By ANDREW NELSON, Staff Writer | Published October 15, 2015
ROME—As it marks its 70th year, leaders at St. Mary’s School, Rome, are proud of how the community has embraced the school and how its students are service-minded.
Principal John Tarpley has led the pre-kindergarten through eighth-grade school with its 222 students and 20 faculty members for five years.
“The school has a well-earned reputation for academic excellence, but an even better reputation as a school which nurtures the Catholic faith in northwest Georgia. We are also unique in that I believe we have the highest percentage of Protestant students of any school in the Archdiocese of Atlanta,” he said in an email.
A challenge faced by St. Mary’s School, along with all Catholic schools, is increased tuition and the cost of providing school resources, he said.
A key feature is the school’s tradition that students volunteer in the Rome community on a regular basis. Service “is critical to an active Christian life,” he said.
The first day of school was September 17, 1945 for 51 students in grades one to 11. Dominican Sisters from Adrian, Michigan, staffed the school in a 100-year-old house. The school motto is “Courage, Wisdom and the Love of God.”
In 1971, the Daughters of Charity of Emmitsburg, Maryland, began to staff the school and served there for 22 years. Since 1993, a lay staff of women and men have led the school.
For its anniversary, the school organized events throughout the year, including a reception for former students. The kickoff was a visit by Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory and anniversary Mass on Sept. 1.
St. Mary’s School is the only Catholic school in the northwest corner of the archdiocese, about 70 miles from Atlanta in Floyd County. A little more than half of its students are Catholic. It attracts Protestant students from more than 30 area churches and Catholic students from parishes in Rome, Calhoun, Cedartown and Cartersville.
Family is a word used to describe the community.
Kimberly Lewis was honored as the school’s employee of the year. She’s taught fourth grade for all of her seven years, in addition to teaching a fifth-grade class.
“We are a small school that feels like one big family,” Lewis said.
The parents with students at St. Mary’s are part of its extended family, along with faculty and staff, she said.
Parent Teacher Organization president Jennifer Kligora said, “St. Mary’s is not only an outstanding academic institution, but it is also a truly phenomenal family. All of the teachers, students and parents have an incredible bond with one another.”
Kligora’s family enrolled in 2004. It was the care shown by school vice principal Christa Jackson for her 4-year-old daughter that convinced them the school was the right choice, she said.
The organization has helped the school, especially in fundraising. It raised $140,000 at last year’s auction and $9,000 at September’s fall bazaar, said Kligora.
The school works to teach students the value of community service.
“We always have a service project going on to help people out in our community. We help the Humane Society, feed the hungry, give to shelters, and much more. It’s really a blessing to watch the children bring in donations to help out our community,” said Lewis.