Daniel Ethridge is headmaster of Ville de Marie Academy in Scottsdale, Arizona.
Is your Catholic school independent, parochial, or diocesan?
Ville de Marie Academy is an independent, private, Catholic School not part of the diocese of Phoenix but has the blessing of the Bishop to be called Catholic.
What grades does your school serve?
One class per grade—kindergarten through twelfth grade
What is your vision for your school? How do you think of your mission? What do you hope to accomplish?
The main vision is for all of the students to develop a relationship with Christ that will last a lifetime—formed in Catholic tradition and informed in the teachings of the Church.
How do your school’s culture and curriculum differ from government schools in your area? From other Catholic schools in your area?
Government — It is private and tuition based, has prayer and the sacraments.
Other Catholic Schools – The emphasis is on the formation of the students and the salvation of the soul is primary. We also assist parents as the primary educators of their children by providing the Eucharist daily, Confessions twice a month, and adoration weekly.
How often do your students attend Mass?
Students attend Mass every day.
How else is the Catholic faith integrated into the school program?
School prayer is three times a day. We have retreats, service projects, and provide
opportunities for daily Saint prayers.
Are subjects—such as mathematics, science, literature, and history—integrated in any way?
Humanities is a two-class block where students integrate history, literature, composition, and philosophy.
Math and science coincide with each other and have many projects together.
What is your school’s enrollment?
Has enrollment been steady in recent years?
There is a waiting list kindergarten to ninth grade. The maximum class size allowable is 18 students.
What is your school’s tuition? Do you offer a sibling discount? If you offer financial aid, how many families receive it and what is the average grant?
K-8 is $5,350
2nd child is $5,150
3rd child is $4,750
4th child is $3,550
9-12 Grade is $6,650
for 2nd or more is $6,150
There are tax credits that every family can apply for and most of the school does apply for this.
How involved are parents in the life of your school?
They are very involved in the life of the school. Without them, the school would be less efficient.
Are you generally satisfied with your school’s teachers? How so?
My teachers are the best part of the school. They are grounded in faith and great examples for the students.
Are parents generally satisfied with the education their children receive at your school? How do you know?
80–90% attend solid Catholic colleges. Some are in the honors colleges.
What are you doing to intentionally build and strengthen your school community? How do you communicate with students, families, and teachers? How do members of your community connect with each other?
We share calendars and newsletters weekly and host quarterly clean-up Saturdays, quarterly parent meetings, and all-school Masses.
How do you utilize volunteers in the operation of your school? What has worked well in making volunteers effective?
Volunteers work with students that are behind in classes. I have had volunteers work on facilities and projects.
What resources do you recommend parents use at home to deepen families’ understanding of and appreciation for the Catholic faith? For example, Word on Fire, Institute of Catholic Culture, Augustine Institute, etc.
We recommend that families read the Baltimore Catechism and pray the rosary.
What do parents value most in your school? How do you know that?
Parents value the mission. They appreciate us forming students with daily Mass. Many families are very good friends with other families.
How do you recruit new families to your school? What resources do you use to tell your school’s story and connect with likeminded families? What insights can you share about what parents are seeking for their children and what your school offers that others don’t.
At this time the only recruiting is done by word of mouth.
How much have you needed to sell your community of parents on the value of the education and formation your school offers? How many parents seek out what your school offers vs. how many need to be convinced? What messaging resonates with parents?
I interview all parents prior to them applying and explain the mission and the formation of the students. I feel that I do not have to sell this; it is what they are looking for.
How do you determine whether a prospective family will be a good fit for your school community? What steps are included in your application process? What shared values do current families expect you to protect as you add new families to your school community?
In the interview, I talk to them about their faith and their involvement in their Church life. I ask why they are looking here and the values they desire for their children.
What do you look for when hiring teachers?
Orthodoxy, Catholic understanding, and formation. The college or university weighs in as a factor as well.
How do you recruit new teachers? What resources do you use to tell your school’s story and connect with qualified teachers outside of your school community? What insights can you share about what teachers are seeking in a school community and what your school offers that others don’t.
We recruit through CatholicJobs.com, NAPCIS, ICLE, and Cardinal Newman Society.
How do you determine whether a teacher you are considering hiring will be a good fit for your school community? What steps are included in your interview process? What shared values do current teachers and families expect you to protect as you add new teachers to your school community?
We take into consideration a teacher's Catholic attitude and formation, experience working with students, and philosophy of education
How do you train teachers and what have you learned about teacher training?
We provide a two-week training prior to school beginning. In addition, all new teachers attend an ICLE training. I train in planning, management, grading, and wonder. We are also very dedicated to Ignatian Spirituality, so there is an Ignatian retreat.
What percentage of your school’s budget is covered by tuition revenue? How important is fundraising to the continued operation of your school? What works best to inspire families and community members to support your school? What doesn’t work? How have you created momentum in your fundraising efforts and what plans do you have to strengthen your fundraising program in the years ahead?
80% is covered by tuition and we fundraise the other 20%. Parents are very supportive in contributing to the overall success of the school and the board is very good at communicating the needs of the school to parents.
Are you the primary fundraiser for your school? How many hours do you spend on fundraising every week? How many hours does other staff spend on fundraising?
The board organizes two of the three fundraisers annually—a breakfast for the community and a golf tournament. The other is a student jog-a-thon organized by a parent.
What have you learned about relationships with those who oversee your school? What are common challenges for schools operating under your model and what is your school doing well that would be helpful for other schools to know about? What advice are you willing to share about how to navigate important and/or challenging relationships?
There is a five-member board, three of whom graduated from the school. Many of the board members are related to the founders of the school. They have protected and provided for its success. They all have students in the school and know all of the other families well.
What is your school known for in your area?
Being a private Catholic school with its own identity
What is your school’s greatest challenge?
We recently moved into our own building (after renting) and have many challenges related to development of the property. We have a capital campaign and need to improve the property. We also have many families that want to attend and the classrooms are full at this time.
What does your school do better than any other school in your area?
We form students in the faith and create a desire to share the faith with others. We also have been blessed to have some good athletes and dedicated parents who make the sports program one of the best.
What have our questions not covered that would help clarify the success of your school?
There is no technology allowed by students on campus and the classical education prepares the students to be independent thinkers.
What is the most important difference between your school and struggling schools?
The families who attend our school all share the same mission and desire to witness their children remain strong Catholic adults.
Share one custom that is unique to your school.
The first Friday of each month is a half-day. Students are told not to take books home. There is nothing due on Monday or Tuesday after the weekend. This weekend belongs to the family.
Share one resource that strengthens your school.
We are strengthened by the many prayers that we receive from parents, students, benefactors, and staff daily for the success of the school.
Share one tool—online or otherwise—that increases the efficiency or professionalism of your work.
Our website is the best tool for us in the efficiency of the school because many parents and outside people use it.
Share one activity you do regularly that makes you a more effective leader.
I lead professional development on the first Friday of each month as a Socratic seminar with food and drink.