School began on October 3rd and finally we can say that things seem to be moving in the right direction. Our summer program -- filled with extensive personnel training and hiring and ongoing administrative formation, left us much better prepared for the school year.
"We hired an educational consultant who demonstrated a very good grasp of how to interface with the Haitian system. His biggest contribution came from his evaluating training and recruiting staff. We really needed this. Last year we averaged 8-10 daily teacher absences at the HS and this led to a complete breakdown in teaching and discipline. This year, however, every classroom is managed by a specially trained INSTRUCTOR who accompanies the students everywhere during the school day. Classes are taught by Professors who are experts in their fields, and then our INSTRUCTORS review that material with the students," says Doug Campbell. "Essentially, we've doubled our faculty. This is a huge investment - - we are spending nearly $20,000 more per month just for staff, but it was sorely needed. There is better discipline and there are better qualified teachers."
We've also implemented many of the objectives we outlined at the end of last year:
- Schedule - designate areas of the school for certain subjects, i.e, science area, computer labs, language, math and other centers. Bring the students to the various SPECIALISTS- not the other way around like last year;
- Installed an effective PA system to communicate and give announcements;
- Introduce the home room concept - the home room teachers provide the structure and discipline for every class. They demonstrate a great love for the student and know them very well. They accompany them to every class and help impart what they learn through review and study sessions.
- create a dining area and conduct lunch in 3, 30 minute periods.
- Purified the student population -- some students did not even belong in our school last year. Others did not pass their exams. We know have a manageable number - 750 students at the main campus and 420 (freshman and sophomores) at the St. Ann campus. Last year there were simply too many students in the school.
- Equip the teachers better - we were better prepared, giving complete lesson plan packets and resources for the teachers. We are purchasing books for all grades and our computer rooms are fully operational.
- Build lecture halls and recreation center so that we could reduce the need for expensive, hourly professors and run after school sports and activities.
"Things at the high school are certainly better than last year. It is hard to remain patient, especially when I think that simple things should be absorbed fairly easily -- like following a rotating class schedule, or not talking on your phone when you should be teaching, or a dozen other little things," says Fr. Tom about the new school year. "There is certainly a tremendous amount that we still need to do. We need to develop better extra-curricular programs and outlets for the students to keep them busy all the way to 5pm. We need much better religious education training. I'm making that a priority. The school should be so clearly Catholic and students should receive very good religious and spiritual formation."
Building Lecture Halls and Recreation Center
Back in June we sketched out plans for lecture halls and a large auditorium structure to cover our existing basketball area. We needed large rooms for lectures and presentations and an area for sports and recreation that was not under the heat of the fierce Haitian sun. Thanks to help from Tom Beaudette, our faithful structural engineer from Montana who has come to Haiti regularly to help us rebuild from the earthquake, we purchased a simple, effective steel building and shipped it to Haiti in late September.
This major construction project was financed by a generous grant from the Hiltz Family Foundation and support from Mike and Fran DeWine:
- $119,835 purchase of all parts and pieces for both buildings and shipping to Miami;
- $6,589 shipping from Miami to Port-Prince;
- $3200 - tools and equipment for construction;
- Donated - crew to assemble the buildings, airfare, wages - Jackson Construction - Montana,
- $19,000 rental of cranes and forklifts for construction.
We began construction of our steel lecture halls and recreation building on October 24th and completed most of the work by November 7th.
"It was incredible to see the whole process. Our Haitian construction crew, largely trained by Tom Beaudette and who rebuilt all of our schools and our headquarters, easily grasped the concepts for creating huge cement footings and they were doing the prep work weeks before the U.S. workers arrived," said Doug Campbell. "By the end of the week, you saw the U.S. workers from Jackson construction working side-by-side our many Haitian laborers - even way up on top of the structures. Cranes and equipment were buzzing with activity. It was just an incredible collaboration. It filled the staff and students with a certain energy and enthusiasm. We can't wait to start using both buildings."