August Rapp Up


Lucky number thirteen! Another year is off and running at the Academy, and already things have gotten off to a great start. A lot has happened in a short time, so this month I’d simply like to share some highlights from each of our four Keys to Success from the month of August.


Every year we start our year as a whole school community during High School 101. With the red-carpet welcome for Freshmen on Monday and a whole day spent with Communities on Tuesday, our students were reminded of the mission, vision, and goals of our school for this year and years to come. They heard about each of our four keys to success, spent time in their Houses, and kicked off the Health and Wellness program’s third year. We believe these days are critical to recommitting to who we are as a school and to keeping firm the foundation upon which we plan to build for the future.


Several key ideas that flow from our Catholic identity were reemphasized during those High School 101 sessions. Students heard about the Bishops’ convocation and our call to live the “Joy of the Gospel” as individuals and as a school. We discussed what a Catholic worldview means in academics, how we believe encountering Truth brings us closer to Jesus who is the Truth, and how that means our learning must be more about WHO we become than WHAT we achieve. We discussed the role of redemptive suffering, both in our personal lives and in the classroom, and how the challenge of the expectations at St. James is meant as an act of love calling students to the greatness for which they were made (even if they don’t always like being called to it!). We also reassured them of the support and accompaniment of our adults who will walk with them through it all, not taking away their struggle or suffering, but being right next to them loving them through it. These are key components of what it means to put our faith into action in our building on a daily basis and live an authentically Catholic educational experience.


Thunder Block, our biggest new initiative to improve the culture of our school this year, is under way! It has been very well-received by teachers and students alike and some of the benefits are already being seen. As one mom told me, “On Tuesday my son came home and said he got all his homework finished during Thunder Block. Then he asked if I wanted to watch a show together! That’s a victory!” This may seem like a small thing, but we deeply believe that we must continue to find ways to support not only our goals as a school but, more importantly, the health of the family lives in our community’s homes. There were bumps in the road as well as we learned more about what this looks like, but after revisiting expectations with the students on Friday I think all parties are excited for two days with Thunder Block this week!


While my summer Rapp Up already shared a lot of great news about our academic progress as a school, we received a few new pieces of good news since school began. As I mentioned, the official ACT school report is released in late August each year, and as predicted, we have another great achievement to celebrate! Our graduating class of 2017 finished with our highest cumulative composite ACT average in school history with a 25.3, just edging the 2016 class’ 25.2! We also received the results of the Kansas Science State Assessments in August, and they were fantastic. The chart below compares our scores to those of the state of Kansas.

Above Expectation
College Ready
Meets Expectation
College Ready
At Grade Level
Not at Grade Level
SJA 21% 38% 29% 12%
Kansas 13% 24% 28% 35%

Again, these numbers do not define us a school nor are they the only gauges of success or failure for our academic programming, but they are encouraging indicators that incredible things are happening on a daily basis in our classrooms!

All in all, August was a great month for our school. We continue to grow, but we also continue to find ways to reinforce the core identity of who we are. I want to continue that conversation with you parents at our first Coffee with the Principal on Monday, September 18th in the Media Center following 8:00 Mass. Our topic of discussion will center on Thunder Block, sharing what we have seen here in the building so far and inviting you to share what you are seeing and hearing at home. I hope to see you there!

Your brother in Christ,