Principal duo invested in Holy Trinity futureSeptember 20, 2018
By LEANN BURKE
JASPER — When students returned to Holy Trinity Catholic School last month, co-principals Jenna Seng and Jon Temple were there to greet them.
Seng had served the school as assistant principal under Tyler Lemen, who became principal of Ferdinand Elementary School this year, and Temple taught middle school social studies at Holy Trinity. Now, the two lead Holy Trinity together with Seng covering preschool through second grade at the west and central campuses and Temple covering third through eighth grade at the east campus. So far, the co-principal arrangement has been going well, both leaders agreed.
In the past, each campus would have a principal on-site for a few days a week. Now, though, there is a principal on-site all week, allowing the administrators to respond to the needs of students, staff and parents more efficiently. The partnership also gives Temple and Seng a partner to bounce ideas off when working on administrator tasks such as the school improvement plan, standardized testing and fundraising.
“We’ve always said we’re one school with three campuses,” Temple said. “That’s not changed.”
What has changed is the size of and offerings at Holy Trinity. In the three years since Holy Family and Precious Blood schools in Jasper and St. Mary Preschool in Ireland combined to become Holy Trinity Catholic School, enrollment has grown significantly, with enrollment at the middle school level doubling.
“To see that growth to where we are now, it’s a good feeling,” Seng said.
Seng is a Dubois County native and attended Holy Family Catholic School from kindergarten to eighth grade. Now that she works at her alma mater, she’s excited to see how Catholic education has spread through the county. Holy Trinity has 11 supporting parishes around the county with students from 10 enrolled. The school has also attracted a few students from Pike County.
To Temple and Seng, it seems that the uncertainty some parents felt after the merger has faded away, leading to students completing all of their elementary and middle school education at Holy Trinity. Before, Seng said, some students from Precious Blood attended public middle schools rather than moving to Holy Family for middle school. Now, more students stay with Catholic education through middle school.
Even with the growth, Holy Trinity has kept the hallmarks of Dubois County Catholic education — small class sizes, daily prayer, Mass twice a week, community service projects and strong academics. In fact, this year, academic offerings have been improved with the addition of a robotics club for fourth- and fifth-graders and a 1-to-1 student-to-device ratio for fifth grade. The middle school students all each had a device already. When each student has a device, Temple said, class becomes more interactive.
“There’s a ton of resources that are out there available in just a few clicks,” Temple said.
When Temple taught social studies, he had students use their devices to access primary source documents in class.
This year, Holy Trinity is also working on connecting its families to the school and the community through wellness challenges with the Welborn Baptist Foundation’s Upgrade Grant. Each month, the school comes up with a new wellness challenge for families to complete together and submit for a chance to win a gift card. This month, the challenge was to attend a farmers market together. Next month, the challenge will be to go for a walk at a local park.
Holy Trinity also completes a monthly food drive to gather donations for the food bank. Usually the school gathers over 1,000 items a month, Seng said. At the east campus, students also collect money in partnership with Holy Family Catholic Church’s Dupity Haiti mission.
The service projects are part of teaching students how to apply the Catholic teachings they learn at Mass in real life, looking for ways to give of their time and talent, Seng said. Recently, students asked to pray for the victims of Hurricane Florence along the east coast and brainstormed other ways to aid the communities hit by the storm.
“It’s not just teaching the Catholic teachings of the church,” Seng said. “It’s how to apply them.”
Going forward, Seng and Temple plan to offer some long-term leadership at the school. In the four years since the merger, Holy Trinity has had three administrator changes — Sally Sternberg served as principal immediately after the merger, Tyler Lemen took over for the 2016-17 school year, and Seng and Temple stepped up this year.
The merger has been successful, Seng and Temple agreed, thanks to the leadership of Sternberg and Lemen. Now, Seng and Temple are ready to make careers out of leading Holy Trinity into the next phase, whatever that holds.
“We’re invested in Catholic education for Dubois County,” Seng said. “We’re in it for the long haul.”
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