View Full Version : Downtown-Nob/Russian Hill Notes from Our NDV Tour

10-07-2010, 12:48 PM
Our notes and impressions from the NDV (Notre Dame des Victoires) tour:

NDV is a coed Catholic K-8 elementary school located downtown on Pine between Grant and Stockton. We decided to tour the school beacuse of its academic reputation among Catholic schools as well as its willingness to accept non-parishioners. For other parents who work downtown, NDV's convenient location is also a key factor. From the school's perspective, the key reasons to select NDV are (1) committed community, (2) dedicated faculty, (3) daily instruction of French, (4) year round sports and (5) strong arts program.

Valerie, a warm volunteer who graduated from the school a long time ago (my guess is she's in her 70s?), met us at the school auditorium and led our tour. Our first stop was the gym. While the gym could certainly use some updating, it is adequate for the PE classes and the practices held there. Kindergarteners take PE twice a week. NDV offers organized sports from third grade and beyond via the CYO (Catholic Youth Organization) - volleyball, basketball and soccer. For the younger students, there are coed teams organized by the NDV parents.

Next stop is the school yard, which is perhaps on the smallish side relative to other schools. To accommodate recess, which is three times a day, the school staggers the times of the recess. Morning assembly, a key ritual to promote a sense of community, is also held on the school yard at 8:10am every morning.

We then stopped by the cafeteria/lunch room. The room was brightly lit and outfitted with round tables to faciliate conversations among the students. The students eat lunch three grades at a time and can go play outside when they're done.

One of the parent volunteers talked about parent involvement during the tour. The school expects 36 hours of parent participation. Opportunities to help out include the Halloween Carnival, fund raising, being a lunch parent, etc. While the school would like all parents to support the fund raising, the only expectation is that parents give what they can, even if it's a gift prayer.

The Kindergarten class (about 30 students) was singing enthusiastically when we entered the classroom. Besides their voice, the music teacher also incorporated body movement, coordination and live instrument (piano) into the once a week music lesson. The Kindergarten teacher strongly believes in the role of play in promoting learning, saying that it's not enough to "bring just brain to school." Through her years of experience, she settled on 1-2-3 Magic as the best approach for displining children, if need be. We found her to be very approachable and passionate.

After the kindergarten class, we toured the rest of the school. Students begin to do internet research projects in first grade. We were quite impressed with the Impressionists drawings that the second graders did as well as their writing beneath the drawings. Third grade is when students begin to receive letter grades. The third grade teacher talked about promoting good study habits through cooperative learning. We certainly witnessed the approach in practice at the computer lab when the students work in pairs to help each other through math problems. We also listened to the science teacher discuss her creative approaches to getting her students excited about the subject.

At the end of the tour, NDV's principal, Mary Ghisolfo, joined us to explain the application process and answer some questions. Applicants need to be five by 9/1 and will come in for a readiness assessment based on Gesell Developmental Observation. We were also able to see that NDV ranked very high (top two or three) on the standardized scores (Iowa Tests of Basic Skills) vs. the other Catholic schools. Mary also described the school's exmissions, which essentially included all the top high schools in the city.

We came away from the tour impressed with (1) the strong academics of the school, (2) the passion and enthusiasm of the teachers, (3) the committed parent community and (4) how much the school accomplishes with what it has.


Parents can sign their child up for private music classes during the school day.
Big brother/sister program where the students in the lower grade have a big brother/sister in the upper grade.
NDV weaves the R.I.S.E (Respect, Inclusion, Safety and Effective communication) program into the curriculum.