June 30, 2015 concludes six years of ministry and service at OLC. As I approach this milestone, I reflect upon many things, particularly the OLC School. Even before I came to OLC, I needed to make a significant decision. The former principal of the OLC School had chosen to accept another position. Consequently, I needed to hire a new principal. My decision to find the right person was of paramount importance considering my responsibilities as a pastor with the added responsibilities of a parish school.
I began the interview process under the guidance of the Archdiocese, and was able to interview a number of candidates, but in one instance, I was unavailable to attend the interview of three candidates. However, I had this feeling, an inspiration, that after the recommendations of the Archdiocesan Schools Office, I needed to have my own interviews with these candidates. Call it divine inspiration, I did not choose the candidate recommended by the Archdiocese, but rather, I chose Mrs. Stefanelli. Reviewing her resume, credentials, work experience, achievements and a number of other factors, I chose her as the best possible candidate to direct the school. Hiring Mrs. Stefanelli has been the best decision I have ever made.
Under the direction of Mrs. Stefanelli, enrollment has increased by almost 50%. While enrollment has increased, test scores have consistently improved and we have consistently added programs to meet the needs of our students (summer camp, Mommy & Me, Diverse after School Programs, and more). So .much of this was made possible as Mrs. Stefanelli initiated professional development programs for the faculty and staff. She also reorganized the facilities to accommodate the increased enrollment and added program.
Working with the students and teachers is only one aspect of her role at OLC. She has developed a Parent/School Association that has worked to make improvements in the school. Mrs. Stefanelli, working with the PSA, has made our new playground possible. She has worked closely with parents in the best interests of their children providing remedial work whenever necessary.
During these past years the school has faced some major challenges. Two of those were two major hurricanes. She solved logistical problems when, after Sandy, we moved our preschool to the parish hall under the church. After both Sandy and Irene we had enormous work getting the school up and running again. Sandy required us to rebuild the preschool. Mrs. Stefanelli very ably managed all of the logistics managing the school through these disruptions.
Over these years Mrs. Stefanelli has worn many different hats. She is an educator, a manager, a confidant to parents, a role model, a friend and inspiration, a professional with parental instincts and so much more. She has made some difficult decisions, but has always done so with the best interest of the students and school in mind. As pastor, I have always placed my trust in her and she has made my position as pastor so much easier. I eagerly look to the future working with Mrs. Stefanelli ever striving to improve the school.
Very Re. Thomas J. Ciba, V.F.
Pastor, Our Lady of Czestochowa Catholic Church