Friday, October 16, 2020
Linda Reeves - The Florida Catholic Palm Beach
DAVIE | “It takes a village to raise a child” is a saying that perfectly captures the heart of one Broward parish and school community, which recently added a coveted national award to its achievements just in time for the school’s 25th anniversary.
“It is a great accolade,” said Father Edmond Prendergast, founding pastor of St. Bonaventure Parish and School. “I give all the credit to the students, teachers and administration. It’s the students who earned the grades.”
St. Bonaventure School in Davie has been named a 2020 National Blue Ribbon of Excellence winner by the U.S. Department of Education. The news came Sept. 24, 2020, during a U.S. Department of Education press conference when winners were announced and educators were given a pat on the back for a job well done.
“Congratulations to this year’s National Blue Ribbon School awardees,” said Betsy DeVos, U. S. Department of Education Secretary. “It’s a privilege to recognize the extraordinary work you do to meet students’ needs and prepare them for successful careers and meaningful lives.”
Schools compete for the award in one of two performance categories: academic excellence or improving achievement gaps among some student groups. State assessments, student test scores and graduation rates are all components that determine winners.
St. Bonaventure won in the academic category, which comes with an impressive title. The school is now nationally designated an “exemplary high performing school.”
Just days after the announcement, the school was proudly displaying the Blue Ribbons emblem on the welcome page of their website.
Lisa Kempinski, St. Bonaventure School's principal for the past six years, said she is thrilled about her school’s winning.
“We are so excited,” she said, adding that the entire community deserves praise: teachers, staff, parents, Father Prendergast, and of course, the students. “This was a team effort. It was all the components of the school.”
St. Bonaventure is tucked away in a quiet residential area in the far reaches of western Davie. One website described the area as “ethnically diverse,” with a "blue-and white-collar workforce and single professionals.” Kempinski described her community as “families with two working parents.”
On a recent morning, as parents drove up to drop off their children, teachers, staff and Father Prendergast were outside greeting them. Temperature checks were taken, and the students, wearing masks, were escorted to their classrooms.
“We are here to help them have the best day ever,” said Patty Johnston, a teacher assistant.
The fall term began with virtual teaching in August, but at the end of September, after the go-ahead from archdiocesan officials, the school began welcoming its 650 students back to campus in phases. Some families opted to continue to keep their children home while learning online along with their classmates.
Teacher Michelle Mooney said she is happy that students are back on campus. The Blue Ribbon obviously has recharged teachers during these stressful and difficult times of COVID-19. “I am excited,” she said. “We have been working on it for a long time. It's everyone. The families. The students. It was a total community effort. Winning the award is great.”
What did it take to get the award? “Every grade level had to qualify in math and reading,” said Kempinski. “We had to get them all to pass. That was not easy.”
The school’s two specialized educators were a big help. The teachers work with students who are falling behind or have educational learning difficulties.
Kempinski’s team is also pro-active, constantly examining their approach to teaching and the curriculum to “improve in areas and refine instruction,” she said. Educators also monitor student progress. ”We use software to assess students and to help find any gaps in education.”
Five years ago, St. Bonaventure became the third school in Florida to earn the STREAM (Science, Technology, Religion, Engineering, Art and Math) designation, an advanced system of education certification from the Florida Catholic Conference.
St. Bonaventure Parish was established in 1985 and the full-fledged school came in 1995. Its mission statement describes it as "a Christ-centered community that fosters Christ’s Gospel message of peace, love, service to others and fellowship. We strive to cultivate Catholic values that maximize each child’s spiritual, social and physical potential."
According to Father Prendergast, children and the school are at the heart of the St. Bonaventure community. In total, 900 children are enrolled in religious education classes, and St. Bonaventure School is a “main part of our parish life,” he said.
Although the parish and school will not be able to hold a big event at this time to celebrate the Blue Ribbon award and school anniversary, Father Prendergast said that the win is a wonderful reason to celebrate all those who worked so hard to achieve the ribbon of excellence.
The prize also comes as the parish celebrates 35 years of excellence building up the Kingdom of God in western Broward County, an area that continues to grow. “We will celebrate. We have to be patient,” he said.