@School: Tradition and Change Work Together in All Saints Family

Head of School Carla Sarauw gives some coaching to the All Saints Vikings basketball team (Photo by Hugh Arnold)When she took over the helm of St. Thomas’ All Saints Cathedral School a year ago, veteran educator Carla Sarauw knew the comparisons were inevitable.

“Some people say, ‘Mrs. Brady’s back,’ ” she said, referring to her predecessor, Louise S. Brady, who spent a lifetime at the Episcopal school and led it for decades before her retirement. Like Brady, the current head of school is a stickler for protocol and good manners. Life has order and there are rules and regulations, Sauraw says. She doesn’t ignore appearances, and if a student does, she’ll remind him to tuck in his shirt.

But while she may be continuing a tradition, Sarauw is not standing in her predecessor’s shadow.

“We all have our own styles,” she noted, in a recent interview with the Source. “I have an open-door policy … I have a passion for student success.”

Carla Sarauw, All Saints Cathedral School head of school, is flanked by Hugh Arnold and Rebecca Hoffart.Sarauw started her career in public education at Addelitta Cancryn Junior High School (then known as Wayne Aspinall.) She served as an administrator at Dober, Lockhart and Ulla Mueller Elementary Schools and from 1994 to 2003 she was assistant principal at Ivanna Eudora Kean High School.

In terms of experience with different age groups, “I run the gamut of kindergarten to 12th grade,” she noted.

Sarauw said she doesn’t find a lot of difference between the private, church-affiliated All Saints School and the public schools where she has served.

“The concepts are the same,” she said, and some of the textbooks are also the same.

Her own children attended All Saints, so she was already familiar with the school before coming out of retirement to run it. But she is also mindful that in her current role, she is a newcomer. She asked teacher Hugh Arnold, the assistant head of school, and Rebecca Hoffart, librarian and teacher, to join her interview, explaining “I’m only here one year” and “a lot has evolved” at the school since her children were students.

A major evolution is the school’s strong emphasis on technology in the classroom.

It starts in junior kindergarten where students use I Pads regularly for reading and for learning exercises, Hoffart said. Older students can take online courses; All Saints has partnerships with a number of institutions, providing it the ability to offer a far wider range of electives than it could in a traditional setting. Also, “We do well at the STEM fair,” an annual competition centering on science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Arnold has a class of seven students, all of whom are pursuing independent study online, each in a different course: sociology, forensic science, psychology, advanced health, economics, algebra II, and social issues.

He described his role for that class as more of a supervisor than a teacher and said the students are generally highly motivated. In fact, most of them are working ahead of the pace set for their individual course.

Students march down Main Street in October, celebrating Episcopal Schools Week. (Photo by Hugh Arnold)Online learning prepares students for college, where they may well find themselves in an electronic environment with no teacher physically in front of them, Sarauw said.

“It prepares you for being a life-long learner,” Hoffart added.

While All Saints is pushing a high-tech presence, it has maintained a personal atmosphere, all three educators agreed.

“We actually function as a real family,” Sarauw said. Students who need extra help get that after school. There are monthly PTA meetings, and there’s frequent communication with parents, in person, on the phone and over the internet.

“Parents have access to their child’s grades all the time” through a password-protected site, Sarauw said. “They email us” with questions and concerns.

With an average teacher to student class ratio of one-to-nine, students are in small classes and “they’re blooming as a result,” Hoffart said. The overall ratio is even slightly lower, with a school-wide total of 20 teachers serving 146 students in grades junior kindergarten through 12th grade.

That intimacy allows for interaction and mentoring outside the classroom and promotes activities beyond the school walls. For the past three years, Arnold has taken a small group of high school students to New York to take part in a model United Nations session, open to high schools across the country. Students are assigned a country to represent and must learn about that country as well as about how the U.N. functions.

“I think we’re the only (V.I.) school that participates,” Arnold said. Last year he had 12 students on the trip. This year 30 students had already signed up by mid- September. The event takes place in March.

Arnold cited what he sees as another strength at All Saints.

“We are extremely diverse, not only in our students, but in our staff,” he said. “It’s something to be embraced and celebrated” because it reflects the diversity of the island population.

That diversity applies not only to ethnic, racial and cultural lines, but also religious boundaries.

“The school is actually the mission of the church,” Sarauw said, adding that there is an emphasis on moral behavior. But, she noted, students of all religions are welcome. The school was founded in 1928, making it one of the oldest private schools in continual operation in the territory.

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