I hope your summer is going well and that you’ve been able to recharge and spend quality time as a family in prayer and recreation.
I am writing to announce a significant change that we are undertaking over the summer to improve our middle and high school experience. Starting this 17-18 school year, our current boys building will become a high school building with high school boys on the first floor and high school girls on the second floor. The middle school boys will move to the 3rd floor of what is currently the girls building. Our gender specific classes will continue as they have before.
The school administration, together with the support of the Board of Trustees, teachers and parent representatives worked together to analyze the situation and develop this new configuration. We are very excited about this change and look forward to the improved experience this will be for students and teaches alike.
Below is a more detailed explanation of this change, the reasoning behind it, and the improvements this will bring. I am happy to speak with anyone who has questions or thoughts about the new setup. Depending on the level of interest, we can schedule a walk-through for those who would like more information.
May God bless you and count on my prayers for an enjoyable summer!
Fr. Daniel Ray LC
The Highlands School
Middle and High School Reconfiguration
Gender specific education: One significant aspect of our educational and formative pedagogy is to educate students in a way that is adapted to who they are in their God-given gender, as young men or women. A millennia-old tradition in the Catholic Church is to separate the boys and girls for class: teaching, educating and forming them in ways that are better specified for their inherently different learning styles, interests, needs, and maturation processes and speeds. At the Highlands, we begin this gender specific education and formation in 4th grade. From this point forward, their classes, lunch, recess, formation period, retreats, masses, etc. are all boys or all girls. The notable exception to this is in 11th and 12th grade when the diversity of AP courses offered (and thus smaller sized classes) warrants combining the boys and girls for some of the classes. In these later grades, the maturation levels of the boys and girls are more on par with each other than in the lower grades, hence lessening the need for a gender specific classroom.
Current set up: Since the mid ‘90’s, the school has been set up with separate boys' and girls' buildings. The middle and high school boys have been in the same building, albeit on separate floors; the same for the girls in the 2nd and 3rd floor of the other building. Not only is each class period gender specific, but the buildings have been too. This creates a space that each call their own, a certain freedom to relate more easily with their peers, and the facility to grow and mature without the added dynamics of a co-ed environment. Common areas (lunch room, art, music, chapel) are shared but used at different times.
At the same time, co-ed moments have not been lacking: before and after school have always been moments for mixing, as well as the social events of the high school (homecoming, prom, attending sports activities, mission trips, the musical, choir, after-school clubs, and other apostolic activities).
Opportunities to improve: Separate boys' and girls' buildings is a strong model for emphasizing the gender specific environment, but also has aspects that can be improved.
Lack of clear distinction between middle and high school: Having both the middle and high school students in the same parts of the facilities blurs the distinction between what it means to be in middle school and the privileges and responsibilities of being in high school. A common issue is that the students perceive the high school as only an extension of the middle school years, “more years in the same place, doing similar things.” This has been a challenge for retaining students who are attracted to other schools merely to experience a change from middle to high school. As a concrete example, with our current setup, girls are in the same building from 3rd grade through 12th, only moving up a floor every few years.
Disadvantages for teachers: Currently, teachers in the middle and high school have to move back and forth between the two buildings throughout the day. They are usually not in the same room for more than a period or two. These constant transitions rob the teachers of valuable time to have side conversations with students after class, answer questions, or check in with a struggling student. Most of the teachers also do not have a “home base” where all their books, supplies, and materials are readily available. While these may sound only like inconveniences, the constant churn of moving from room to room, building to building detracts from the teacher’s ability to educate and mentor the students. Maintaining solid discipline in the hallways and rooms is also more difficult when teachers are rushing from building to building.
Values that are important to us:
In January, the administration, together with the Board of Trustees started an initiative to investigate ways both to strengthen the formation and education of the students and to minimize the drawbacks mentioned above. We assembled a team of administrators, teachers, formation department members, parents, and board members to evaluate this situation to see if some other building and classroom configuration would be better. We sought a solution that:
Maintains our gender specific educational pedagogy
Explores ways to provide a more age specific environment (clearer distinction between middle and high school)
Provides the best setting for quality academics, classroom management, and the overall formative environment.
Is meaningfully attractive (for improving student retention from 8th into 9th grade, and attracting new students)
After considerable discussion, consultation, analysis, and feedback from teachers, students, and parents, we arrived at a strong consensus on a new configuration for the middle and high school in the following ways for the upcoming 2017-18 school year:
High school and middle school buildings:
High school building: The high school girls will move to the 2nd floor of what is currently the boys' building. The high school boys will move to the 1st floor, thereby creating an exclusively high school building.
Middle school area: The girls' building becomes the middle school building: The middle school boys will move to the 3rd floor of what is currently the girls building. The middle school girls will remain where they currently are, creating a two floor area that will be for the middle school.
Separate high school lounge/locker area: Both floors in the high school building are also being reconfigured to create a girls’ and boys’ lounge/locker area, each on their own floor. These spaces will be off limits to the other gender, giving each their own place. Previously, student lockers were in the classrooms, limiting the student’s access and causing disruptions for classes.
What does this achieve? Having a separate building just for high school gives them a specific space and identity that is unique and distinct from the lower and middle school. Middle school students will look forward to a more meaningful change as they transition into high school, favoring a stronger age appropriate environment for both middle and high school.
A high school building also better facilitates a place for activities and privileges that are unique to the high school.
Teachers will be assigned a stable room: The high school and middle school teachers will be assigned a stable classroom and will not travel back and forth from floor to floor with their books and materials.
What does this achieve? This directly improves the teaching and learning environment, addressing the 2nd drawback mentioned above. However, this also means that, for example, the sophomore girls will go to the boys’ floor for some classes and the middle school boys will also go to the “girls floor” for some classes. Each class will be gender specific as before, with the same exceptions as have always been the case (some 11th and 12th grade AP and elective courses). This does create more “co-ed moments” as the students pass each other in the halls in the 5 minute break between classes but simultaneously affords more guiding presence from teachers who no longer have to travel from classroom to classroom. However, every class and activity (mass, retreat, recess, formation period) that was gender specific before, remains so.
This stability will improve supervision between classes, create more student-teacher interaction time, and allows for “themed” rooms (i.e. the History teacher can set up permanent displays, materials and décor appropriate for a History classroom).
Congratulations to Mrs. Libbi Bray, Fourth Grade Girls teacher at THS, for recently receiving the Catholic Foundation's Work of Heart Award! Work of Heart recognizes “the unsung heroes” who are going the "extra mile" in serving the educational community and its members. Mrs. Bray was nominated based on her strong commitment to Catholic Education her dedication to her students.
Each year, one student in each class is awarded the Semper Altius Award for significant perseverance to overcome obstacles in academics or conduct. It is the highest award given to our students. Semper Altius = Always higher!
Here are the 2016-17 Semper Altius award winners:
Kindergarten Evelyn Osbaldestin, Santiago Jorba
1st Grade Ethan Bui, Luca Vasquez
2nd Grade Francesca Nguyen, Cillian Doyle, Emma Butner
3rd Grade Zach Lyons, Blake Rich
4th Grade Casilda Perez, Xavier Arrocha
5th Grade Kayla Terbeek, Ben Rodriguez
6th Grade Regina Arrocha, Julio Cesar Preza
7th Grade Manting Zhao, Javier Viloria
8th Grade Halle Havard, Juan Carlos Septien
9th Grade Teresa Bui, Benjamin Ruiz
10th Grade Peiyu Ouyang, Donavyn Lester
11th Grade Kristen Gonzales, Noah Neiser
12th Grade Anna Catherine Carleton, Andres Williams
Andres Williams and Anna Stevenson will both serve in the Regnum Christi Mission Corps (RCMC) this coming year. RCMC is a 1-2yr volunteer program for men and women ages 18-25 who desire to serve Christ and His Church through meaningful and intentional mission work. These young adults serve parishes, schools, youth groups, and families throughout the Country.
THS graduate, Adrian Chavez will enter Holy Trinity Seminary this fall where he will receive human, intellectual, spiritual and pastoral formation and further discern a possible call to the priesthood.
Alexander first came to The Highlands in 2008, when he entered the fourth grade. Since then, he has participated in many activities throughout middle school and high school. In middle school, Alex participated in the Chess Club and Mechanics' Club and was an active member of the golf and tennis teams for three years. During High School, he participated in the Yearbook Club for two years, participated in the Texas Junior Classical League for two years, and served both as a member and president of the boys' National Honor Society. He was a selected as a National Merit Semifinalist in 2016, and earned numerous awards in the Junior Classical League and obtained a gold medal/summa cum laude for four continuous years on the National Latin Exam. For all four years of high school, Alex earned the President's Award for Educational Excellence. Next year, he will attend SMU to major in Mechanical Engineering with Biomedical Specialization so that he can enter medical school to become a neurologist.
Anna served President of Student Council, a varsity volleyball player, a participant in the school musicals, plays and varsity choir. In volleyball she was awarded with First Team All-District, Second Team All-State and First Team All-Tournament for the state championships along with being Academic All-State the past two years. Anna also received the All-Star Cast award for the fall UIL One Act Play Competition. In her senior year, Anna received the Integer award, as well as the English, history and theology awards. In terms of service, she has participated Holy Week missions, through Regnum Christi in South Dallas for four years, she spent a summer as an ECYD missionary in Detroit, as well as spending two spring breaks in Nicaragua. Anna will be giving a year as a Regnum Christi Missionary and afterwards plans attend college in the fall of 2018.
Congratulations to all of our graduates who were accepted to the following schools and programs, earning over $1.3 million in scholarships!
As our students make their way through the lower school, one of the privileges they have is learning to make beautiful sounds with a musical instrument. Here are the THS third graders with their Music teacher, Mrs. Karen Ward giving a concert on their recorders!
Each year, the THS fifth grade classes choose the children’s version of a work of classical literature and translate it into a play, which is then performed in The Black Box Theater. This year’s classical piece was A Midsummer Night’s Dream. After months of preparations and countless hours of play practice, the performances were held on Monday and Tuesday of this week. The students, and especially their teachers, Mrs. Maria San Roman and Mrs. Helene Higginbotham worked tirelessly to create a work worthy of presentation. By all accounts, their performances were outstanding!