I will be the first to admit that I am not an educator—though four decades ago I did, actually, receive a degree in education and for the past thirty years have been in parishes that operated schools. I have my own opinions about what is effective and what is not, what students need and what they don’t; but I leave the educating to the teachers and staff that are with students, day in and day out, encouraging and loving them to growth.
Saint Charles Borromeo Parish School was once the flag ship elementary institute of the northland. But that was decades ago when it served as a second home for a thousand kids from the surrounding neighborhood who spent most of their waking hours here from Labor Day to Memorial Day each year. Unfortunately, the school lost seventy five percent of its enrollment during the past ten years. The major culprit of the sharp decline is demographic, though a slower demise can be traced to a much longer period connected to birth rates and families leaving our area of small houses for bigger, newer, and nicer ones. People’s fear that Catholic schools are unaffordable is a myth that prevails and one that we need to squelch, too.
In mid-May, 2016, the SCB parish community was informed that the school would close unless drastic measures could turn around its plunge in enrollment and financial stability. Though our doors opened in August with only 120 students, we created a Sustainability Team to study and determine our future course. As we began discussing options before us and the type of school we wanted to be, we saw only three: a small neighborhood school with a significantly reduced staff to maintain a balanced budget, a conglomeration with other diocesan schools in the northland in similar situations, or a destination school that offers a unique and distinguished education from others. For various and overwhelming reasons, we opted for the third choice. And the type of school we want to be—the type most needed—is a Christ-centered, classical, education model focusing on critical thinking, moral development, problem-solving skills, and core values that can positively impact our surroundings.
Here are a few links that will help you understand the liberal arts classical education style of learning for young minds:
While national standards of common core and leaving no child behind are important initiatives, we know that they are not enough; core moral values and a common reach for excellence is far more valuable. Classical education builds upon grammar in the initial years, logic in the intermediate, and rhetoric in the middle school, to provide solid foundation for secondary education and higher learning. It is the type of learning that the Jesuit community if famous for and that has impacted local students at Rockhurst, Sion, St. Teresa’s Academy, and many others around the country.
Our school principal, Mrs. Ann Lachowitzer, is just the person to bring this re-focus to the Saint Charles campus. Her enthusiasm for life, love of learning, and deep concern for each child placed under her care, is fontal to the impact that teachers will make in their classrooms. Very excited about the future Borromeo Academy, we will be working very hard this semester to redirect our school, revamp our curricula, and recruit students to become part of this well-proven way of learning that will distinguish our students and take them to greater heights.
~Fr. Don Farnan