Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta


SJN School Back To Normal On Grandparents Day

By STEPHEN O'KANE, Staff Writer | Published December 10, 2009

Continuing its tradition for the 22nd year, St. John Neumann Regional Catholic School welcomed parents and grandparents for its annual Grandparents Day Mass on Nov. 24, giving them a chance to visit with the students and have a first-hand look at the school’s recovery from September’s floods.

Students and family members filled the sanctuary, lining the back walls and sitting wherever there was room. Msgr. David Talley, pastor of St. John Neumann Church, served as the main celebrant for the Mass, which was meant as an opportunity for students to give thanks to God for their families as well as their own lives.

“We have been given the gift of life,” Msgr. Talley told the students. “It is a holy gift. … You’ve been given the gift of moms and dads,” who love you no matter what, he said.

“We want to give special thanks for our grandmothers and grandfathers,” who have made many sacrifices for their grandchildren, Msgr. Talley added.

Family members were encouraged to remain seated after the Mass, as each grade performed a musical number. Seventh-graders sang and danced to “We Go Together” from “Grease,” while the third-graders performed “Hip Hop Turkeys,” all to the delight of the crowd.

Led by music teacher Lisa Mozgawa, the various grades joyfully performed as grandparents and parents watched with smiles on their faces and constant rounds of flashes lit up the students’ faces as family members snapped photos to capture the moment.

Following the celebration, the school was open for students to give their families a tour of their classrooms. Many walked through the building unaware of what the school looked like a few weeks ago, if not for the stories of the recent flood told by faculty and students. One mother showed other family members a mark on the wall nearly three feet high where the water once stood in the school’s lower level.

For many visitors who previously looked at pictures of the hallway and classrooms swallowed by the Yellow River, it was hard to believe the school is already back on its feet. Some may attribute that to the relentless spirit of the school’s community, as well as the help from others who heard about the damage.

Aid came from near and far for SJN when news of the flood damage was televised.

Christ the King School responded by donating nearly 40 flat-screen monitors to the Lilburn school, allowing for a no-cost upgrade to the school’s computer curriculum.

“This generous donation of monitors has allowed us to upgrade our computer equipment without affecting our budget,” said St. John Neumann Principal Jim Anderson.

While the bills are still rolling in, the principal estimated the cost of repairs at nearly $300,000.

Christ the King School’s donation was made possible due to a grant from IBM through its Matching Grants Program. Christ the King School parent Tom Stockmeyer, the services sales leader for the AT&T Integrated Services Account at IBM, leveraged his annual fund gift to the school and secured 36 flat panel monitors and one laser printer. With the grant, Christ the King School was also able to replace monitors in its computer labs at the same time.

“I’m pleased that my company and our school were able to ‘pay it forward’ so that not just one but two schools could benefit,” said Stockmeyer.

St. Pius X High School in Atlanta raised $5,000 for SJN through an “out of uniform” day where students and faculty donated $5 or more to the fund to enjoy a casual day.

Faculty and staff at Our Lady of Victory School in Tyrone agreed to be doused with water balloons in a benefit sponsored by the school’s National Junior Beta Club Oct. 20 that raised over $700 for SJN.

Anderson said that all of the Catholic schools in the area have helped in some way.

Help also came from halfway across the country. John Gaffney, a sixth-grade religion teacher and director of youth ministry for St. Theresa Church and School in Des Moines, Iowa, contacted Catholic Charities in October hoping to help the school out.

Gaffney said his class became concerned after hearing stories about the excessive flooding that damaged parts of Atlanta. Gaffney told Catholic Charities about an annual charity basketball tournament his sixth-graders hold the weekend before Thanksgiving.

Through the tournament, St. Theresa students have raised between $6,000 and $9,000 each year over the last five years and nearly $80,000 over the past decade.

The financial aid will be a gift gratefully received by the Lilburn school, especially since the flood damage came shortly after the parish broke ground for a new church.

But as of last month, St. John Neumann Church has received $1.83 million on pledges of $3.19 million, representing 58 percent of its goal. It is an encouraging sign for the community that people are still willing to give in these tough economic times.

After the students took their family members around the school, they gathered once again in the school’s cafeteria for a reception. Many felt it was a great way to begin the Thanksgiving holiday weekend.

St. Pius X High School principal Steve Spellman, left, presents a check for $5,000 to St. John Neumann principal James Anderson. SPX students donated $5 or more to enjoy an “out of uniform” school day.

“This is my favorite time of the year, Thanksgiving,” said Anderson, adding that he was especially grateful this year for all of the support the school has received in the wake of its sudden crisis.

“What better time to sing God’s praises than at Thanksgiving,” said Teresa Olson, a fifth-grade teacher.

Steve Brown, claims manager for Catholic Mutual, the company that provides insurance for the Archdiocese of Atlanta, said, “Catholic Mutual does have extended flood coverage for this loss.”

SJN is again fully functional, with the tiling in the gymnasium’s locker room as the last major repair to be completed, said Anderson. The school was closed for two weeks following the flood, and they have already put a plan into place to make up all of the lost days. Anderson said the school went through the Office of Catholic Schools to make sure the students complete all the required days.

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