Back from brink, St. Edmund builds link with Dominican

Debt paid off by fundraiser, anonymous donor

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The partnership announced in March between St. Edmund School and Dominican University has been blossoming over the summer, according to St. Edmund Principal Sister Collette Mary White.

St. Edmund is coordinating summer workshops and faculty in-services with Dominican, and the schools are using each other's campuses, White said.

The St. Edmund Parish School Summer Academy is a reading workshop for 23 students being taught at Dominican from June to July. Dominican, in turn, is offering two courses at St. Edmund for education majors who will have an opportunity to gain field experience before and after class because of their location at the elementary school. And St. Edmund will host math workshops for sixth, seventh and eighth graders from August 1 through 12.

Teachers at St. Edmund have also been visiting the Dominican campus for faculty in-services on topics such as differential learning, reading strategies and classroom management, among others, and St. Edmund continues to plan for next year "little by little," White said.

St. Edmund and Dominican University developed the partnership after the Archdiocese of Chicago selected St. Edmund and 22 other schools for closure.

Declining enrollment and financial problems were apparent at St. Edmund in February, but within two weeks of the Archdiocese announcement, so was a concentrated effort by teachers and parents to keep the school open.

"Hopefully Dominican's stepping up will be a confidence-building piece," Dominican University president Donna Carroll said at the time. "The most important thing right now is for that school to give its parents and perspective parents confidence so they can maintain and grow their enrollment."

Last year, 165 students attended St. Edmund. White does not currently have an exact figure for next year's enrollment, but predicts that it will be around 165 to 175 students.

"We have some people who say they're coming, but it's hard to say until they register. You can't really say until you see the whites of their eyes in August," White said.

St. Edmund students will notice some changes when they start school in the fall. "We will be able to use educational resources [Dominican has] for faculty development and offer graduate-level student teaching, tutoring during and after school, and needs assessments," Pastor John McGivern said.

Also ahead, the school will require six parent meetings a year so families know what's going on, and students will be required to read more during the year, and generally face an "enhanced curriculum" and greater expectations.

"We worked hard to keep the school open and...I didn't do it so we could have a mediocre school. I did it so we could have an excellent school, where faith and academics are taught to our children at the highest level," McGivern said.

In keeping with this philosophy, an expert in speech and language will be joining the faculty, a resource that, while common in public schools, McGivern said is a rarity at Catholic schools.

Having an expert on staff will enable St. Edmund to test younger students for speech problems. St. Edmund students will also have all new books for the 2005-06 school year. A bereavement program "for students who have lost a significant other through death, divorce or abandonment," which used to exist at St. Edmund, will start again.

The school's financial condition, which was a major concern earlier in the year, is also much improved. St. Edmund's April 23 fundraiser drew about 300 people to the Brookfield Zoo. The event went "very well," White said.

In combination with a gift from an anonymous donor and "wise fiscal planning by the Parish Finance Committee," McGivern said, the fundraiser wiped out the debt. The school continues its fundraising and advertises its enrollment through a marketing sub-committee.

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