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Academics > High School Matters

About this BlogHigh School Matters is a blog written by Susan Tyree Dempf, Ph.D., Director of the High School.  In this blog, Dr. Dempf plans to share her thoughts on the events and issues that shape the intellectual, co-curricular and spiritual life of our High School community.

Somewhere Over the Rainbow...

About a year ago faculty members from the Performing Arts discipline stopped by my office to ‘float an idea.’  The question on their minds was the 2013 Spring Production and what show we should stage.  After a few ‘tries’ The Wizard of Oz was tossed into the conversation.  My interest was piqued.

Growing up in Upstate New York and spending time in Syracuse the works of L. Frank Baum, the author of the children’s book  The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (upon which the play and later the film The Wizard of Oz  are based) are well-known to me.  One need only drive down the main street in Chittenango, New York to realize that this little village was significant to Baum’s life…beyond the ‘Oz-inspired’ names of the shops and restaurants and the posters for the annual Oz-stravaganza… a real yellow brick road provides a tell-tale sign that this sleepy little town is somehow connected to this classic, uniquely American, fairy tale.  We had our 2013 show!

Most, if not all of us, know the basic story behind the Wizard of Oz- in a twist of fate Dorothy arrives unexpectedly in a new and different place.  She begins a journey to meet a wizard who can help her and, along the way, is joined by travelling companions who are also seeking something from the wizard.  Her friends seek to be given courage, a heart and a brain.  Dorothy simply wishes to return home.

In recent weeks, my consciousness seemingly returned time and time again to the Spring Production.  This appeared to occur through the daily reflections on St. Rose Philippine Duchesne emailed from the Society of the Sacred Heart, while participating in the Junior Ring Ceremony and with the addition of a rather sizable ‘yellow brick road’ in the PAC (around which the Semester 1 Awards Assembly was maneuvered).  Initially I attributed these thoughts to the growing presence of green plastic bottles, the beautiful headpieces crafted for the trees, monkeys and crows as well as the Follow the Yellow Brick Road tune that, rather like the score heard in the It’s a Small World attraction at Disney, stays with you! 

All kidding aside, I felt at every turn there was something about the play that stayed with me…then I realized what it was… and it wasn’t the play at all!

Courage.  Love.  Intellect.  An understanding of our return ‘home’…of course these ‘wishes’ belonging to the main characters in the play would speak to me- they are, after all, elements at the core of Sacred Heart Education. 

To a child of the Sacred Heart the name St. Rose Philippine Duchesne is synonymous with the characteristics of courage and confidence.  Many of the RSCJ’s reflections shared each day this month speak directly of Philippine’s fidelity and bravery.  How blessed we are to have the example of St. Rose Philippine Duchesne as part of our shared history.

At the Class of 2014 Ring Ceremony and Mass students in Grade 11 were presented with class rings inscribed with the motto Caritas Vincit Omnia…love conquers all.  Fr. Vallee’s homily offered that the type of love to which this quote refers is not romantic love; rather love expressed through charity, akin to Goal III- a social awareness that impels to action.  Embossed on the Carrollton class ring is the seal of the Society of the Sacred Heart showing both the Sacred Heart of Jesus and Immaculate Heart of Mary.  These serve as a constant reminder of God’s love for us, drawing our hearts and minds nearer to caritas.

I often hear from students that one of the things that they love about their school is that “it is cool to be smart at Carrollton.”  It is ‘cool’ to seek knowledge, to gain understanding and act, speak or write as a result of what one has learned.  As I complete this posting I have just returned to my office from the Literary Trivia Assembly.  During this High School gathering members of the National English Honor Society presented a fun challenge to test students’ knowledge of phrases made known by Shakespeare, opening lines of classic books such as A Tale of Two Cities and The Catcher in the Rye and their knowledge of the characters created by authors ranging from J.K. Rowling to Leo Tolstoy.  Events such as today’s assembly and the Semester 1 Awards Assembly (held earlier this month) affirm that the intellectual life is celebrated at Carrollton.  

Lastly and most significantly, as in the play where Dorothy seeks to find her way home, we realize that we are all on a journey home and it is right and good to have friends with whom to travel.  It has been said that the gift of a Sacred Heart education is among the greatest that a parent can share with his or her child…to put it in Wizard of Oz terms- when faced with our own Wicked Witch of the West, those menacing monkeys or the threat that our house may fly away in a storm…it is precisely a deep-rooted understanding of our ultimate journey home as well as the gifts of love, intellect and courage that we most need.

Posted by Susan Dempf on Tuesday February 26, 2013 at 01:50PM
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The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

At the Parent Council Meeting last week I remarked that “it is the most wonderful time of the year in the High School”…now if you could only hear the holiday tune with the same lyrics playing in the background…and reminisce about the school supply advertisement that captures the joy of a parent at Back-to-School time…you will have the fullest understanding of my comment…it is the most wonderful time of the year from a Director’s perspective.

I love exam week.  Above all else- it is a time of focus- and all appear affixed to Goal II- with a healthy dose of Goal I added in!  It is the time when preparation and opportunity meet.  It is the time when a student’s study and effort are realized…and when the faculty’s work with the students is conspicuously evident.

This morning as I sat proctoring an exam with students in Grade 9, I marveled at their growth in just the first semester of High School.  They had a calm air about them…this was not their first end of semester exam…so they had the procedure down.  It was clear they knew how to pace themselves during the test, and they had a strategy for making decisions about the answers they could select from.  They checked their work and when the exam concluded they were prepared to turn in their test.  The Class of 2016 is well on their way.

In a few weeks after grades have been recorded and Class of 2013 grades are sent off to colleges and universities to which our students are applying, we will celebrate the achievements of all grades Semester I during the Honors Assembly.  This is the first time that students in the Class of 2016 will be publically recognized in High School with Excellence Awards and Honor Roll distinction.  

Posted by Susan Dempf on Friday January 18, 2013 at 02:37PM
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World Teacher's Day

Today during Prayer Break we observed World Teacher’s Day. In doing so we chose to recognize the dedication and commitment of our faculty members. What follows is the portion of the Prayer Break during which we expressed our appreciation and raised up our prayers for the High School faculty and counselors. I hope that upon reading this, you too will hold these dedicated men and women in your thoughts and prayers…and so we began…

Ms. Azan, Ms. Baker, Ms. Bolanos, Ms. Gillingham and Ms. Palacios... for teaching us to love literature, to communicate effectively and moreover to use our words for good...we recognize you...we pray for you.

Ms. Banciella, Mr. Crockwell, Ms. Diaz, Ms. Lindeman, Dr. Mosher and Ms. Srikanthan...for helping us to discover the natural, elemental and physical world around us, for fostering in us curiosity and equipping us with the tools to make our own discoveries and for teaching us to be stewards of our environment...we recognize you...we pray for you.

Madame Bernard and Madame Kirsch for helping us to speak the language of St. Madeleine Sophie and St. Philippine Duchesne so that we may grow more like them in heart and mind...we recognize you...we pray for you.

Senora Carioni, Senora Machin and Senora Romero... for helping us to speak a language shared by 380 million people around the world, for making us more aware of the rich culture surrounding us and for helping us to celebrate our heritage...we recognize you...we pray for you.

Ms. Zhong for opening eyes and ears to the wonder of China...and sharing your knowledge with us...we recognize you...we pray for you.

Dr. Busse, Ms. Rodriguez and Ms. Tepavac...for helping us to express our creativity in music and dance, for giving us the confidence to perform and for encouraging us to share our selves with others...we recognize you...we pray for you.

Ms. Carratala, Mr. Consuegra, Mr. Gannon, Ms. King, Ms Randall, Ms. Sanchez and Ms. Thiry... for sharing your passion for history, for helping us to know the people and events that have shaped the world we live in and for reminding us that though understanding the troublesome events of the past we are not inclined to repeat them...we recognize you...we pray for you.

Ms. Cuza, Ms. Gonzalez, Ms. Hernandez, Ms. Tarullo and Mr. Vila...for sharing your enthusiasm for mathematics, for teaching us to be problem solvers and to gain insight though our use of math, and for making us living examples that girls and young women can be brilliant mathematicians...we recognize you...we pray for you.

Mr. Davis, Ms. Panzer, Dr. Mack and Ms. Roman...for sharing your faith with us, for challenging us to think in new ways and for bringing us closer to God...we recognize you...we pray for you.

Ms. Banks, Mr. Linares, Ms. Snyder, Ms. Wiesen as well as Mr. Crockwell...for giving us the skills to express ourselves, for teaching us to take risks and put ourselves out there and for helping others to come to know us though our art...we recognize you...we pray for you

Ms. Centeno-Guiets, Ms. Maschke, Ms Patterson Ms Recicar, Ms. Solis-Silva, and Ms. Toledo...for helping us when we are down, for celebrating our achievements...for showing your compassion understanding and humor we recognize you...we pray for you.

Posted by Susan Dempf on Friday October 5, 2012 at 04:42PM
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What do you want to do when you grow up?

For the Class of 2013 this frequently asked childhood question has been weighing heavy on their minds as they begin in earnest the college application process.  It is not coincidental that we selected this week to offer the Grade 12 Retreat which focuses on God’s Call.  Over the past three days the Seniors have been considering what it means to be called by God, how to be open to that calling and how they will respond to God’s invitation to do His work that is theirs alone to do.

On this retreat facilitated by adults but lead by students, Seniors have shared with their classmates their hopes, fears and expectations for their Senior year as well as their first year away from Carrollton.  Through the retreat leaders’ talks as well as that of Sr. Cooke, they have been encouraged to listen to God’s call and to be open to allowing His work to be accomplished through them.  These few days away from the pace of Miami- apart from family, school, sports, debate, robotics and even television have given the Seniors the time and quiet needed to hear God speaking within them. 

These days of discernment have been challenging.  ‘Growing up’ is knocking at the door for these young women.  They have, together, come to terms with their fears and stand ready to face their future- having grown more confident in God’s love and the support of their classmates.  Old wounds have been put aside, forgiveness has brought new hope.  The Class of 2013 is ready to embark on the next journey.

Posted by Susan Dempf on Friday September 21, 2012 at 02:06PM
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“What did you do over the summer?”

While a long-standing question asked by students and teachers alike at the start of a new academic year, the answers that 21st century Carrollton High School students are offering are pretty astounding. Sr. Cooke’s widely quoted directive “rest, pray and play” has been supplemented with internships, debate and sports camps, summer service as well as coursework on college/university campuses across the country and abroad.

These opportunities have become so popular among Carrollton students that the academic and college counselors have begun to gather information about our students’ summer enrichment programs via a form on the portal. Why are we doing this? The answer is two-fold…on the one hand we want to celebrate our students’ initiative and in doing so foster their burgeoning interests. On the other hand, we hope to help students connect their summer athletic effort, academic opportunity or social justice commitment with their ultimate purpose…rather than simply viewing it as a means to attain their immediate goal of getting into college. Our success at this endeavor will quite significantly change the context of the old question…“what did you do over the summer?”

Posted by Susan Dempf on Tuesday September 11, 2012 at 10:12AM
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Dr. Susan Dempf


Dr. Susan Tyree Dempf grew up in Upstate New York balancing the demands of school and competitive figure skating. In the summer before Junior year she participated in the Network of Sacred Heart Schools’ American Experience Program. The following summer found her at Rochester Institute of Technology for a Photography and Technology course...

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