As Town Square Delaware wants to highlight local nonprofits in this holiday season, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to talk about St. Michael’s School, a pioneer in early childhood education in the State of Delaware. Located at Seventh and Walnut Streets in the heart of downtown Wilmington, St. Michael’s has been providing a solid foundation for children of working families since its founding in 1890. Although it is an agency of the Episcopal Diocese of Delaware, St. Michael’s has a long tradition of welcoming children of all socioeconomic backgrounds and creeds.
I recently rejoined the St. Michael’s Board after a long hiatus, and I was struck by both continuity and change, but above all else by institutional vitality. Since our son attended St. Michael’s in the mid-1980s, the physical plant has grown tremendously. The school acquired the old St. Matthew’s Church building in 2000, and St. Michael’s now houses a very large and well-lit library, state-of-the-art classrooms, a tech center, an auditorium, and a math/science lab. There is also a magnificent playground. While St. Michael’s has offered kindergarten since 1908 – well before the State of Delaware – it has now added a vigorous summer camp program (1995) and a first grade curriculum (2006).
So what has not changed at St. Michael’s since my last Board service? For one thing, the underlying philosophy of the school: providing a comprehensive educational background for very young children – strong academic foundations, physical education, and personal development – to give them the best chance to succeed in life. For another, its dynamic and visionary leadership, starting with its peerless Executive Director, Helen Riley. For a third, genuinely happy and well-adjusted students.
Another long-standing characteristic of St. Michael’s is its dedication to serving the entire community. Many of the school’s client families are underprivileged, and financial aid is offered to qualifying applicants. Beyond that, tuitions are determined on a “sliding scale” based on income and family size. Purchase of Care and Purchase of Care Plus assistance recipients are accepted when space is available. Serving the families of poor and working class students has been part of St. Michael’s mission since its inception.
Over the years, the high quality of a St. Michael’s education has been widely recognized. The teachers and support staff, from Infants I through First Grade, are well-trained and dedicated. St. Michael’s recently received the Governor’s Award for Excellence in Early Care and Education, and it is a member of the rigorous Delaware Stars Quality Rating Program. Parents who bring their children to St. Michael’s can be confident that their youngsters will be well prepared for the higher elementary grades and beyond.
I am proud to be a member of the St, Michael’s community and an “alumni parent.” In an era when almost everyone seems to be complaining about some aspect of the American educational system, it is heartening to know that we have a real resource right here in our midst. St. Michael’s School starts children off early, and it starts them off right.
For more information about St. Michael’s School, please call (302)656-3389. To make a donation, please log in to www.stmichaelsde.org.