Frequently Asked Questions [FAQs]
by Maltreb Aslagal

Hereunder are the most frequently asked questions [FAQs] received and a summary of the answers given by the web administrator since the inception of SMSS Alumni and Friends Foundation*.

I. Why should we help St. Mary’s School of Sagada? What's in it for us?

Answer: There are quite a number of reasons why St. Mary's School of Sagada [SMSS] deserves your support.

  1. By helping SMSS, you will be helping an indigenous people realize their hopes and dreams of improving their socio-economic conditions through quality education grounded on the tenets of Christianity. In the process, you will be entitled to a tax-exemption in the amount of your donation to SMSS. Please check with your tax consultant to make sure.
  2. To all self-respecting Igorots, helping SMSS--a school committed to becoming the number one school in the Cordillera Adminstrative Region [CAR]-- will raise the bar of quality education for Igorots and related people. It is but natural that other schools in the CAR will strive to emulate or surpass what SMSS has and will accomplish in terms of facilities and curriculum improvement, to the overall benefit of hinterland communities in the CAR.
  3. As an ecumenical Episcopal school, SMSS is proud of the diversity of its student body and faculty, regardless of religious belief, political affiliation, ethnic origin, color of skin, sex orientation, or social status. It has been a proponent of the free discussion of ideas. Not a few of its alumni found themselves in leading roles in opposing camps in the Philippine Cordillera's unfolding ideological and religious spectrum. But one thing is sure: SMS does not allow any political ideology or religious fanaticism to enslave the minds of its students. SMS deserves the support of the local and national government as well as every freedom-loving people.
  4. To SMSS alumni, helping your alma mater will sustain, for those coming after you, the educational opportunity which enabled you and many of your indigenous brothers and sisters to catch up with mainstream Philippine society and the rest of the world. As such, you will be paying a debt which you owe to those who pioneered and sacrificed for your people particularly the early American Missionaries to Sagada and the Mountain Province. You will also help ensure that all what the late manong Frank Longid has toiled for will not have been in vain. Please revisit his homily:
    "Building Fires and Digging Wells for those Coming After Me"

II. What exactly is the idea of SMSS as regards quality education and how does SMSS plan to realize such for its students?

Answer: By quality education, we mean an education which sufficiently prepares the student to meet the challenges of college and future careers, but also develops his character to become a selfless member of and contributor to society, grounded on universal Christian values like respect, responsibility, service, and integrity. Since the first year of its incorporation in school year 2004-2005, the school embarked on a comprehensive 5-year strategic plan, encompassing a wide range of educational issues like curriculum, faculty and student development, community relations, infrastructure, and financial sustainability. The school is now on the final year of the plan, awaiting accreditation from the Association of Christian Schools and Universities. Within this time, SMSS has emerged as a model of excellence, as attested by college admissions of its recent graduates, a record of exemplary student achievement in interscholastic academic and athletic competitions, commendations by external accreditors, and recognized by the Department of Education as a center for training teachers in the North. Its facilities are deemed excellent, and its curriculum and instructional methodology are now being emulated. Truly, SMSS has gone a long way. Moreover, the school is on track with its plan of financial sustainability by SY 2010-2011. A second strategic plan for the next five years is now in the making.

A detailed description of the original plan is available here.

The weekly reports of the SMSS Principal, Dr. Dennis Faustino, will also give you an idea on how the school administration is preparing its students. This can be accessed from the Discussion pages.

III. Many good plans get bogged down or killed by, among others, incompetence and ulterior motives. How competent are the school administrators and how sure are we that the SMSS 5-year development plan will not be used to fleece donors?

Answer: After serving as Assistant Principal at International School Manila for eight years prior to his retirement, Dennis Faustino, the author of the original 5-year development plan, has pledged to continue as Principal for the next five years. Concurrently, an assistant principal has been appointed and is being trained to ensure the effective performance of the school in the future. The Chairman of the Board of SMSSI, Engr. Rufino Bomasang, likewise, has an unblemished record as President of the Philippine National Oil Exploration Company. Both have verifiable track records as competent managers/administrators. Both are self-made men who have accumulated enough wealth for them to retire comfortably if they so desire. Moreover, donations to SMSS channeled through the SMSS Alumni and Friends Foundation, will be strictly monitored and audited in compliance with this public charity foundation’s recognition as a 501 ( c) (3) tax-exempt organization by the US Internal Revenue Service [IRS].

IV. So it seems SMSS has surpassed all expectations, and has proven to be the premier school that it once was, and now is. Why should I continue to help?

Answer: SMSS is still far from achieving its objectives and its vision. While it has modern laboratories, instructional resources, and computers, we still need help for the development of infrastructure. For one, the gymnasium, though functional, still needs to be finished structurally, and equipped with adequate equipment. Nothing has yet been done to address the security of the campus (fencing). The exterior of the school building, the dormitories, and faculty housing need to be fixed. With regards to financial sustainability, as planned, the faculty chairs scheme (which subsidizes faculty salaries to allow time for tuition and fees to match operational expenses) will be terminated. However, there is still a need to generate funds for scholarships for academically gifted and financially needy students. In short, much work has been done, yet more needs to be done, and though smaller in scope, we still need your support.

SMSS is now embarking on the second level of its journey towards excellence. The most important contribution you can make is to share the good news with the rest of the world, and be proud of what your alma mater has accomplished in so short a time.

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* SMSS-related questions received by other SMSS alumni and friends and answers given, or proposed to be given, can be added to these FAQs. You may also send your corrections, suggestions or criticisms on the FAQs to Igorot44@aol.com . LBS

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