.Praem., counselor, Mrs. Denise Alexander Starnes ‘93, Webmaster/Communications Assistant, and Ainsley Hertrich ’05, Development & Alumni Relations Coordinator.
The events of the Alumni Association this year, including the Golf Outing and the Sports Hall of Fame Banquet, generated record attendance and funds that supported the Alumni Legacy Scholarship Fund and the Archmere Athletic Program respectively.
We continue to add members to the Class Representative list – the key to building community and support for the Academy and one another as alumni.
During the last year, individual classes have initiated reunions and legacy scholarship funds, including the Classes of 1963, 1964, 1979, and 1983.
Within the last year, we have implemented a new initiative as a result of a comprehensive campus energy audit of all of our buildings conducted by Seiberlich-Trane. The implementation of Direct Digital Controls has given our facilities staff the ability to regulate heating and cooling in all rooms of Saint Norbert Hall, Science Center, Student Life Center, Performing Arts Center, and Field House from a laptop computer screen or smart phone. The computerized system is generating enough energy efficiency annually such that the cost of installation will be recovered over a maximum of six years of energy savings or less. After the first year we have generated savings in excess of $80,000 — $20,000 more than projected even with a particularly cold winter. Our cost recovery period could be less than predicted should these savings be realized in current and future years.
We have begun an exploratory project, based on a feasibility study conducted last year, regarding renovations to Saint Norbert Hall and endowment growth. Renovations to Saint Norbert Hall would bring operational efficiencies, as well as enhanced learning spaces for students who spend the majority of their day in classes held in the building. These major renovations are being studied while other capital projects continue to be completed, including the replacement of all the theatre stage curtains and inspection and repair of all the stage rigging.
We continue to focus on endowment growth, with the suggestion of focusing on planned and deferred gifts. As of the end of the quarter on September 30, we have more than two dozen members of the Founder Society, a group of individuals who have made planned gifts to Archmere and have informed us of their plans. We continue to be in touch with what will help us become less tuition dependent and also allow us to insure that we maintain and grow the diversity of our school community.
The Annual Report of Donors shares the details of the 2013-14 fiscal year as another record-breaking fund raising year for Archmere. Our substantial fund raising results give us hope for reaching our goal of $700,000 for the current 2014-15 annual campaign year.
Our enrollment is strong, with 511 students this year, and interest in Archmere from a wide geographic footprint continues to grow. Our website activity increases each year, as does our social media presence, and most importantly, positive word-of-mouth endorsements about Archmere to prospective families.