Elementary Schools Information Guide
New president aims to let people
know St. Martin de Porres is here
Hollis Pierce-Jenkins said that she and her husband have driven by the school on 40th Street numerous times not knowing that a school was there. They just didn't see it.
"There was no signage," Pierce-Jenkins said of St. Martin de Porres Regional School campus in Oakland. One of her first initiatives as president of that school is to change that and "let people know that we're here."
That's despite the fact that the school is right down the street from the MacArthur BART station. The "transfer station" is in the process of being transformed into a "transit village" with an assortment of retail and mixed income housing.
The area around the station has "tremendous growth potential," Pierce-Jenkins said, noting the steady migration of families from San Francisco to Oakland. It is hoped that this growth will spill over to the school.
"We would like to grow our enrollment," the school president said. The goal is to bump up enrollment to 220 from its current 188. One way of increasing the school's visibility is to build up the word-of-mouth. Pierce-Jenkins talked about doing some "door-to-door campaigning" and talking to local realtors and others in the community.
She has plans to reach out to the alumni of the three former parish schools that form the regional school with an all-school reunion, slated for 2016. As the alums become reconnected to the school and one another, some may be interested in opportunities to "pass it forward" and help nurture the school community. A website will be established to reach out to as many former students as possible.
St. Martin de Porres Regional School was established in 1996 by combining three elementary schools — Sacred Heart, St. Columba and St. Patrick. Students from grades kindergarten to 5 were located on the Sacred Heart campus and the Sixth to Eighth graders at the St. Patrick campus. Although her office is located at the St. Patrick campus, Pierce-Jenkins works from both campuses.
Pierce-Jenkins succeeded Ann Magovern as president at the regional school in August. Pierce-Jenkins, born in New Orleans and raised in San Francisco, is a Cal grad who later went to law school but decided not to be a lawyer. "I started in the corporate world," she said.
Her journey took her from California to Chicago where she worked for a consulting firm that managed major litigation projects. Part of her job involved hiring temporary employees. Then she began to realize that a good number of these employees "were functionally illiterate, couldn't fill out a job application, getting by on minimum wage — that's when I started questioning 'what was going on with education?'"
Looking for some answers, Pierce-Jenkins left the corporate world and enrolled in DePaul University and graduated with a master's degree in education. She began teaching at a school in Cabrini Green, a housing project in Chicago. During that first year of teaching, "my kids taught me more about life and resilience than I could teach them the ABCs," Pierce-Jenkins said.
After her mother died in 1998, Pierce-Jenkins returned to her home in Bayview Hunter's Point in San Francisco. A convert to Catholicism, she joined St. Paul of the Shipwreck Church and went to work as a Seventh Grade teacher. In a short period of time, she became the school's development director and then the principal.
When the school closed in 2003, Pierce-Jenkins went back to school — this time to the University of San Francisco where she graduated with a doctoral degree in organizational leadership.
She moved to Oakland with her husband and daughter and joined St. Columba Church. Earlier this year, she saw an article in the parish bulletin that announced the regional school needed a president.
Why return to Catholic education? Pierce-Jenkins cited those years of teaching in Chicago as well as becoming the parent of a Catholic school student. Her daughter, now in college, attended Catholic schools from K to 8. The new president commended Catholic schools and their focus on Christian values and on social justice issues.
The biggest challenge for the new president are finances. It costs $7,000 per pupil to educate their children at St. Martin de Porres Regional School. The tuition, however, is $4,000 a year.
There are a number of options such as inviting the three parishes to become more involved with the school by supporting fundraisers and providing volunteers.
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