Mr. Smith, OLL's Principal, stated, "I am extremely proud of our outstanding faculty, staff, and students. To be recognized as a model school in the Archdiocese and receive an unprecedented number of powerful practices is a phenomenal achievement."
Some of Our Lady of the Lake’s Powerful Practices:
The leadership of the school has enacted policies and procedures that result in effective and efficient operation of all programs, systems, and activities. Mechanisms are in places that ensure success of the mission. Resources are abundant and directed to ensure the academic success of the students. A highly qualified staff operates under the direction of and with the support of a cadre of leaders. The religious leadership fully supports the mission of the school.
The school leadership acts with autonomy in managing the school, hiring and directing staff, and pursuing school goals. The existence of a positive relationship between the governing body and the school leadership was made evident through the survey results and the interviews. The pastor is new to the parish but fully supports the school’s purpose and direction and shares pride in its accomplishments.
School leaders have fostered a culture of high expectations for all stakeholders aligned with the school’s purpose. Clear understanding of the mission statement by all stakeholders was evident during the visit. Parents and teachers shared opinions that what the school does best is prepare students spiritually, academically, and socially for “what comes next and for life.” Parents described meeting with the principal who, when asked about new procedures or activities, answers, “And how would that affect the students?”
School-wide use of strategies considered best practices were clearly evident throughout the visit. Classroom observations, interviews, and artifacts confirmed that teachers actively engaged students in activities that are differentiated to address learning styles, interests, and achievement or ability levels. Teachers used flexible grouping strategies and students were grouped and regrouped according to specific learning objectives, activities, and/or students’ needs for support or challenge. Cooperative learning was evident at all levels. Students were involved in problem solving, creating projects, role playing, playing competitive academic games, and reading and responding to literature.
The school developed and implemented an instructional process that provides support for student learning. Teams of teachers under the direction of the assistant principal and curriculum coordinator have documented curriculum maps based on the Louisiana Grade Level Expectations (GLEs). Teachers regularly collaborate at grade levels to ensure equitable opportunities and common assessments. Analysis of assessment spurs plans to support skill progression and concept understanding. Student performance data indicate the success of these efforts. Professional development that targeted differentiating instruction and flexible grouping increased instructional effectiveness.
Parents have multiple ways of being informed of their children’s learning progress. Parents are engaged in the learning processes and are kept abreast of assignments and assessments in the classroom electronically through teacher pages or Study Wiz. Parents and students have timely, daily access to homework and grades via PowerSchool and Study Wiz. The school website is a portal to all school information that is updated regularly. Parent participation was evident in the interviews as well as parent surveys.
The school follows a school wide grading scale. Course outlines/syllabi share this information with the stakeholders. The school adopted a school wide grading scale as well as grade level consensus of weighting of grades.
The school has recognized the need and acquired the necessary personnel needed to support students that have unique learning needs. The school has a program for three and four-year-olds; this facilitates early identification and attention to students with special needs. The counselor and disciplinarian/middle school coordinator oversee the Individual Needs Committee to assist parents with negotiating the resources in the state and parish for students and assist teachers in selecting strategies and accommodations for special needs students. The school employs a resource-reading teacher who responds to the needs reflected by DIBELS assessment of students in grades kindergarten through third. Additionally, a full-time resource teacher for eligible students, a resource program for academically gifted students (funded by the school), and a speech therapist and Title I services via the St. Tammany Parish School System are resources for students needing special assistance.
Qualified professional and support staff are employed and receive support to grow professionally at Our Lady of the Lake. In response to stakeholder perception data, class sizes in grades kindergarten through third are maintained at a student-teacher ratio at or below 24:1. All professional staff are highly qualified. Direct monitoring and support of teachers is performed by all administrators, but the primary duties are performed by the assistant principal and curriculum coordinator. Professional development is well funded for services both on and off site. Effective frameworks for collaborative decision-making, monitoring and evaluating the curriculum, and facilitating professional growth have been created. Opportunities for vertical and horizontal articulation of curriculum, student performance, and instructional strategies are evident.
Success of the mission is facilitated by protection of instructional time and allocation of resources. School resources at all levels are significantly abundant and have been demonstrated as allocated appropriately in support of student learning and school goals. School improvement initiatives are high priority, and resources are allocated as needed.
Facilities, services, and equipment are maintained at pristine levels in the school. The large, sprawling grounds and buildings of the church parish and school are fully maintained in a safe, attractive manner. Although the school suffered flooding to several buildings one month before the review visit, all but one classroom was fully restored and decorated and in full use by teachers and students. Staff members (including administrators and teachers) worked to remove wet sheetrock and damaged resources in facilities with drying heaters creating a 140 degree environment. Contractors and stakeholders collaborated in the mammoth effort.
All Our Lady of the Lake stakeholders have access to an exceptional collection of media and resources. Skillful stewardship has ensured that stakeholders have access to and appropriately and skillfully use a plethora of media and information sources in the school. The school library is the hub of media resources, but every classroom is its own unique media center.
The technology infrastructure is fully functional and meets the needs of all stakeholders. The school maintains a plethora of technological resources. Kindergarteners were observed using iPads, and the middle school has a 1:1 laptop initiative. Mobile MacBook labs and/or iPads are available for preschool through fifth grade students. All classes have interactive boards that were observed in use by teachers and students. Technological tools were observed being used with significant purpose at all levels. The library/media center is well equipped and is a significant resource for students and teachers. A computer lab trains students in the use of technology and supports curriculum skills. A full-time technology coordinator and part-time tech assistant support resources and stakeholders.
The school leadership monitors information about student learning, curriculum and instruction, and programs and processes; timely, regular communication to stakeholders regarding student performance is evident. The assistant principal and curriculum coordinator collaborate with teachers to ensure the use of best-practice teaching strategies and a curriculum with no gaps. The principal maintains timely, regular communication with all levels of stakeholders about student performance and improvement initiatives through meetings, publications, and electronic communication. All stakeholders indicated communication is a strength.