Dear Fellow Parishioners,
Last week, I gave an overview of St. Vincent de Paul Elementary School, and will provide an overview of our parish high school this week. One thing both schools have in common is, over the past year, they underwent their required re-accreditation study, and both schools received the longest possible renewal of six years.
Though we date the beginning of SVHS from 1918 – the first graduating class for which we have records – the current Academy Building (and former High School) at Howard at Union Streets was built in 1888. It originally had a third story, of wooden construction, that was removed quite early on.
I believe the first graduates who began at the old high school on Howard at Union, but graduated from the new campus, were of the class of 1962. Since then, the campus and facilities have grown steadily: two expansions of the school campus through purchases of adjacent property, the DeCarli Gymnasium, the improvement and completion of Yarborough Field and Track, the Ziggurat (an large step-sided pyramid which serves as an outdoor seating and gathering area), and the completion this year of the Linda Gonzalez Art Studio, a new building for the teaching and creation of visual and applied arts, to be dedicated later this year in honor of our long-time art teacher.
Over the past four years, SVHS has undergone a complete administrative and academic reorganization. At my direction, and under principal Patrick Daly, finances have been overhauled with the help of an accounting firm from San Francisco that specializes in non-profit organizations and which provided their services at a vastly discounted rate. Many new faculty and coaching staff have been hired, representing “new blood” and with an impressive array of academic qualifications, experience and records of success in their respective fields.
Currently, we have about 160 students, with large numbers of inquiries for the coming fall. Needless to say, COVID-19 and the extended lock-downs have been an unprecedented challenge to both of our schools, especially the high school. In fall of 2020, we had 20 new students ready to enroll. Then the lock-downs came, and they withdrew. Over four years, that represented a significant loss of prospective income. In addition, COVID-19 has severely impacted our ability to raise funds through school events, and to host on-campus open house events. (We’ve found that at both of our schools, once the parents are on the campus, they want their sons and daughters to attend.) Now that COVID seems finally to be subsiding, we pray for and look forward to a healthy incoming class this fall, coming from a much larger number of feeder schools.
Despite the challenges of the past couple of years, our students continue to perform exceptionally well in their academic and extra-curricular activities. Our 2019, 2020 and 2021 graduates are attending Yale University, UC Berkeley, Harvey Mudd College, Duke University, NYU, Sarah Lawrence College, UCLA, Reed College and other well-known institutions – amazing for a school our size. No less impressive are the numbers of scholarships many students are offered from multiple universities. (In many cases, they more than compensate for the entire cost of an SVHS education.) What is important, academically and socially, is that each student finds a college or university which is the best fit for him or her. We now have superior college application and counseling services and individualized attention to help each student find the best fit from among the range of choices a SVHS education makes available to them.
Finally, we place highest priority on the religious and values-based formation of conscience of our students from a Catholic perspective. Given the complexity and (at best) moral neutrality of the world in which we live, this is essential to their future success as persons made in the image and likeness of God, and essential to our society as a whole.
As I have long said, our parish schools have tremendous residual strength, and it is my firm belief that our past achievements, current efforts and future plans will guide our schools for many years to come.
Fr. Bill Donahue