Dr. Julie Broom Joins the St. John Neumann Catholic School Community
By Heidi Campbell
Thirty years ago, when St. John Neumann Catholic School opened its doors, it was the only Catholic school in all of Gwinnett County, thus it was deemed a regional Catholic school. Currently serving 250 students in grades K-8, the school has started off the new school year with a truly inspiring new principal, Dr. Julie Broom, who brings experience and leadership to the campus. “I’m excited to be a part of this school,” Broom explains, “where we are about striving to reach every child’s full potential through academic excellence. We focus on their mind, body, and spirit, and ensure that they are also active members of the community.”
Dr. Broom is no stranger to education. She spent years as an English language teacher, a reading specialist, a district administrator in Houston, and a principal of a K-8 Catholic school in the Denver area. She also helped build IRRE, the Institute for Research and Reform in Education, which is a non-profit organization that works with urban schools across the country to improve teaching and learning. She is excited to share strategies and new technology with the staff, and they are currently eager to begin using state of the art Clear Touch wireless interactive boards in the school. She also is excited to bring a pre-K program in the fall of 2018.
The faculty of St. John Neumann Catholic School has totally impressed Broom. When she arrived, she met with each teacher and asked them what they felt she should keep, what they would like to change, what they needed from her, and what she should know about them. These questions helped her establish her goals and focus, as she lives by the idea that her role “is to support teachers – not vice-versa.” Broom says, “This campus is beautifully diverse with teachers who are committed to the success of their students; it is like nothing I’ve seen elsewhere. The teachers get here before they are required in the morning, and stay long after school. Each one of them volunteers to serve one or more clubs without getting paid. The teachers are what make the school so successful.”
The curriculum of the school, according to Broom, who has her doctorate in curriculum and instruction, is “a perfect balance of classical and 21st century skills.” While every student in grades 5-8 has a Chrome book, the school ensures that they do not spend all day on their screens. “We have a great balance of classical learning and STEAM, developing children’s love of words and numbers from the start,” explains Broom. “We use computer apps to enhance learning across all content areas, while still instilling a love and yearning for good literature. We also work to ensure that students are talking and using content vocabulary without being on a device. We ensure plenty of time for the basics – we create a solid foundation for our kids.”
Broom enjoys working with teachers and students, and likes to promote leadership and learning on all levels. Her belief about discipline is that it should provide guidance and not just be punitive. She also believes in providing students with positive leadership and mentoring experiences. Each student in eighth grade has a job to be the captain of something, whether it is the “sign captain” – writing and displaying messages for the public on the school sign, the News Crew, the Safety Captain, or the “flag captain.” These eighth graders also spend their year mentoring a kindergartener. They sit in weekly mass with these younger kids, and they also spend hours reading to their “buddies” and engaging with them in a variety of learning activities each week.
The school has not only strong academics and a Catholic focus, but also has an impressive list of extracurricular sports and club options to meet the interests of all students. Basketball, volleyball, and softball programs are offered in their respective season, and Tae Kwon Do is offered once a week. They have a STEAM program for first graders and up that meets weekly. This program begins with a Lego’s club and works its way up to large-scale robotics competitions. They offer numerous clubs for those interested in music, games, journalism, drama, and academics, and, perhaps the most unique club they offer is the garden club. “The Garden Club is something that involves our whole school,” explains Broom. “Every class, K-8, has a plot in the garden and they get to experience three seasons of growing. They even get to cook what they grow!”
Another unique feature of the school is their commitment to serving the community. Each grade works on a service project aligned with the corporal works of mercy. The first graders, for example, sing and talk with the residents at a local nursing home once a month. Older students, eighth graders, work with feeding the hungry at Floyd’s Kitchen each month. They spend a full day making lunches and cleaning. One Friday a month, the students can wear jeans if they donate food for St. Vincent de Paul’s. The kids truly gain a sense of helping others, which, according to Broom, creates a more generous community.
One of the things that Broom most enjoys about her new role is being a part of such a selfless community. Just after she began her new position at the school, she asked the school community to come help with a “Clean up” day. Eighty-five people showed up and worked for four hours. Broom sees this giving spirit in the students, the parents, and the teachers. “When Houston flooded, I had a little girl come into my office with her piggy bank wrapped in a shirt,” shares Broom. “This little girl, who is one of several children in her family, told me that she wanted to help someone have a home, and wanted to give them the $37.00 she had been saving for a violin. I recognized her for doing that, and the next week another parent brought her a violin! I am so impressed by who this community is!”
More information at www.sjnrcs.org