Saint Mary’s School of Sagada
June 23, 2010

A New Beginning

A Roman philosopher said, “Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.”

I am blessed to have contributed to and witnessed the attainment of the first strategic plan. Being with the old SMS, I saw the transformation of the school from a dying to a vibrant and dynamic institution. Ma’am Beverly will agree with me, including the parents who had second thoughts of bringing their kids here before. In just five years, SMS has gone a long way. It has become a school of choice, which attracts students not only from the Cordilleras but from other parts of the country as well. This is due to the hard work of all stakeholders from the Board of Trustees to the parents, students, alumni, and all other concerned individuals. A very special recognition goes to our beloved principal, Sir Fau, who is a mover, a visionary, and an instructional leader!

This school year marks a new beginning for St. Mary’s School as we start with the second strategic plan. While the first five-year plan of the institution focused on survival and putting the systems in place, the new one aims to provide a nurturing environment especially for our students. What is a nurturing environment? For me, it goes beyond providing the survival needs such as books, laboratory equipment, desks, etc. It means a place where everybody feels accepted and secure. The potentials of the students are discovered and enhanced. It is where one’s physical, mental, emotional and spiritual needs are recognized and satisfied. I know it is not an easy task. However, it is not impossible. If we all work together harmoniously we will be able to achieve what we want. 

We could build a nurturing environment by starting to affirm ourselves and realize our worth as individuals and as members of a group. In this way we would begin to appreciate others and encourage them and so it goes to the whole school community. This is one of the new things here at SMS, the giving of affirmations which the faculty members have learned during the Summer English Institute held in our school last May. I am happy to hear teachers recognize the efforts of our students as I pass by the classrooms. I can see that our students are enthusiastic in their classes and yet we are just starting the school year and we are the only ones who have started classes. When I interviewed some students this week, many said that they love their subjects because they feel that they are valued in the classroom. Wow!! This is just the beginning. We will be seeing more…..

Go SMS, this is indeed a new beginning for us!



HS PTA News: The High School PTA met on Saturday, June 19. Included in the agenda were the introduction of the 2010-2011 SMS faculty and staff, the pastoral program, the calendar of activities for the 1st Quarter, the 5th Year Program, and the election of the PTA Vice-President to serve the rest of the term of Mr. Ciano Baldo whose last child graduated last March. Details regarding issues discussed during the meeting are incorporated in the following sections in this bulletin.

Congratulations to Mr. Peter Ticag who assumes the position of PTA Vice President until March 2011. The rest of the HS PTA officers are: Fr. Moreno Tuguinay (President), Ms. Kym Ledesma (Secretary), and Mrs. Shilan Addag (Treasurer). Please note that the HS PTA will elect a new set of officers in March 2011 for two-year terms, in accordance to the PTA By-laws.

Kindergarten PTA News: Congratulations also to the following newly elected officers of the Kindergarten PTA fort SY 2010-2011: Mrs. Wanay Pagadian (President), Mr. Balan Busacay (Vice- president) Mrs. Abilene Medina (Secretary), and Mrs. Chiqui Say-awen (Treasurer). Unlike the High School, Kinder PTA officers are elected every year at the beginning of classes.

Who’s Who at SMS:

Welcome both to new and returning faculty and staff. I am pleased to note that SMS now has a complete roster of faculty and staff that would meet the requirements of school accreditation.

SMSSI BOARD OF TRUSTEES: Nellie Balliola (Chair); Nellie Pit-og (Vice-Chair); Valentine Daoas (Secretary); Richard Aragon (Treasurer); Rufino Bomasang; Virgilio Bucat; Evelyn Forbes; Thomas Killip; Warren Luyaben; Hugh Gayman; Bishop Brent Alawas (ex-officio for EDNP); Fr. Moreno Tuguinay (ex-officio for PTA).

• Friday, June 25 (5:30 -9:00) High School Welcome Dance
• July 12-15 HS Parent-Teacher-Student Conferences
• July 16 Cordillera Day (Holiday to be confirmed)
• July 30 Parent-Child Dance
• July 31 (Saturday) HS PTA YCAP Day
• August 5-6 1st Quarter Exams

Pastoral Program:

In conjunction with the strategic objective of providing a nurturing environment, SMS is currently designing a pastoral program aimed at establishing valuable links between the school and the home, under the leadership of Deacon Andres Pasian and Guidance Counselor Jenny Bicarme. 

The main components are:
• Personal Counseling, which includes the identification of individual student strengths and areas for improvement in academics, social interaction, behavior, and interests. 
• College and Career Counseling, which covers the college application process, testing, and, scholarship and financial assistance opportunities, and guidance towards future careers and choices of colleges.
• Pastoral Counseling, which includes home visits, conducting parenting workshops, and establishing linkages with parents and students 
• Strengthening of the Christian Education program by applying Bible-based studies through the homerooms and extending learning beyond school hours (e.g. Sunday worship, community service, youth ministry).

A concern was raised during the PTA meeting regarding the nature of religious instruction at SMS, particularly to students of other faiths. It was affirmed that SMS, being an Episcopal Church institution, has an obligation to provide religious instruction, emphasizing spirituality as opposed to indoctrination. Moreover, the beauty of the Episcopal faith is such that it is inclusive, and therefore advocates ecumenism and maintains respect for other faiths and practices. For example, the school encourages Sunday worship for parents and their children in their own churches with their own congregations, and through this exercise, family bonds can be strengthened. Likewise, reflections through Bible studies are utilized to emphasize universal religious commonalities like respect, service, compassion, integrity, and responsibility.

5th Year Program and Enrollment:

After bidding goodbye to 57 graduates and nine 5th Year students last March, marking the largest set of graduates in the past five years, I had already predicted a smaller student body for this school year. However, during enrollment time, fourteen incoming seniors and two incoming juniors had decided to transfer to other schools to avoid mandatory Fifth Year requirement for underage students, set by the SMSSI Board of Trustees three years ago. There is no question that I am disappointed at the turnout. As an educator, I believe that our program of study at SMS best prepares our graduates for academic university study and independent living away from the home. I understand the teenager’s mindset to leave home as soon as they can, albeit premature. I also understand the frustration of parents in balancing their acquiescence towards their children’s desires versus their responsibility to ensure their children’s success away from home. In the final analysis, life and living are all about choices.

Our enrollment now stands at 165, with the number of 4th Year students at 36.

During the PTA Meeting, the issue of the 5th Year and the age requirement policy were discussed. I wish to reiterate the main points of the discussion:
  • The Board policy promulgated three years ago states: “the age requirement for acceptance into SMS High School is 13 years old on or before June 1 for 1st Year.” (Corollary to this, the student must be 14 by June 1 on his 2nd year, 15 for 3rd, and 16 for 4th Year.) This is in consistent in our belief that a graduate of SMS should be 17 by the time he/she enters college.)
  • Furthermore, the policy also states that “students who do not meet the age requirement may be accepted, provided they undergo a 5th Year of study in high school.”
  • The policy is effective and applicable on the current batch of 4th Year students belonging to the Class of 2010-2011. Prior to this, the 5th Year program of study has been optional to graduates who wanted to avail of the extra year of high school, some of whom were under age, and some who did not know what they wanted to take up in college.
  • The rationale for instituting an age requirement policy is based on solid educational research and principles. Because DepEd lowered the age requirement for entrance into Grade 1 – from 7 years old to 6 years old and elementary schools have been accepting students in Grade 1 as young as 5, we at SMS have been graduating students at age 15. Educational research has proven that these 15 and 16 years old students are not emotionally ready to leave home and live the lifestyle of college students in the big urban areas. The results: students drop out of college, or shift from course to course, because they did not know what career to take. Not only is time wasted, but also a lot of money (we all know how expensive college is). The ultimate cause of hardship is the lack of emotional maturity among young graduates. Intellectually, there are those who are gifted and can survive the academic strain of college studies. However, even these very gifted students will admit that they had difficulty in the beginning of the college life, because they did not possess the depth and level of thinking, exposure, decision making, and study skills at the time. In short, they were too young to leave home and go to college in the company of mature adults. 
  • The Philippine government has recognized the deficiency of our educational system. We are the only country in the world that has 10 years of pre-college studies (6 in elementary and 4 in high school), compared to 12 years in other countries. As master plan has been drawn up for this educational reform as early as the Ramos years, but it was shelved in the Estrada and Arroyo administrations. Meanwhile, the results of three international sample achievement testing indicate the Philippines has consistently ranked second to the last out of 50 participating countries. For this reason, our president-elect Noynoy Aquino has publicly mandated that the Philippine educational system will have 12 years of pre-college studies.
  • The question is how and when? DepEd has already informally indicated that it will consider pre-school as an additional year for elementary schools. A fifth year is being proposed in high school. Colleges have tried to address the educational deficiency by adding an extra year in courses like accounting, nursing, and education. Some universities have instituted remedial programs like English “0” and Math “0” whereby students who cannot pass a placement test must enroll in these non-credit courses. Naturally they still pay college tuition fees but they do not earn credit towards a degree.
  • At SMS, we instituted a pilot 5th Year program three years ago. Five students enrolled in the 5th Year program three years ago. Two were from SMS, one from Trinity High School, and two from St. Alfred’s in Tamboan. In the middle of the year, the two from Tamboan realized that they did not have the knowledge and the skills to take up nursing and criminology; and thus they dropped out of the program. The remaining three were properly placed in careers and schools of their choice: one in computer programming at AMA with a full presidential scholarship; another in the College of Fine Arts in UP Baguio; and the third in HRM at Trinity University in Manila. Last school year, we had nine 5th Year students who enrolled on an optional basis. (The batch included two students who had transferred to SMS in 4th Year from other schools and had to stay two years because of residency requirements.) All nine had been placed in universities. This year, we have four currently enrolled 5th Year students. 
  • The 5th Year program is not a repeat of the 4th Year curriculum. In fact, the curriculum is composed of subjects like Advanced Sciences, Business Math, Art and Design, Intro to Philosophy, Intro to Psychology, and Advanced English. 5th Year students also have an elective and a practicum in the area that interests them (computer, art, education, or sciences). As we expect 14-15 students in next year’s 5th Year program, we are currently working on a more formal roster of college preparatory courses that will bring students to more advanced levels in English, Filipino, Math, Science, and History. 
  • All members of the senior class will go through the graduation exercises in March. By the end of the 4th year, students would have complied with the requirements of DepEd. However, for those affected by the age requirement, their diploma and special order of graduation would only be processed prior to end of their 5th Year. The 5th Year program welcomes students who meet the age requirements, but may wish to avail of an extra year in high school. 
  • If a student fails in any level, the DepEd policy on failures is followed—which is either taking summer classes, repeating the year (if the child fails in two major subjects), or taking a back subject while advancing to the next level. If a child repeats, the year repeated would serve as the extra year of high school, and the student does not have to take the advanced 5th Year level program. In short, they can graduate after their senior year. This year, we will be graduating two students who agreed to take a remedial program (Grade 7 level) four years ago. Both are doing extremely well now as seniors. 

As a final note, I hope that both parents and students understand why the 5th Year program has been instituted. It is aimed at preparing our graduates for university life and careers. This is not a money-making project which some of our detractors claim. How can it be? The school does not receive ESC funds for 5th Year; moreover, the school devotes at least 5 teachers to a small group of students, and these are counted as teaching loads. Do we have the personnel to cover the program? Currently, we have 15 full time teachers, plus administration and staff who teach. Are they qualified? Many of the teachers have taught at the college level, and have master’s degrees, or masteral units. On the other hand, please remember that SMS is still a high school—and that we at SMS still are able to give the time and have the expertise to prepare your children for college. This is the very reason why we call SMS a college preparatory institution, setting us apart from other schools which only offer basic education. This is why you send your children to SMS and why you pay tuition fees.


The Welcome School Dance will be held in the school theater from 5:30 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. This affair is strictly for currently enrolled SMS students only. Parents are welcome as official chaperones. Sorry, alumni, friends, and siblings are not invited to this first dance. Just to prevent untoward incidents that had happened last year, the following precautions have been taken:
  • A medical check-up determining body temperature will be administered to all students during 7th period on Friday. Those who have impending colds or fever will be allowed in the dance.
  • Attendance will be taken. Once students enter campus, they will not be allowed to leave until after the dance, unless they are physically escorted off campus by their parents or guardians.
  • Face masks will be distributed to prevent transmission of air borne bacteria and viruses. Students are asked to treat these masks as part of their costumes. They may wish to decorate them. Windows in the theater will be kept open. My apologies to nearby residents who may hear the music or the noise.
  • Specific parents from outlying barangays have been requested to provide transportation or escort the children to their homes after the dance. If no transportation or adult chaperones are available, the children can spend the night in the school dorms and go home on Saturday morning. Parents need to send a note or text the school to indicate that their child may stay in the dorm. The faculty and PTA officers will be monitoring the students’ movements when they go home. Students should be home by 10:00 P.M. No private after-dance parties are allowed.

Let’s all have a wonderful time at the dance. Until next week,

Dennis G. Faustino

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