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Sunday, December 16 , 2018, 3:29 pm | Partly Cloudy 61º


Soaring High, Diving Deep at Marymount School

Two new programs give students a chance to expand their horizons and enrich their educational experience.

Flanked by Marymount of Santa Barbara head Deborah David, at left, and fourth-grader Ryan Borchardt, at right, the Rev. Ronald David, Cantor Mark Childs of Congregation B'nai B'rith and Father Tom Elewaut of Bishop Diego High led last year's annual Thanksgiving Interfaith Prayer Service.
Flanked by Marymount of Santa Barbara head Deborah David, at left, and fourth-grader Ryan Borchardt, at right, the Rev. Ronald David, Cantor Mark Childs of Congregation B’nai B’rith and Father Tom Elewaut of Bishop Diego High led last year’s annual Thanksgiving Interfaith Prayer Service. (John Frost / Marymount of Santa Barbara photo)

When Deborah David accepted the position as head of Marymount of Santa Barbara in July 2006, she set three objectives and quickly began to work toward them. Her goals focused on global connections, the academic excellence of the 70-year-old K-8 school and its spiritual growth components.

With an impressive background and work on both coasts in public and private education, David’s magic touch began to work wonders on Marymount’s quiet campus on the Riviera. Soon, she, along with faculty members and the parent community, developed new programs to appeal to more of Santa Barbara’s families, including Kaleidoscope and Osprey.

Marymount embraces its Catholic tradition and meets the standards for its Catholic students, yet half of the school’s students follow a nondenominational track in which they learn about various world religions. A 2007 study and focus group spearheaded by David demonstrated that non-Catholic parents were seeking a richer, deeper, more meaningful spiritual component. Kaleidoscope is the bud of the roots requested by parents, manifested by David and now coordinated by Katie Frawley. In addition to separate tracks, Frawley and the faculty organize monthly lessons for all students that weave together different aspects of all religions, including such topics as sacred places in nature, sacred places of worship, and sacred symbols.

“It is a wonderful way for all our students to appreciate other religions around the world,” Frawley said.

Students who are not studying for First Communion, now have the chance to learn about the 10 great religions of the world and the beliefs of others, including Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism and Islam. In the Middle School, students study the Old Testament in sixth grade, the New Testament in seventh grade and Comparative World Religions in eighth grade.

Marymount School's science lab is teeming with smiles.
Marymount School’s science lab is teeming with smiles. (John Frost / Marymount of Santa Barbara photo)
As a new head, David also began to focus on improving the needs of students with learning challenges as well as gifted learners. Learning specialist Matt Kustura created the Osprey Academy to help students soar to new levels and dive deep into a specific area of study. Now, teachers identify students who are passionate about learning, and faculty mentors provide the framework for in-depth, theme-based projects with primary source research.

“Osprey was designed for our most ravenous learners who need to go beyond our already above-grade level curriculum,” Kustura said.

Teachers nominate students to Osprey Academy who have demonstrated divergent thinking, scholastic excellence, and a depth of reasoning above the expectations of their current grade. Students also benefit from enrichment opportunities that require a commitment of extra time and work.

“There is a genuine caring shown by the faculty toward the students which fosters a feeling of family on campus,” Kustura said. “Families work as a team and meet challenges together. At Marymount, you don’t have to feel like you are 13 years old and alone — you have a whole school behind you.”

Marymount embodies a genuine commitment to academic excellence and knowledge of world religions as frontiers expand globally.

“By empowering students, Marymount nurtures the lifelong learner in each child so that our students don’t ask ‘Can I do it’ but rather ‘Where shall I begin?’” David said.

Click here for more information about Marymount of Santa Barbara, 2130 Mission Ridge Road, or call 805.569.1811.

Melissa Marsted is a Noozhawk contributor, author and freelance writer.

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