BY JEN KHEDAROO
With a staff of dedicated teachers and a technology driven principal, the future is looking bright at Saint Margaret Catholic Academy in Middle Village.
Victoria Richardson, now in her third year as principal, wants to give students the best resources, and is on a mission to implement programs that will enrich their academic careers and prepare them for the future.
Prior to Richardson, who has been at the school for nine years, Saint Margaret underwent a revival with the help of former principal Deacon Philip Franco. Franco was able to boost the school’s enrollment and added a nursery and a “Mommy and Me” program.
With the help of a $100,000 donation from Mike Repole, who played important roles in companies such as Vitamin Body, Body Armor and Pirate’s Booty, the school was able to build a state-of-the-art tech center in 2014.
“He gave back because he felt like the school was a part of his foundation,” Richardson said. “I always like the idea of a Catholic school because it’s a family and I think that’s beneficial. In a private setting, the Catholic values of kindness, concern and love creates the atmosphere.”
For Richardson, a former technology teacher, working with Franco and others on the tech center afforded her a variety of experiences. She was able to renovate the lab, work on the construction site with contractors, and brought in some subcontractors from her late husband’s construction company.
“The network, the camaraderie, it was a wonderful summer,” Richardson said.
After she succeeded Franco, Richardson added a STEM lab that works with the Lab Learners education system, which she was able to bring to the school through a grant.
Lab Learners provides a spiraling curriculum model builds upon skills, and ongoing professional development and support for the teachers. Students as young as pre-K visit the lab.
The school hopes to create a Girls Who Code program, and a recent donation will allow them to add Chromebooks to a classroom this winter.
Richardson’s challenge is “to keep everyone with the vision to keep going forward.”
“We need to keep up with technology and build on the skills that the children learn,” she said. “The students are really absorbing all of these different types of skills.”
Middle-school math teacher Victoria LoBosco incorporates STEM activities into her spring lesson plan. Her students visit the tech center once a week to use Mathletics, an online tool to practice math.
“It’s a break from being in the classroom,” she said. “When we’re in there, it’s a special day. We are working to get the most out of each student.”
“There is no doubt that there is a boom in STEM-related fields,” said St. Margaret board chair Stephen Barbaro. “For those students that don’t develop an interest in STEM-related fields, they will still have benefited from the problem-solving skills, analytical thinking, and the ability to work independently.”
Saint Margaret created a foundation that helps to graduate students into quality high schools and colleges. Former students have gone on to The Mary Louis Academy, Archbishop Molloy High School, Regis High School, Xavier High School, Fordham University, and more top schools.
“We don’t want them to succeed just in high school, because that’s just one step,” Richardson said. “We want to help them also prepare for college and beyond. We want our students to be lifelong learners and to get a job that makes them self-sufficient.”
Like Franco, Richardson has kept a strong connection with CYO Sports. The school’s track-and-field team recently won a championship.
The principal also incorporated a “shoutout” program this year, which allows students and teachers to praise others who have done something positive within the a school community.
“I was able to work under [Franco’s] guidance and then was able to have the baton passed to me,” “My favorite part about being the principal is that I can plan and change things, but the best part is that I can help to influence my students’ lives,” Richardson said. “I hope one child can come back to me in the long term and say ‘thanks.’”