By ANDREW NELSON, Staff Writer | Published January 3, 2013
Turning the last page on the 2012 calendar is an opportunity to highlight accomplishments for Catholic schools in the Atlanta Archdiocese. Here are a few of the stories that unfolded in the past year.
In Athens, the Catholic community cheered the opening of classrooms and a gym at a new site for St. Joseph School after years of planning.
The key to open the building’s front door passed through the hands of each student, starting in the back of a long line, until it reached the waiting administrators.
Parents like Andrea Harron made sure they documented the opening day at the new St. Joseph School, Athens. Here Harron photographs her daughter Caitlin, a second-grader, and her son Sean, a kindergartener. (Photos by Michael Alexander)
The opening of the new school building on Monday, Sept. 5, brought out excited students, parents and teachers.
“After having the smallest classroom in the old building, I feel like I’m in the Taj Mahal—no lie. The rooms are so spacious and full of natural light. I truly love my space,” said Chris Moore, who teaches fourth and fifth grade.
St. Joseph Principal Charles Martin said the campus at 958 Epps Bridge Parkway could accommodate the school growth.
“Our new campus has a gymnasium and dedicated science lab, two amenities our students and faculty did not have at our last home, but are very excited to take advantage of now,” he said.
The move is the first to the Epps Bridge Parkway property, but not the last. St. Joseph Church, located on Prince Avenue in downtown Athens, will be sold once the parish also moves its facilities to the new site. A new parish center was recently completed.
Independent Catholic School Planned For At-Risk Students
Supporters are working to open a high school with a college-prep curriculum to serve low-income families. The goal is to open a Cristo Rey High School, an independent Catholic high school, at St. Paul of the Cross Church, Atlanta, in the fall of 2014.
The school will prepare at-risk teens on the college track. It relies on partnerships with corporations to implement the school’s unique economic sustainability model. Students work five full days a month at the workplaces of business partners to finance 70 to 80 percent of their school tuition.
Bob Fitzgerald, the chairman of the board, said eight businesses have signed on to support students. The school hopes to have partnerships with three-dozen employers, from large corporations to family-owned businesses, by the school’s opening day.
Students spend time at the business as part of their education to get real world experience and to broaden their horizons about careers after college, Fitzgerald said.
The board of directors hopes to hire a president and architect to redesign the existing school building at St. Paul of the Cross by the spring. Supporters are working on the quiet phase of a capital campaign to raise around $10 million to renovate and build the school, he said.
Marist Students Have Played Football For 100 Years
Marist School marked 100 cumulative years of football in 2012. It all started on a spit of land behind the Basilica of the Sacred Heart in downtown Atlanta where the independent Catholic school was first located. This year, the War Eagles fell short of making it to the state championship. They lost in the semifinals 27-28 and ended the year with a 12-2 record.
Charles Saye is a World War II veteran and, at 92, one of the oldest alumni of Marist football.
He said he and his teammates strapped on leather helmets, without facemasks, to face off against larger teams.
“We were like a band of brothers, in other words. We stopped a lot of big, strong teams,” said Saye.
Head Coach Alan Chadwick said a goal for the football program is to show the student athletes the importance of sacrifice in order to be successful and “striving to be the best they can be.”
Students should always remember the “lessons learned from working together for a common goal,” he said.
School leaders said playing football, like other athletics at the school, should be an extension of the classroom, learning teamwork, leadership and discipline.
Five New Leaders Take Positions At Catholic Schools
In September, new principals took the helm of five schools around the archdiocese.
Patricia Ward is the interim principal at Christ the King School, Atlanta. Molly Carlin leads Queen of Angels School, Roswell; Brian Newhall is the new principal of Our Lady of Mercy High School, Fayetteville; Lisa Cordell guides the faculty and students at Our Lady of the Assumption School, Atlanta. Jerry Raymond is the principal of St. Thomas More School, Decatur.
Carlin said her favorite part about being a principal is interacting daily with a faith community.
“I get to live and express my faith at work and share my Catholic faith with 504 students and over 300 families,” she said.
Newhall has been a principal for 23 years and an educator for 37 years.
“This is the best job of my career,” he said.
The school community is strengthened with strong parental support, an open-minded and enjoyable faculty, and enthusiastic students, he said.
Two Schools Hit Milestone Years
Two schools reached milestone anniversaries last year.
Students and faculty at Christ the King School in Atlanta have had many celebrations to mark its 75th anniversary.
The Grey Nuns of the Sacred Heart were the first administrators and teachers. In 1940, high school classes were added with a girls high school until 1958 when St. Pius X High School opened.
In May the community dedicated a time capsule to be opened in 2037.
Each class contributed to the capsule, from photos of the kindergarten play and items related to first Communion from second-graders to memories of dances from the seventh-graders.
The eighth-grade contribution to the capsule was titled: “Everything 8th Grade.” Items included photos of their retreat and their senior privilege outdoor lunch tables. The girls included a pair of saddle shoes and the boys added a gym uniform, along with tubes of lip balm.
Principal Patricia Ward said one of the best parts of the year has been former students—“keepers of the flame,” she called them—returning with memorabilia from past years, from sketches of old costumes to photos that detail the school’s construction. A book showcases the history of the school and the cathedral parish, she said.
Ward has been on the staff for 24 years, which seems like such a long time, but that is a small slice of time in the school’s history, she said.
More events like a gala and an anniversary Mass are planned in the spring to continue the celebration, she said.
St. Jude School, in Sandy Springs, reached the half-century mark.
“Not getting older, getting better,” joked Principal Patty Childs.
The school has organized reunions for former students and staff all year. The school was blessed on Sept. 16, 1962. According to its website, it opened with nearly 150 students in kindergarten through fourth grade, lead by five lay teachers. The Grey Nuns of the Sacred Heart of Philadelphia sent four sisters to serve there. The first graduating class of 18 students finished in 1964. Approximately 500 students attend the school today, from kindergarten to eighth grade.
In August 2012 a special Mass was held with current and past students helping as altar servers, cantors and lectors. Afterward, a 25-year-old time capsule was unearthed. They found uniforms, report cards, demerit slips, along with lots of pictures and letters from students predicting their futures. They also found cassette tapes from the eighth-grade class of 1987 talking about their goals for their lives.
In 2013, the celebration continues with a Ladies Tea and during Catholic Schools Week a service project with Stop Hunger Now.
Childs said the anniversary has been shared with former students and current young people.
“It is exciting. Things in today’s society are temporary, transitional. The permanency of 50 years, the longevity, the academic and spiritual development, it is a testament to the strength of our school. It is worthy of celebrating,” she said.