St. Camillus and St. Mark Schools to Form New Saint Francis International School

January 27, 2010

An innovative new elementary school, Saint Francis International School, will open next fall in Silver Spring when St. Mark School in Hyattsville and St. Camillus School in Silver Spring join forces. The new school, which was conceived by the schools’ pastors and principals, will offer a Catholic, standards-based education with a global perspective to reflect both the diverse student population and the need for today’s students to have new skills to become leaders in a diverse world.

Saint Francis International School will have an open house this Sunday, January 31 from 9:00 – 11:30 a.m. for current families of St. Camillus and St. Mark Schools and from 11:30 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. for prospective new families.

The new school has a projected first-year enrollment of 450-500 students drawn primarily from the existing St. Camillus and St. Mark schools, and will serve children in pre-kindergarten through grade 8. Initially located on the St. Camillus campus, with summer programs at St. Mark, the intent is to expand to two campuses in the coming years.

The concept for the new school was proposed by the principals and pastors of St. Mark (Matthew Russell, principal, and Reverend John Dillon, pastor) and St. Camillus (Tobias Harkleroad, principal, and Reverend Michael Johnson, OFM, pastor), with the full support of the Archdiocese of Washington Catholic Schools Office.

“This new school is an example of the innovative educational leadership we have in our Catholic schools,” said Patricia Weitzel-O’Neill, PhD, superintendent of schools for the Archdiocese of Washington. “Saint Francis International School will offer the families in this community exciting new opportunities for an excellent Catholic education into the future.”

“The new school will enable us to have an international curriculum and to reach out to students who may not otherwise have the opportunity to have a Catholic school education,” said Father Dillon.

The school will offer a new leadership model for Catholic elementary schools, with co-heads of school versus the traditional single principal, and teachers serving as department chairs and grade-level heads. A new integrated curriculum, being designed by the faculty and administration working together and based on archdiocesan standards, will be integrated across grades and subject areas and have a special focus on the skills necessary to help students develop into leaders in a diverse world. These include critical thinking, teamwork, ethics, language and technology. Saint Francis also will offer expanded student support services and enrichment programs, and upgraded facilities.

St. Camillus and St. Mark, located only three miles apart, serve diverse populations representing over 100 countries; 80 percent of the 252 students at St. Camillus represent different countries while the 259 students from St. Mark’s come from 18 different nations. Approximately 70 percent of the students at both schools are Catholic.

“Saint Francis International School will allow us to support the children with programming that neither one of the schools could have done on its own,” said Harkleroad, who will serve as the co-head of Saint Francis International School with Russell.

This spring, the two school communities will begin gathering together for Masses, science fairs and socials to get to know one another and to create the Saint Francis International School spirit.

Saint Francis International School will host several open houses (January 31 and February 4 and 12) for families of the two schools and for prospective new families. For more information, prospective parents may visit or call 301-434-2344 (St. Camillus) or 301-422-7440 (St. Mark).

St. Mark School was one of 14 schools in the archdiocese that held consultations in the fall to discuss challenging enrollment and financial issues and to plan for the future. To date, the majority of the schools, including St. Mark, have announced they will continue next year and one, St. Hugh in Greenbelt, has announced it will close, with students shifting to St. Joseph Regional School in Beltsville. Although not in the consultation process, and with a stable enrollment, St. Camillus initiated planning for the future.

St. Camillus School, 1500 St. Camillus Drive, Silver Spring opened in 1954 and currently has 252 students, of whom 60% are Black; 24%, Hispanic; 8%, Asian; and 2%, White. St. Mark School opened in 1958 and now has 259 students, of whom 49% are Black; 18%, Hispanic; 11%, Asian; and 12%, White. The Archdiocese of Washington serves 29,000 students in 96 schools in the District of Columbia and Calvert, Charles, Montgomery, Prince George’s and St. Mary’s counties in Maryland.

Kathy Dempsey
Office of Communications
[email protected]