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New principal on board at OLM School

Mark Lewis is the new principal at Our Lady of Miracles School.

Mark Lewis is the new principal at Our Lady of Miracles School.

GUSTINE – Students and staff of Our Lady of Miracles School will be returning to campus for the next academic year with a new principal leading the way.

Adrienne Lopes recently retired as the head administrator of the parochial school and passed the leadership baton to Mark Lewis who officially assumed his new duties Aug. 1.

Lewis, a retired Air Force officer, brings with him 20 years experience in the field of education in the public arena. The former elementary school teacher served several years as vice principal in both elementary and middle school settings in Chowchilla.

Our Lady of Miracles will be his first experience in a parochial school.

Public and parochial schools share many similarities, Lewis said, such as working with standards and preparing for Common Core.

But he also acknowledges differences in the two settings.

“I’ve always been curious about what parochial schools are doing differently than public schools,” he shared.

His research indicates that students from parochial schools have higher test scores and graduation rates.

One clear difference, Lewis said, is the level of commitment from parents to support and be involved in the education of their children.

Lewis said he encouraged his parents to work in his previous classrooms and to take part in school activities but found he didn’t always get 100 percent backing. “Here, that’s a given, and the fund-raising they do is impressive,” he added.

Parents pay tuition for their children to attend OLM but they also fund-raise to keep the school open and operating. They participate in school activities, they help out in the classrooms, they are a very visible and present element to the education process happening at the school, he described.

That element could be one factor that makes the difference in the success of students who attend the small parochial school, Lewis considered.

Faith is another important element of parochial schools such as Our Lady of Miracles, where the education is Christian-based.

“Parochial elementary schools set children up to succeed. In addition to academics, they teach students how to manage their time and how to study and prepare them to successfully matriculate into high school,” Lewis noted.

Getting the word out about what the local school has to offer is high on the new administrator’s priority list as the new school year begins.

“I believe people know that having a Catholic education is a valuable asset but not everyone knows that OLM School is here in Gustine,” he said.

Raising awareness of the school and what it has to offer could in turn boost enrollment, Lewis told Mattos Newspapers.

At the end of July, 87 students were enrolled in grades K-8, with another 21 registered for the pre-school.

“We pride ourselves on our low student/teacher ratios and are happy with the lower class sizes but we want more (enrollment),” Lewis expressed.

Combination classes will be in place at grades 4/5 and 7/8 this year.

In addition to raising enrollment, another of the new principal’s goals is to assure the curriculum continues to support what the children need to be successful in life.

A strong, faith-based education is a success for students later in life, he summarized.

The new year at Our Lady of Miracles School begins Aug. 19.