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Principal's Blog

April 26, 2020

April 26, 2020

I know none of us (students, parents, teachers, staff, admin, SRA alumni and extended SRA family) are experiencing the spring that we all hoped for this year. Although I think we can agree, all of us understand how painful this is for our students. There are so many rites of passage that our students enjoy during the last few months of the school year. Every student had an event they were looking forward to; perhaps it was the state Drama Festival, or the first sporting event for our athletes, and certainly for the seniors it was attending the prom in May. Unfortunately, none of these events are going to occur as scheduled. The COVID-19 pandemic has struck us hard as a community and we have been forced to make significant changes to our daily lives. It is challenging and frustrating, but let me try and give you some perspective on what we collectively are going through with this virus.

This is a very rare event. The last time we had a pandemic like this was over 100 years ago. During the previous pandemic, we lost veterans to the disease (just like today), but many ex-soldiers were veterans of the American Civil War. Women didn’t have to worry about whether the local primaries were being rescheduled because they had NOT yet received the right to vote in American elections. Lastly (something near and dear to my heart), humans had only defied gravity and flown aircraft (still made out of cloth) for approximately a dozen years. I bring these facts up to highlight, that years from now, historians will be writing about this pandemic and how we all dealt with the challenges and stress.

I can confidently state, Saint Raphael Academy and the student body led the way in the state of Rhode Island (and perhaps the entire country). Your school, due to no fault of anyone, was the first school in the nation that had to deal with the COVID-19 virus. Here is what you did! All of you acted selflessly and thought about the community rather than yourselves. If required, you self-quarantined for 14 days without one complaint and this led to NO social spread from any of our teachers or students into the local community. Additionally, when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention asked for a sample of your blood, many of you volunteered to be part of their case study. (Note – The CDC will be publishing the results of the case study later this year in a medical journal; it will be completely anonymous.) Most importantly, when our Vice Principal of Student Life ended up in the hospital with the virus, you showered him with get well cards, positive text messages and a whole lot of prayers. I am certain your prayers and positive thoughts motivated and comforted Mr. Thibault when he needed you all the most.

There were many times during the crisis when the Admin team had to make tough decisions, but the school community stood shoulder to shoulder with us, and I can’t thank you all enough (I also really appreciated all the lunches delivered to the Admin Building). I would be remiss if I didn’t thank Mrs. Baxter and the SRA faculty. We were notified by the Rhode Island Department of Health on a Sunday that we had a school member test presumptive positive for the COVID-19 virus, and the next day our students were being taught virtually. No other school in the state of Rhode Island could have transitioned and pivoted so quickly … no one! Our students and faculty didn’t miss a beat and continued working together for the next seven weeks!

No doubt this is not what any of us wanted at Saint Raphael Academy. However, if you look at your performance during this difficult time, haven’t you all lived out the mission of our school? Have you not turned your teachers' words into action? I see what many of you and your classmates are doing daily and you personify the term "Saints!"  I know the pandemic upset all of our plans at SRA, but I also know your resolute actions this spring will make this a time period none of you (and us) will ever forget. I can’t thank you all enough for your dedication and perseverance--now let’s finish the right way as we begin the month of May on Friday! Perhaps these words mean more to us now than they did two months ago.

Saint John Baptist de La Salle … Pray for Us
Live Jesus in Our Hearts … Forever.

Mr. Richard

 

April 9, 2020

I hope everyone is taking a break as we begin our spring vacation. I am so proud of our students. The majority of you have done an amazing job completing your assignments and "taking care of your business." You really have been the role models for the state of Rhode Island. During the next 10 days, take some time to relax, but remember to stay within compliance of the directives from our governor. This is NOT the time to forego social distancing!

Another group of people that needs to be recognized are our SRA parents. First and foremost, thank you for choosing Saint Raphael Academy! With all the recent turmoil, you have worked tirelessly to be a parent, provider, counselor and now part-time educator! Well done! I know for a lot of you this has been an extremely difficult time, but you are doing a great job. We are all part of the Saints family, and we will get through this together. I would like to send a BIG thank you to all of the families who sent a kind note to the SRA faculty or staff. These simple acts of kindness mean a great deal to all of us!

The last group I'd like to thank is our faculty. We have the best teachers in the state of Rhode Island! They are true professionals and their entire focus and commitment is on educating your child. I have never seen a faculty that is more devoted to their profession, and the last 6 weeks have supported my previous statements! 

We are days away from Easter Sunday, and I can't stress enough the importance of this day. In the simplest of terms, Jesus gave up his own life to save all of ours. This profound example of "true love" should strengthen us as we continue to deal with the COVID-19 virus. I am also hopeful that as we reflect on the meaning of Easter, we all recognize what is important in our own lives. Wishing all members of the Saints community a blessed Easter Sunday.
#SaintsStrong!

Mr. Richard

 

March 30, 2020

Earlier today, the Governor of Rhode Island announced that all schools in Rhode Island will be closed until April 30, 2020. With the COVID-19 pandemic increasing throughout our community, our Academy will adhere to the governor's guidance and keep all SRA buildings closed until April 30. However, we will continue educating our students using virtual learning. The last month has been a difficult time for our country, and I still believe we have challenges to overcome in the upcoming weeks.

The good news is Saint Raphael Academy has been able to consistently educate our students by virtual learning since this crisis began on February 29, 2020. As a result of your hard work, we are able to make the following amendment to our academic schedule. During the upcoming Holy Week, our last day of virtual learning will be Tuesday, April 7, 2020, and we will begin virtual instruction again on Monday, April 20, 2020. Easter is a special time of great significance in the Catholic church, as it celebrates the resurrection of Jesus Christ, our savior. Please take the time to reflect on the significance of this holiest of days. As a reminder, during your break you still need to maintain social distancing, adhere to sound practices regarding the COVID-19 protocol and watch out for one another. I recommend you take the time to relax, pray for others who need our help, catch your breath, read a novel or spend some time (virtually) with your friends and family members. We will ALL get through this time period; lean on your faith, maintain your patience and remember times like these don't develop character ... they reveal it.

#SaintsStrong!

Mr. Richard

 

March 27, 2020

Happy Friday! Starting on Monday, all of the buildings at Saint Raphael Academy will be closed until further notice. If you need anyone in the Administration Building (myself, Finance Office, Admissions, etc.), please email the individual and they will get back to you. I am hoping this will all end quickly, but that remains to be seen. What I do know is that the spread of the Covid-19 virus is not slowing down and we need to be vigilant and take the required actions to minimize our risk. You all know what I'm talking about: wash your hands (a lot!), keep a safe distance from one another, cover your nose when you sneeze, and stay home to the maximum extent possible. You have all done a GREAT job with all of these tasks during the last month; do NOT let your guard down now!

The last topic I want to discuss today is compassion, Please be compassionate toward each other, your friends and your family members. No one in Rhode Island has spent more time dealing with the Covid-19 virus than our Saints community. From shared experiences like this, wisdom and kindness can often be the positive by-product. All of us have been tempered over the last month and we should help and aid others who feel overwhelmed by the last few weeks. Assist a friend, reach out to another who feels downtrodden, give a kind word to a person who has heard sad news ... now is the time for all of us to show compassion for Rhode Islanders who need our help. Lastly, if you need support or assistance, please contact your guidance counselor, email your favorite teacher, or call/email either myself or Mrs. Baxter. All of us will help you during these difficult times.
Stay healthy, and I will speak with all of you next week.

#SaintsStrong!

Mr. Richard

 

March 23, 2020

As we enter into our 4th week of dealing with the Covid-19 virus, I just wanted to take a moment and say how proud I am of our students. All of you have dealt with this situation with such grace and determination. Every challenge that we've asked you to accomplish, you've met with zeal and vigor. It started with virtual learning--the majority of you "hit the ground running and never looked back." The next edict from RIDOH was the requirement to self-quarantine. You showed the entire state of Rhode Island (and our country) how young adults need to take this situation seriously and do the right thing. Let us not forget the students at SRA were the first group of young adults to take on this challenge and you did so flawlessly! Many of you also answered the call when the CDC asked to do a case study with SRA students who had previously been self-quarantined. Your willingness to be part of this study could lessen the lethality of the Covid-19 virus, or perhaps even eradicate this menace.

You have all done an amazing job! I know it hasn't been easy and none of you thought this was how you'd be spending the month of March. However, this is where we are as a collective group, and I need you to continue pressing forward. The 3rd quarter ends next Monday (March 30), and all of you need to stay focused.

Please remember one thing, I could not be more proud of you! You motivate me daily, and I know the entire Saints community (administration/staff/faculty, alumni and parents) stand with you and support you during these trying times! Remember to always stand #SaintsStrong!

Mr. Richard

 

March 20, 2020


Today I wanted to start your day with this wonderful reflection/poem.

Lockdown
Yes there is fear.
Yes there is isolation.
Yes there is panic buying.
Yes there is sickness.
Yes there is even death.
But,---
They say that in Wuhan after so many years of noise
You can hear the birds again.
They say that after just a few weeks of quiet
The sky is no longer thick with fumes
But blue and grey and clear.
They say that in the streets of Assisi
People are singing to each across the empty squares,
keeping their windows open so that those who are alone
may hear the sounds of family around them.
They say that a hotel in the West of Ireland
Is offering free meals and delivery to the housebound.
Today a young woman I know
is busy spreading fliers with her number
through the neighborhood
So that the elders may have someone to call on.
Today Churches, Synagogues, Mosques and Temples are preparing to welcome
and shelter the homeless, the sick, the weary

All over the world people are slowing down and reflecting
All over the world people are looking at their neighbors in a new way
All over the world people are waking up to a new reality
To how big we really are.
To how little control we really have.
To what really matters: to Love

Wake to the choices you make as to how to live now.
Today, breathe.
Listen, behind the factory noises of your panic
The birds are singing again
The sky is clearing,
Spring is coming,
And we are always encompassed by Love.
Open the windows of your soul
And though you may not be able
to touch across the empty square,
Sing, Sing, Sing

-- Fr. Richard Hendrick, OFM

 

(I'd like to thank Mr. Murray and Mrs. Benoit for sending me this poem.)
Stay safe and continue being ... #SaintsStrong!

Mr. Richard

 

March 18, 2018

During these tumultuous times, we are called to help our neighbors the best we can. Even though we are asked to maintain a physical distance from one another, we should not be disengaging from people. Call a friend, check on the elderly and FaceTime someone you haven't seen in a while. I guess what I'm really saying is please continue being Saints!

I think the poem below says it best.

Be safe and take care of each other.

#SaintsStrong!

Mr. Richard

 

March 16, 2020

I am not certain any of us could have imagined the last two weeks at Saint Raphael Academy. We have all been tested in ways we never thought possible. The good news is that we have met all of the challenges, and we have become a stronger community because of the mutual struggles we endured.

This leads us to today. With all of my heart, I thought we would have 500+ students walking up and down Walcott Street this morning. As we navigated through the different obstacles put before us during the first two weeks of March, I kept my mantra the same: "The school community will be completed with our self-quarantines on Thursday and we will open our doors on Monday, March 16." At the end of last week, I quickly realized the COVID-19 pandemic is much larger than my own one-dimensional view of the crisis. As a community, now we need to look outward instead of inward.

The struggles and challenges we faced weeks ago, are now the concerns and fears of many American citizens. We need to exhibit the same tenacity today as Americans, that we so competently demonstrated yesterday as Saints! We need to be the ones who encourage others to self-quarantine, comfort those individuals who are scared and uncertain about the virus and demonstrate the strength and resolve to friends/family members if they test presumptive positive for COVID-19. All of us have been down this road before, and we've learned so much during the last few weeks. If given the opportunity, please light the trail for others within your community who need your support and wisdom.

I will no longer be blogging daily, however, I will blog twice a week. Be safe, and I look forward to seeing you all soon!

#SaintsStrong!

Mr. Richard

 

March 12, 2020

Based on the national and state turmoil of the last 24 hours; we as a community are in uncharted waters where the landscape is changing almost hourly. We are busy looking at all contingency plans and will continue to update our constituents as we are advised by government officials.

We are thrilled to report that our students who are currently self-quarantined are expected to be released by midnight tonight, and we are grateful for their hard work. Lastly, our student who had tested presumptive positive last week is now negative and cleared by the RIDOH. We are so happy both our teacher and student are healthy and welcomed back into the Saints family!

#SaintsStrong!

Mr. Richard

 

March 11, 2020

Hello, Saints!

Today’s blog is all about our students. Those students who weren’t self-quarantined were still required to accomplish their work and deal with the uncertainty and stress of what their friends and classmates were going through. Your ability to focus on your schoolwork has been inspiring to both of us and at the same time a definite testament to your strength of character and work ethic. Your teachers, along with both of us, are applauding your efforts and commitment to stay up with your studies despite these highly unusual circumstances. Your ability to stay focused and shut out the unnecessary static and noise has been quite impressive. Just as the school leadership has been communicating with you, many of you have found your voices and reached out to your teachers, who in return have responded to you. We couldn’t be any prouder of all of you!

Next, we would like to address those students, our “unsung heroes,” who have been self-quarantined and following the directions of the RIDOH. Neither one of us can even imagine what you have gone through; you had every right to be concerned and worried. We worried right along with you. (We’re certain your families would echo our comments.) The commitment you exhibited being in compliance with the RIDOH is further evidence that you are a true Saint. We believe there is a clear correlation between your actions during your self-quarantine and the lack of community spread within the Saints family. As wonderful as you have been as a self-quarantined student, we are asking for one more favor. In an effort to learn more about the virus and the spread of Covid-19, we are requesting that you seriously consider volunteering to be part of the case study being conducted by the CDC at Alumni Hall between 10-2 on Friday March 13. Please remember to bring your consent form! Your attendance will be one more indicator of your status as “unsung heroes” and your willingness to help others.

For ALL our students, classes will resume on Monday, March 16 at 8am! It is our hope that you will all be here on campus to celebrate being back with your teachers, friends, and classmates. We have missed you. To be truly #SAINTS STRONG, one must rise to all challenges! See you Monday!

Mr. Richard and Mrs. Baxter

 

March 10, 2020

My big news today is that our staff member is gaining strength daily! This is wonderful news for all of us and his family members are so excited. It just goes to show how prayers can make an impact on a person's life.

The SRA administration building has received goodies every day during this challenging time and I would like to thank everyone who has brought by a meal or a goodie basket. I have also spoken with faculty members during the last several days and they look forward to being back at the Academy doing what they love--teaching our current student body. From what I am hearing from some SRA parents, it sounds like the students also want to be back on Walcott Street with their friends and classmates.

I hope everyone hangs in there for a few more days; the Saints family will be back together before you know it!
#SaintsStrong!

Mr. Richard

 

March 9, 2020

Happy Monday! One week from today I will be welcoming all of you to our first day of school in March. I know this has been anything but a normal last 10 days at SRA. However, our faith and community spirit are extremely strong, and we will weather these challenging times. Maintain your positive attitude and I look forward to seeing all of you on Walcott Street.
#SaintsStrong!

Mr. Richard

 

March 6, 2020

Last night, my wife and I stopped for dinner at a restaurant that is part of a national chain. As is often the case, I had on my Saints jacket. It didn’t take long before workers and fellow diners started shooting glares our way. When someone did approach me, I politely explained that I was not part of the quarantined group, so I therefore posed no greater risk to them than anyone else. This is a perfect example of the fear that is running through the public.

I will continue to proudly wear my Saints attire, and I will quote former First Lady Michelle Obama: “When they go low, we go high.” In the coming days and weeks, I ask you to remember this mantra because all of us are going to be tested like I was last night. As a faith-based school, we need to remember to treat others respectfully even when we are the target of their misguided comments. Remember the lessons we learn at the Academy and through the church about compassion, composure and the Golden Rule. As Mr. Thibault says, “the mettle of a person’s character is tested during challenging times.”

Continue to be strong this weekend, and I’ll be back to you on Monday.

#SaintsStrong

 

March 5, 2020

Earlier today, Governor Raimondo and Dr. Alexander-Scott (director of the RIDOH) spoke at a press conference. We appreciate them publicly offering support and giving thanks to Saints for being vigilant. They went on to refer to our students who have been in quarantine as “unsung heroes.”

I want to go one step further and say that our entire Saints community is made up of unsung heroes. The effort and support we have been giving one another has to be recognized. From the students who are quarantined to their rooms, to the students and teachers who are working hand in hand, to the parents who have dropped off lunch to the core group that remains in the office working … job well done!

#SaintsStrong

Mr. Richard

 

March 4, 2020

Saints,
I understand that the last few days have been extremely difficult for the entire Saints community including our parents, faculty, staff, alumni and especially our students! We all have been confronted with a situation that has caused all of us to go down a path we never seek to travel. Students should continue to work to the best of their ability to complete virtual assignments knowing their teachers are being extremely supportive and available. Your academic, emotional and physical health are of paramount importance to all of us. The uniqueness of Saint Raphael Academy and our mission shines even more brightly when we are all faced with such trying times. We are thankful that those impacted directly by this illness are all at this point in time recovering. I am extremely grateful that you are all part of our Saints family and please continue to keep Saints in your thoughts and prayers.
#SAINTS STRONG!

Mr. Richard

 

March 3, 2020

Saints,
During the last 8 years, every day I have been the principal at Saint Raphael Academy, I have been impressed by the climate and culture of our Academy. The last several days, I have been impressed the most by the concern and care shared by our school community. The outpouring of support by alumni, school personnel, parents and students has been amazing to witness. Below are several of the correspondences we have received:

  • "The Saints community, above everything, is why we fell in love with and ultimately enrolled my son.. The strength of this community in a time of crisis is remarkable ,,,"
  • "We continue to be honored to be members of the Saints Family. We have been praying for all those affected to have a full recovery."
  • "Blessings to you and your team as you deal with this issue. I will be holding you in my personal prayers as well as those affected with the virus."
  • This is from one of our faculty members, "I have been so impressed so far with the amount of students who are completing their assignments."
  • From one of our present students: "Earlier today I received a message from David M of Classical High School in Providence. He wanted to let us know at SRA that both he and the entire team at the Purple Post (the school's official newspaper) extends their prayers to our school during this time."

    It is comforting to know, as we journey through this challenging landscape, we do so arm in arm!

    Saint John Baptist de La Salle ... Pray for Us
    Live Jesus in our Hearts ... Forever

Mr. Richard

 

March 2, 2020

Saints,

I will be blogging daily until we have the SRA faculty, staff and students back on Walcott Street. I would like to begin my comments by saying how much I appreciate all of the positive thoughts and prayers for all of our school community members. We continue to work tirelessly to ensure the safety and well-being of the entire Saints family as we follow all protocols and procedures from the Rhode Island Department of Health. I will provide updates as they become available throughout the week. Please keep us in your thoughts and prayers.

In Peace,

Mr. Richard