Once a month, you’ll find a diverse group of TFS parents and advocates meeting with principal Mike Watson and the pastor of St. Francis of Assisi parish to discuss the long-term direction and mission of the school and suggest policies and strategies to ensure that mission is fulfilled. Their work as the School Advisory Council (SAC) is important and members play a critical role in TFS’s ability to serve its students and families at the highest levels.
The SAC is mandated by the Diocese of Raleigh as one of the standing councils that are present in those parishes with schools, similar to the Parish having a finance council and parish council by Diocesan direction and policy.
Sarah Hoffman, who serves as the current chairperson of the SAC and has served on the council for the past two years, has been a part of the TFS community for eight years and a parishioner at St. Francis for 16 years.
“I like being involved in my children’s school and the School Advisory Council was a great way to do that. I enjoy discussing the vision and mission of our school and making sure we are putting together programs and opportunities for our students and families to connect, serve and grow,” Hoffman says. “It was something I wanted to be a part of since my son was in 2nd grade. I was thrilled to have the opportunity to join and now lead.”
Members of the council are meant to be representative of the entire parish community of St. Francis of Assisi. Their meetings are spent discussing best ways to implement policies and regulations, assist in the development of an ongoing assessment of the school’s performance within the context of the total educational mission of the parish, and collaborate with the principal and Director of Parish Operations in the development of the school budget in collaboration with the Parish Finance Council and the Pastoral Council – among other important topics.
“When looking for members of the SAC, we seek enthusiastic and active parishioners who have a particular interest in Catholic education that embraces gospel values and social consciousness,” explains TFS principal Mike Watson. “It’s also helpful to have members with professional backgrounds that may be useful to the council – such as those with experience in education, finance, law, marketing or others.”
Council members serve a term of two years, but may be reappointed for an additional term. However after the second term, one academic year must lapse prior to a reappointment of the member to the SAC. The impact the SAC makes on the school community lasts far beyond council members’ terms.
“The outcome of which I’m most proud during my tenure as chairperson was last year we launched service programs for each grade level. They were targeted for our families to get involved together and to go out into the community and experience the fellowship of working with others in service and of meeting some of our most vulnerable brothers and sisters where they are,” Hoffman shares. “Unfortunately we had to suspend it due to the pandemic, but prior to March, we had more than 40 families and their students – around 90 people – participate in various programs. The service offerings were paired with Catholic Social teaching in our religion classes for increased exposure and discussion.”
Members of TFS were able to serve the community through important local organizations such as the Ronald McDonald House, Brown Bag Ministry, Note in the Pocket and Helen Wright Center for Women.
The work, Hoffman says, is broad – and meaningful.
“The SAC is empowered to work on programs to support our school and families. We have organized large- and small-scale service projects. The SAC also helps guide some fundraising efforts to improve access to a Catholic education for more students regardless of their financial circumstances. We review school budgets and assist in validating the school needs each academic year. The SAC also weighs in on marketing efforts and enrollment to assure a strong, vibrant community for years to come,” she says. “Most importantly, we take the triple aim of our school very seriously. We view all discussions through the lens of assuring we are creating and nurturing an environment focused on faith, academics and service.”