GUSTINE - Our Lady of Miracles Catholic School will open in August, with a new principal at the helm.
Mona Faulkner, superintendent of Catholic schools for the Fresno Diocese, announced in a June 10 letter that the support of the OLM Foundation and generous benefactors, as well as CARES Act funding received by the diocese, the school is financially viable with 77 students registered and will continue to provide a Catholic-based education.
Faulkner announced that she has selected Julie Barcelos to serve as principal.
Barcelos has had children enrolled at OLM School for the past eight years, worked as a parent volunteer and was a substitute teacher before teaching full-time at OLM for the past two and a half years.
The school has operated with a two-person administrative team for the past five years but will shift to a single administrator this year as part of restructuring to cut expenses.
Barcelos said pandemic-related safety guidelines for re-opening have not yet been announced, but said that “we are planning on opening in the fall with students on campus.”
A firm starting date has not yet been established, Barcelos said.
Faulkner, in her announcement, said the school will offer an online learning alternative for families who prefer their students participate in virtual classes until there is a vaccine for COVID-19.
Barcelos said a mid-June enrollment of 77 pupils committed to attending OLM is encouraging. She anticipates enrollment to increase as the school year approaches.
“I am pretty confident about us getting some more students, not only from previous families that we have had but maybe even some public school students if their parents are unsure of what their schools will look like in the fall,” Barcelos commented. “I’m hopeful that the changes in place and the approaches we use to keep kids safe will attract even more.”
Barcelos said she will work closely with outgoing Principal Chandra Brace to start the administrative transition.
Barcelos said she believes her background with the school, both as a parent and an educator, will be an asset as she shifts to the principal’s office.
An administrator coming from outside the school community would not have that understanding, she noted.
“It is a special place,” Barcelos said of the school. “I think you have to be able to understand it to be able to help it.”
Faulkner wrote in her notice that Barcelos “is the only candidate who applied that is from inside the organization and understands the immediate needs of the school.”
Barcelos, who holds a master’s degree in educational leadership, said she envisions OLM School continuing to offer a rigorous educational program under the umbrella of Catholic faith while reinforcing its focus on the basics of providing students a faith-based foundation.
“I want everybody to feel welcome on campus,” she commented. “I want us to be instilling in our kids the values of our Catholic faith.”
One goal, Barcelos reflected, is to build enrollment and stability.
“We are in a delicate position,” she acknowledged. “This will be a challenging year to get our numbers up a little bit and sustain a budget that we can move forward with so we do not have the unknowns each year. We want to stabilize everything and get to that position.”