Loading...
All Posts By

Christopher Keavy

By the Numbers

Our academic mission is college preparation, college admission, and college success. So, we watch the numbers.

The College Board recently released final performance results from the SAT for the class of 2018. Nationwide, students improved their scores relative to results from 2017. Looking locally, JPII’s Class of 2018 outperformed national averages, Massachusetts averages, and the mean scores for our Diocesan Catholic high schools. The Class of 2018 continued a trend that JPII students have achieved since 2014.

Beyond this, current seniors (Class of 2019) took the SAT in October at school, during the school day, and at school expense. Of the 64 seniors who tested, 50 improved their scores.  I believe the comfort, convenience, and familiarity of school-day testing aided in these gains.

While numbers don’t tell the whole story, they matter. We’ll keep focusing our efforts on maximizing each and every student’s college opportunities, including their numbers.

 

 

Can We Go Back to College?

TED Talks. Hamilton. Podcasts. “One-day” universities. More and more, adults are looking for college learning opportunities amidst their busy lives. Maybe we see the opportunities our college-age sons and daughters enjoy, yearn for the intellectual stimulation of the campus environment, or realize the banality of much of our digital consumption. There’s a way to fix that.

Annually, the Notre Dame Club of Cape Cod and the school have sponsored the Hesburgh Lecture Series, which brings Notre Dame professors to Hyannis for a community lecture. This year, Walter J. Nicgorski, Ph.D., presents The American Constitutional Tradition: Historic Strengths and Current Challenges. Prof. Nicgorski will explore five challenges to the present American political order — the apparent erosion of the moral foundations, the tension between liberty and security, the threat to religious liberty, the shadow of globalization, and the economic “crisis” of our time.

Why not come out for some intellectual nourishment?

Catholic Schools (Not) in the News

Last Sunday, the Cape Cod Times featured school improvements as Cape schools set to open their academic years (“Back to the Books,” 9/2/2018). But again this year, not all Cape schools were included. As such, St. Pius X School Principal Anne Dailey and I sent this letter to the Times editors last week. 

To the Editor,

Thank you for presenting readers with the preparations that Cape public schools have made for the 2018-2019 school year (“Back to the Books,” 9/2/2018). Missing, though, are the efforts of non-public schools, which are an important part of the school choice landscape that benefits all Cape families.

This year, 560 students will be educated at St. Margaret, St. Francis Xavier Prep, and St. John Paul II, which operates as one Pre K-12 Catholic school. St. Pius X School in South Yarmouth welcomes 242 students, its highest enrollment in school history. At these schools, new physical plant and program improvements are noteworthy.

The schools have completed parking lot and roadway construction, flooring upgrades, remodeled offices, hydration stations, and exterior renovations. More importantly, the addition of primary grades Spanish, strings instrument instruction offered from Pre-K-12, dance instruction in middle school, and the expansion of the AP Capstone program in high school, improves the program. Additionally, personalized, longitudinal data collection will help teachers and students develop more personalized educational goals.

Similar to our public school peers, the Cape’s non-public schools work hard to provide outstanding value for students and families. The Times might feature these efforts equally when getting back to school.

Sincerely,

Christopher W. Keavy, Head of School
St. Margaret Regional School (www.smrsbb.org)
St. Francis Xavier Preparatory School (www.sfxp.org)
St. John Paul II High School ( www.sjp2hs.org )

Anne Dailey, Principal
St. Pius X School ( www.spxschool.org )

Remembrance: Fanny Y. Singer (1959-2018)

The following remarks were delivered by Mr. Keavy at Mrs. Singer’s vigil service on May 7, 2018.

When Andrew told me that he and Fanny wished that I deliver words of remembrance, of course, I was honored. It’s not hard to say good things about Fanny Singer. And I’m honored because of who Fanny was as a person; strong, independent, peaceful, loving, funny, and wise.  

Andrew prepared beautiful remembrances and reflections that helped me know Fanny’s life more fully. Because of Fanny’s dignity, privacy, and humility, many do not realize the extraordinary arc of her life – — though all sensed her depth.  Still waters run deep.

Fanny has always been independent and strong-willed.  She was born in Ujung Pandang on the island of Sulawesi in Indonesia.  She has four sisters and two brothers and is the third oldest. She grew up as a Chinese minority in a Muslim-majority country.  Her grandparents and parents were entrepreneurs. While her family is Buddhist, she and her siblings were sent to schools run by missionaries and converted to Catholicism at a young age.  Her parents wanted the best education for their children.

Fanny tells of when she was in grade school and taller than other children. She helped protect smaller children who were bullied. One would search long and hard to find anger or sharp feelings in Fanny. But one thing she hated was racism, something she experienced personally. From a young age, Fanny looked out for others and remained keen to oppose prejudice and bigotry throughout her life.

She began college in Indonesia, but after two years came to America. She arrived in San Francisco in February 1983, just shy of 24 years old.  She learned English, passed the TOEFL, moved across the country, and enrolled at Old Dominion University in southern Virginia. She graduated from Old Dominion in 1986 with a Computer Science Degree.

Following a friend, Fanny moved to the Washington, D.C. area and took a job as a computer programmer/analyst. She programmed COBOL. Those early mainframe computers took up large, air-conditioned rooms.  She enjoyed the technical challenge of writing and analyzing code.

Andrew worked briefly at the same company in late 1988, for just two months.  He met Fanny in a break room when she was selling homemade spring rolls for a church fundraiser.  He bought two and thanked her — in Chinese. She stared at him as if he had six heads. Maybe it was his accent, or maybe his Caucasian face threw her for a loop.

But she wasn’t too badly put off, and Fanny and Andrew began dating.  First, she invited him out for dimsum. He arrived at the restaurant to discover that she had brought along twelve Chinese friends and their families to chaperone.  For their second date, they drove her Mustang out to Luray Caverns in the Shenandoah Mountains. On the third, they went to New York City and visited Andrew’s brother at NYU.

After dating seriously for a year, on a cold February day at the Lincoln Memorial, Andrew proposed marriage. Fanny agreed, but with a stipulation.  She would not get married until she had earned her green card on her own. She did not want to get her green card because she married a US citizen. Isn’t that Fanny! Independent, proud, tough. No doubt many of us have seen that strong will and the high standards she held for herself in our interactions with Fanny.

Green card in hand, Fanny and Andrew were married in late July 1991, at Wychmere Harbor Club in Harwichport.

After Andrew’s law school graduation, they moved to Portland, Oregon.  To get there, they took a road trip lasting 28 days and covering 7,700 miles and 22 States.  Fanny and Andrew zigged and zagged up and down and across the country visiting friends, relatives, and seeing America.  Fanny and Andrew funded their trip rather cleverly. As they were already planning on relocating, Fanny found out that her company was planning layoffs.  She volunteered to be laid off, and they used her severance pay to travel for the month and to provide enough money to get set up in Oregon. Well played, Fanny!

Though they loved the Pacific Northwest, Fanny and Andrew relocated back to MA when Andrew’s father sent him a hand-written note asking him to join his law practice.  Adrian was born in 1996, and Ethan was born in 2000. They have lived on Cape Cod since 1996.

Fanny loved to cook and grill. She enjoyed experimenting and rarely used recipes.  The foods could be simple but were always well-presented. Andrew loved her spring rolls, which formed their first connection. The boys liked it when she put chocolate bits in raspberries then made chocolate pancakes.  All loved her chicken and green peppers, veal and peppers, steak, grilled vegetables, beef sate, Indonesian specialties, brownies, cookies, and more. The boys noted that Fanny’s high standards for presentation were found not just in food but in many facets of life. Impeccable is the word Adrian used.

Travel was a central part of Fanny’s life and a reflection of who she was — open-minded, worldly, multi-faceted, confident, and curious.

Fanny and Andrew brought the boys when very little to Nova Scotia.  They took them to diamond mines in New York State, to Howes Caverns, Secret Caverns, and Cooperstown. They went to New Hampshire hiking the Flume Gorge, Lost River Gorge, and Boulder Caves. Fanny and Andrew visited New York City every year on their way back from seeing relatives and friends in Virginia, to see the Christmas Tree at Rockefeller Center and eat roasted chestnuts.  They picked apples and Asian pears at Lookout Belkin Farm.

Fanny and Andrew went to the British Virgin Islands with friends in 2003 (the first time they left the boys for an extended period).  They traveled to Prague and Vienna in 2006. There were weekend escapes to Newport, RI. With Andrew’s parents, they went to Hilton Head, NC in 2007. Fanny and Andrew traveled to the Dominican Republic in 2009 for a niece’s wedding.  They took the boys to Rincon and Western Puerto Rico in 2010; to Indonesia, Bali, and Hong Kong in 2011; on a 50-year wedding anniversary Alaskan glacier cruise with Andrew’s parents in 2012; to Provence and Paris, France, Sweden, and Norway in 2013; and to St. John, New Brunswick, Canada in 2016.

Recently, Fanny started to learn French, because Adrian studies at McGill University in Montreal and she thought it would be good to know French. In addition to the five languages she already knew. Amazing.

Those who knew Fanny well could see the fierce dedication, pride, and love she had for Ethan, Adrian, and Andrew. Well-presented foods, learning French on top of everything else, keeping cancer where it belongs, these and many more illustrations point to the depth of dedication and love Fanny had for her boys. They were the center of her life.

I had the happy accident of coaching Ethan in Yarmouth little league baseball. This is when I first met Fanny and Andrew as sports mom and dad. I got to know Fanny a bit, and because I was contemplating the introduction of Mandarin Chinese language at Pope John Paul II High School, I told her I’d like to meet her for breakfast to ask her advice. We went to Perry’s on Main, and I said her I didn’t want advice, I wanted her to teach it. That was the only time I got the best of Fanny. Even then, at breakfast, I could see she was hooked. Surprised, yes, but hooked. Ultimately, she said yes.

Starting a new school program takes work. Lots of it. Fanny worked extremely hard in her preparation, cultivation of resources, and her acquisition of teaching approaches. She expected much of herself and her students. Andrew and the boys would find her up at 1 AM revising materials. Exactness in presentation is her hallmark, and her students saw this — day in and day out.

Fanny was an outstanding teacher. The reason for this is simple. Fundamentally, teachers teach from who they are. Knowing this, how could Fanny be anything but an excellent teacher?

For a woman who loved travel, teaching led her to a place she never wanted to visit: China.  She had no interest. But after joining JPII, she went three times. She traveled to Beijing on an orientation tour and then led two student trips (2015 and 2017) to Beijing, Xi’an, and Shanghai.  Her students loved these experiences, and now knowing the Lord has taken her from them, they treasure these experiences even the more so.

There’s another word for tough, strong, independent — it’s stubborn. I joked with Fanny on more that one occasion “Don’t be stubborn!” By 2017, I was aware that Fanny was facing an adverse prognosis and difficult course of treatment. Nonetheless, she wanted very much to take her students to China again. As an administrator, I sought to dissuade her. What if she wasn’t feeling well? Is this really a good idea? As you might imagine, I didn’t stand a chance. Fanny went. Andrew went. The students went. Cancer did not rule her. I asked her more than once to allow her friends and students to share their love by disclosing her illness. I even ventured to say “Don’t be stubborn.” Once she knew she could not return to teaching, she permitted me to share the difficult news. This became a week of students and staff expressions of love and affection for Fanny. She knew she was loved. She gave and received the very best.

From her first diagnosis of cancer in 2007, Fanny determined to face her illness head-on without compromising her family life, travel, or interests.  Cancer did not rule her. It was ever-present, but not in charge. She rarely told people she was sick.

I have been amazed — and many of you may have been, too, to see this week how many people felt a close, special relationship with Fanny. She had a way of valuing people, finding the right word, saying, or gift to create a unique bond. She was not a woman of grandiose gestures or many words. Instead, Fanny offered the right words at the right time. And this generous, quiet presence affected many lives. Her family, her students, of course. The guy at the restaurant to whom she was teaching Mandarin. People are popping up all over telling of their special connection with Fanny.

Fanny lived the best kind of life; a life centered on others. I cannot remember — or imagine — any encounter with Fanny that was about what she needed or wanted. Didn’t happen. Can anybody here imagine a self-interested or self-centered Fanny Singer?  

Her other-centeredness, coupled with her wit, intelligence, compassion, and character, made this best life, a life of profound relationships and a profound impact on those around her.

Our world is poorer now. Less graceful. Less generous, more poorly presented.

Fanny told me several times when confronting her illness and mortality that she believes in miracles. Perhaps she meant a miracle of defeating cancer. But maybe the miracle is 11 years of life and love with Ethan, Adrian, and Andrew. Or the miracle of having Fanny Singer as your teacher, friend, mother, wife.

At the end, Fanny was not afraid. She trusted that Andrew, Adrian, and Ethan will be okay and take care of each other. She regretted not making it to Ethan’s graduation, or seeing the boys begin their own families. She wished she had made her final exams. But she was at peace. And don’t worry, she won’t take kuckahooey from anyone.

Rest in peace, friend.

‘We Learn the Curriculum of Life’

At last month’s Catholic Schools Week Mass, celebrated for all students of Cape Cod’s Catholic schools, Shannon Cummings, ’18 shared her thoughts near the culmination of her twelve years of Catholic schooling.  With her signature style, Shannon makes the case for the special sauce in Catholic schools.

Read Shannon’s remarks here.

How many Cape graduates head to college?

So asked the Cape Cod Times this past Sunday (“Tech grads eyed to meet local demands,” page 1). Frequently, when the Cape Cod Times publishes Cape-wide education stories, private schools are not included in the conversation (e.g., “What’s new for Cape students,” 9/3/17).

St. John Paul II High School’s academic mission is college-preparatory. Take a look at JPII’s 2014-2015 data when added to the chart published by the Times:

 

September 4, The First Day of School

Pope John Paul II High School’s first day of school was ten years ago today.

On September 4, 2007, 38 students, seven teachers, and four staff members joined in Our Lady of Fatima Chapel for prayer, thanksgiving (program here), and to take one uncertain step in a journey of personal growth and building a school. On that day, as with many in those early years, the notion of ‘PJP’ in ten years was, while hopeful, remote. Yet God provides. I was then and am now grateful for the privilege of this work alongside the many hundreds of students, families, and staff members who have brought us to this milestone. 

I shared the following during the school’s seventh Commencement Exercises this past June:

The first day of school at Pope John Paul II High School was September 4, 2007. With your graduation tonight, our high school completes its tenth year. This is a milestone –double digits — worthy of recognition and reflection.

Bill Gates — and please forgive the cliche of a Grad speech with a Bill Gates quote — Bill Gates said that “Most people overestimate what can be done in one year and underestimate what can be done in ten years.”  This is true. I’ve lived it. As the founding principal of our high school, I admit that I overestimated what could be done in one year. I imagined rapid growth — like the athlete who expects to win the game by putting on the jersey. And in case I want to forget, there’s a framed print, hanging in the Conference Room, from a 2006 Cape Cod Times article where I tell the world that we’re looking to enroll 150 students in our first year. We opened with 38. Yes, it’s easy to overestimate what can be done in one year because one-year horizons encourage fantasy thinking that omits the necessary factors of planning, people, and perseverance. 

But Gates also says that we often underestimate what can be done in ten years. True, too. In 2007, when we opened our doors, and you were in second grade, no one figured that within ten years, Pope John Paul II High School would capture a state-record three consecutive state championships, or send 62 voices to provide sacred music at St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City. We did not estimate Ivy League and other top-school acceptances, or alums now studying for the priesthood in our Diocese. You have contributed significantly to these accomplishments and many others.”

May God bless St. John Paul II High School with many more September 4ths.

“I’m Nowhere Near Understanding What I’ve Seen or Learned”

Alums tackle Arabic language study — and more — in UAE, Oman, and Jordan

The following article will appear in the Fall, 2017 issue of Tidings, the school’s annual report. 

Victoria Sirois, JPII ’13 and Peter Hartnett, SFXP ’11 JPII ’15, have learned first-hand the life-changing impact of encounter. Hartnett and Sirois spent their recent summers experiencing faith, culture, language, and people in the middle-eastern nations of Oman, Jordan, and the United Arab Emirates; and in so doing, have encountered others — and themselves — in significant ways. Tidings sat down with Sirois and Hartnett to learn how their Catholic education prepared them for global plurality, and the way their Middle Eastern encounters have shaped their lives today.

Victoria Sirois graduated this past May from Loyola University (MD) with a Bachelor’s degree in Spanish and a minor in Business and Latin American Studies. As an undergraduate, Sirois worked with the Baltimore Diocesan outreach Esperanza Center, providing services to immigrants, and the Asylee Women Enterprise, a group founded by Catholic sisters, who helps women seeking asylum to rebuild their lives by providing transitional housing, companionship, and community. Through these volunteer experiences, Victoria came to know women from Latin America, Africa, and Syria who are persevering through difficult circumstances.

While studying Spanish in Acalá, Spain in 2015, Sirois saw the confusion and panic caused by the Paris attacks. “I felt there was something missing,” she said. “The women that I knew were not like this at all. I began to seek what I could do to bridge the gap between Western views of Islam and the women I knew.”

During her sophomore year, Sirois “took a shot in the dark” and signed up for Arabic study, one of four students total. She took to it and later was selected for The William Jefferson Clinton Scholarship at the American University in Dubai, a program which gives Americans based in the US the chance to broaden their educational and cultural experience by studying in the Arab world.

While in Dubai, Sirois studied Arabic and encountered other people in challenging ways. “I started to see the side of the ‘other,’ those who have had family impacted by the events that many Westerners learn about from afar. I saw that as an American,  I represented America and could see the hurt in other people. There is misunderstanding on both sides, and I wanted to bring greater understanding to Westerners about Arabic culture, and to my Muslim friends, greater understanding, too.”

With Sirois’ Spanish and Arabic skills, corporate work might beckon. But due to her encounters with migrant women, and as a student who studied abroad, Sirois was motivated to help others. She is currently a candidate for an exclusive program in Brussels and hopes to focus on legal issues in migration and the shadow world of human trafficking.

Looking back, Victoria’s love of language study started with Señora Carpenter’s Spanish classes. “Señora Carpenter sparked me 100 percent. She showed me what I could do and made me feel special for wanting to know and love world cultures,” said Sirois. “Señora Carpenter has kept in touch and encouraged me as I began my study of Arabic. The JPII teachers have made a big difference in my life.”

Beyond this, “I received a well-rounded education at JPII and Loyola but especially learned to focus on encountering other people. At JPII, I learned service. Now, I hope to make even the smallest difference in the world with the skills and experiences I have learned.”

Peter Hartnett’s applied mathematics study at Harvard University would seem to many to be quite challenging enough. However, Hartnett, a ROTC participant, took the opportunity to study Arabic language through the Department of Defense’s Project GO (Global Officer) program. In 2016, Hartnett studied in Muscat, Oman, and in 2017, Amman, Jordan.

“Arabic is an incredibly challenging language to learn. There are sounds we just don’t make in English. There has been so much that is new and different these past two summers.” Hartnett said. “What’s most important to me, though, is the human encounters that global study provides. During my last week in Oman, I had dinner at my Omani conversation partner’s home. These encounters are now part of me.”

Hartnett sees his experiences through the lens of his Catholic faith and the Church’s relationship with Islam. “In Muscat, the Grand Mosque is an incredibly beautiful, peaceful place, and was constructed only fifteen years ago. It shows a living faith. At the same time, I was able to attend Mass at Ghala Church near the Grand Mosque. While Catholics are a small part of Oman, I worshiped with immigrants such as Southeast Asians, and Filipinos.”

Hartnett studied each of the past two summers during Ramadan and found the rhythm of life transformed by the holy season.

“This year, I decided to keep the Muslim fast (during Ramadan). The goals of Ramadan, as a holy month, are similar to Lent in the way of fasting, building personal discipline, and spiritual growth. But the fast is not limited to food and water. Smoking, gambling, gossip — we abstain from anything not pure, good, and holy. These are universal goals, and I felt that I could grow from sharing the Muslim fast.

“The first few days were the hardest. I also made time for reading and personal prayer, and that helped. The ‘Call to Prayer’ is pretty moving. The first words are ‘God is greater…’ and this means God is greater than what we are sacrificing and greater than anything.

“I respect Muslims in the USA who observe Ramadan without the social supports that I saw in Oman and Jordan.”

Hartnett credits his SFXP and JPII education with providing him a firm foundation from which to grow and explore.

“I remember reading Persepolis in Ms. Hanley’s sophomore English class. The novel is set in Iran, and I could see that there are countries that are villainized in the Western narrative. Reading Persepolis showed me that there are always people to love and respect everywhere.”

Hartnett now returns to Harvard and will continue with Arabic study. Ultimately, he may pursue diplomatic work after his military commitment is completed.

Sirois and Hartnett’s encounters give testimony that a strong Catholic, liberal arts education prepares students for the world’s plurality and to love and serve those they meet.