All-School Blog

On being a safe place

I am tremendously encouraged by the coming together of student voices across the country to provide a powerful spur for meaningful action from government.

Here at Good Counsel, students Helton Rodriguez and Caterina Ieronimo were quick to step forward with ideas about how our community could respond to this latest national tragedy. Teach-ins have already taken place. Talon journalist Alexia Ayuk secured an interview with Senator Van Hollen to ask tough questions about legislative action. In solidarity, we will participate in next Wednesday's National Walk Out in a way that reflects our most deeply held values and our Catholic identity. Unless the weather interferes, we plan to walk out to our recently completed grotto. There, we will spend 17 minutes in a prayer service for peace.

In the aftermath of Parkland, I suspect every school is taking a hard look at its security procedures. We are. Our students felt Parkland keenly. Their seriousness was evident when we held a lockdown drill last week. I walked much of the building; you could have heard a pin drop. Our practices have been analyzed by a senior Montgomery County Police officer and he has made a number of suggestions that reflect the latest police thinking about school security. There's more to come on that.

Yet for all the adjustments to align with best practices for a safe school environment, those of us who are in schools every day realize the near impossibility of making our schools impregnable. We are a school, not a fortress.

Our reaction to school violence is visceral. There are other less visible threats to maintaining a safe and secure school. We live in a state where it seems legal recreational use of marijuana is not far away from becoming a reality. The old stereotype of students smoking in the bathroom seems like an almost quaint throwback. Today, there are multiple threats that exist below the radar – opioid painkillers, small and odorless vaping devices, edibles that are indistinguishable from any other cookie or brownie.

And, earlier this week, the National Association of Independent Schools published Prevention and Response: Recommendations for Independent School Leaders from the Independent School Task Force on Educator Sexual Misconduct. The document, developed over the past 18 months, is a powerful call for every school to be vigilant and have clear expectations, sound policy and procedure, and consistent training in the effort to protect students from harassment, abuse and other forms of misconduct.

Year in and year out, surveys of parents come up with the same three reasons why families choose Catholic schools: rigorous academics, values, and safety. Our families trust us to deliver on all three.

My colleague, Principal Tom Campbell wrote a letter to the community recently in which he addressed some of these same issues and provided valuable resources.

I write this letter to reiterate the commitment we make at Our Lady of Good Counsel High School to meet your fundamental expectation that we will do our utmost every day to maintain a safe, secure and healthy environment for all our students. Only in such a context can we carry out our mission: to inspire our students to excel, serve, and love.

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My first year at Good Counsel was 2011. I was co-moderator of an 11th grade Community with my colleague from the Business Office, Bill Mooney. Back then, there was no advisory curriculum to cover. The ten minutes of Community was an informal combo of message delivery and time to relax, a time where growth and formation took place in what Theodore James Ryken called the "common, ordinary, unspectacular flow of everyday life."

Over the 2011-12 year, Bill and I figured out we had a talented group of juniors – scholars, artists, athletes. We went on a memorable Junior Retreat together. After they graduated in May 2013, two went to Ivy League schools: Harvard and Brown. Others to schools like Georgetown, Maryland and Florida. Four were D1 football players.

Today, the majority of those 25 men and women have graduated from college. Whether by LinkedIn, Facebook, word-of-mouth, or visits to campus, I try to keep up with what these young alumni are up to. It's clear that they have parlayed their Good Counsel experience into accomplishment in college. They are nurses, educational entrepreneurs, communications specialists, cognitive therapy researchers, digital media producers, graduate students in women's studies and physical therapy, wealth management trainees.

Before you say "Enough with the nostalgia," I want to share about one student whose talents have kept him connected to Good Counsel.

Jimmy Stubbs came to GC in 2009 with an interest in visual art. A large format self-portrait he completed his senior year and still hanging in Mr. Clulow's classroom points to Jimmy's talent. The brightness of the background matches the brightness of the personality.

Jimmy did not perform in plays or musicals during his middle school years. That changed at GC. We often talk about our school as a place where students are encouraged to find their "best fit." Jimmy found his. He was in all eight shows in his four years, establishing a reputation for scene-stealing comedic timing. It was no surprise when Jimmy headed to the University of Maryland to major in Theatre.

At College Park, Jimmy's focus shifted to scenic design. He stayed in touch with his teachers and mentors: Kristina Friedgen, Rosemary Slocum, Rich Slocum, David Petrocci. Knowing his talent, the Good Counsel Theatre Company invited Jimmy to design the set for the fall production. And they didn't make it easy, tossing in the additional challenge of designing a set that would have to be movable to work with two plays as we are presenting a double feature. Undergraduate students seldom design sets that get to be constructed at full scale. Jimmy was not going to pass on an opportunity to go big! I am told that the set he designed has had to be scaled back a bit. Even so, it covers the entire width of the PAC stage. It is Jimmy's largest realized set and he plans to use it in his application for admission to the Master of Fine Arts in Scenic Design program at Yale.

Not every student's path will lead back to Good Counsel in such a conspicuous way. Nor can we so directly propel every alumnus to a prestigious graduate program. Rather, Jimmy's story is one of a talent identified and nurtured by caring faculty and staff during a student's years at Our Lady of Good Counsel High School. It's mission delivery at its most fundamental: We inspire our students to excel, serve, and love.

Kudos, Jimmy. You make the moderators of Community 9307 very proud.


If you want to see Jimmy's set in the hands of extraordinarily talented students, the curtain rises on our fall double-bill later this week, The Real Inspector Hound and And Then There Were None.

Read more about Blog Post: On Setting the Stage

For six years, Our Lady of Good Counsel has offered adults the opportunity to continue their education through the Adult Enrichment Program. The program offers classes taught by members of the community, and span a range of topics and skills.

GC is offering an impressive variety of classes this fall. Sessions vary in length from 1-night to 5-week courses, and topics include:

• Eastern Shore Seafood and Beer Tasting
• Hearty Winter Soups
• Healthy and Tasty Cooking for Kids

• The Great Gatsby

• Barre Fitness Class
• Essential Oils 101
• Introduction to Acupuncture

• World Religions

• Calligraphy for Beginners

For more information and to register online go to Questions? Contact Lauren Costello, Director of Auxiliary Programs

Read more about Fall Adult Enrichment Classes Begin at Good Counsel

Katie Rictor | Director of the Fund for Good Counsel
Friday, September 14, 2017

We are passionate about Good Counsel. As members of this community, we are thrilled when our team wins, when the musical is a success, or when records are broken. We gather in prayer and support those who may need some extra care. We are all a part of building Good Counsel's success. This community is like no other and this year will not be like any other year.

Last year, thanks to our generous parents, alumni, grandparents, and friends we made history. Together, we raised over $879,000, the largest annual fundraising amount in school history, through the Fund for Good Counsel. As a community, you came together to provide our Falcons the opportunities to explore their dreams and develop their own passions this year as our faculty and staff inspire them to excel, serve, and love.

Many programs at Good Counsel make our community unique and it is important that you can support those areas that matter the most to you and your family! That is why I am thrilled to introduce The Fund for Good Counsel: Family of Funds. This new model allows you to designate your unrestricted Fund for Good Counsel gift to any of the following priority areas: Arts, Athletics, Service, Faculty Development, Financial Assistance, Endowment, and Area of Greatest Need.

With your support in these seven impact areas, we can look forward to greater growth and more opportunities for our Falcons. At Good Counsel, we are reliant on private fundraising and tuition to fund operations for our school. Very simply, our success happens within the framework of a strong and thriving school community and campus. The Fund for Good Counsel ensures a strong Good Counsel for all of your children. Our goal this year is to raise a total of $885,000 across the seven areas.

We hope you will give because you believe in the mission of Good Counsel. We hope you will give because you are inspired to see today's students transformed into tomorrow's leaders. We hope you'll give because you are passionate about Catholic education. Most of all, we hope you will give because you are proud to be counted among this community and know that it is only in moving together that we can make the greatest impact. We can't do it alone.

Join us in writing the next chapter of Good Counsel's story. To make your gift or learn more about the Family of Funds, visit

Read more about Blog: Introducing the Family of Funds

Dr. Paul Barker | Good Counsel President
Friday, September 8, 2017

This past Tuesday the President of the United States rescinded the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. There has been considerable public outcry. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a statement that begins: "The cancellation of the DACA program is reprehensible." Our archbishop, Cardinal Donald Wuerl, called the decision "regrettable and harmful." President of the University of Notre Dame Father John Jenkins described discontinuing DACA as "foolish, cruel and un-American."

Our Lady of Good Counsel High School stands in solidarity with these Catholic leaders in expressing dismay at the announcement.

For the next six months matters are in the hands of legislators. There is some hope that the chorus of voices in support of the Dreamers will inspire the members of Congress to overcome the bitter partisan inertia of recent years and work together to come up with a solution that provides a path for these young people to remain.

Why am I writing about this issue? Two reasons.

First, I write as head of a school where this feels personal. We think it is highly likely that we have some undocumented students at Good Counsel. We do not know with any certainty because we do not ask about immigration status when students apply for admission. Each student enrolled here has the right to feel the powerful sense of safety and belonging that comes with being a Falcon. In response to threats to the well-being of any student, our Counseling staff, our Chaplain and campus ministers, and our teachers all stand ready to offer assistance and support.

For any student who has immigration status issues or who is feeling the stress of friends and family made newly vulnerable, we hope Good Counsel will be seen as a source of support. Director of Counseling Shena Thompson-Jones, Director of Personal Counseling Eleanor Donaghue, and Dean of Students Ana Lopez (pictured above) have volunteered to be point persons for students seeking information and access to local resources.

My second reason for writing is that I am an immigrant myself.

I'm guessing the first time you heard me speak, you said to yourself, "He's not from here." Some folks guess Boston. Some, Australia. About 1 in 20 guesses correctly: New Zealand. More than 30 years removed from landing in the US for the first time with a K-1 Fiancé visa in hand, I still have vivid memories of reams of paperwork, chest X-rays, consular interviews, and airport interrogations. I won't soon forget the aggressively unwelcoming experience of the Immigration office at the Garmatz Federal Building in downtown Baltimore where the man behind the counter would shout: "If you need forms, come to the counter! No questions!" I do not flatter myself that my immigrant experience represented stress and hardship that is anything like that experienced by today's Dreamers. I came to the US with privilege – a white adult, a fluent English speaker with a college degree, some dollars in my pocket, my papers in order. I had a passport. Even so, until I received my Certificate of Naturalization in 1993 the sense of being "other-ed" was hard to escape. "Alien" was my status and alien was my feeling.

It is hard to imagine the experience of young people who are now faced with great uncertainty about their future in, to quote Cardinal Wuerl, "the only homeland they have ever known."

Today is the 59th anniversary of the opening of Our Lady of Good Counsel High School. On this day we remember our deep debt to our founders, the Xaverian Brothers. We recall that a Dutch immigrant founded the Congregation in Belgium. We recall that European Brothers immigrated to the US and through their perseverance established the gift of Xaverian education in our country.

It does not take much digging for any of us to find our own family's migrant story. Our awareness of this reality is recognized in one of the sentences of the Diversity Statement adopted by our Board of Directors in May 2017: We respect, value and celebrate the unique, God-given gifts of each member of our community.

As we wait in hope for a positive legislative outcome, let's be a people of prayer – prayer for our nation, our school, and for every student whom we inspire "to excel, serve, and love."

Read more about Blog Post: On DACA