For many Kenosha area children receiving a Catholic education, a new school year means a new school.
All Saints Catholic School – formed by the collaboration of all 10 Kenosha and Pleasant Prairie Catholic parishes – will open its doors in August on two campuses, replacing the former St. Mary and Holy Rosary grade school locations.
The initiative follows the closure of St. Peter and Mt. Carmel/St. Therese at the end of May. Both the north and south campuses will offer K-4 through grade 8 education. According to a release written by Margie Mandli, All Saints’ Catholic School Transition Team communications volunteer, the development reflects several factors, including the local church’s strong commitment to regional collaboration as well as the clearly perceived responsibility to provide excellent affordable Catholic education now and in the future.
“The Catholic Church in Kenosha is on the vanguard of an emerging national trend that seeks to maintain the viability of Catholic education by creating new regional alliances whereby several parishes come together to support one elementary school,” she said. “In this way, the archdiocese is establishing the expectation that each Catholic church in southeastern Wisconsin will be formally committed to supporting at least one local grade school in perpetuity.”
Plans for an affordable educational model began in 2008 when former Milwaukee Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan made the collaboration of community-wide resources the focus of his strategic plan for Catholic schools. Since July 2010, the Kenosha Collaborative for Catholic Education worked to develop a model to support and sustain Catholic education for the City of Kenosha and the surrounding area.
According to Brenda White, associate superintendent of Schools, Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki approved the commitment from each of the pastors in the Kenosha region, the facilities plan, funding model, system of governance, the education plan and the plan to hire faculty and staff.
“In order to get the school up and running, we formed a transition team led by Fr. Roman Stikel, pastor of St. Elizabeth Parish, and Fr. Robert Weighner, pastor of St. Anne in Pleasant Prairie,” White explained. “It is a much smaller team than the collaborative committee and I must say, we are really blessed to have Margie Mandli and her brother who made a beautiful video explaining the new school model. Their help in communications to all the parishes has been phenomenal.”
To lead both campuses, Jacqueline Lichter has been selected as lead principal and Bruce Varick as associate principal.
Lichter has extensive Catholic educational background within the Milwaukee Archdiocese. She developed curriculum, supervised instruction, and served as chairman of the theology department at Pius XI High School in Milwaukee. She is best known for grade specific baseline testing, and the creation or implementation of innovative programs such as “Engineering is Elementary,” “Family Math night,” a middle school financial literacy initiative, and after-school homework clubs. Her personal research and scholarship is focused on religious studies, educational leadership theory, and Roman Catholic theology.
Varick brings 22 years of serving the Milwaukee Archdiocese as a teacher and principal at the elementary and high school levels. He will work closely with Lichter in the formation and integration of the two All Saints campuses. He said he is committed to implementing Lichter’s goals and philosophy-melding education with faith.
“It is my belief that a Catholic school principal must make sure that the Gospel message of Jesus permeates the entire life of the school,” he explained. “From the moment a child walks through the door, he should feel the living presence of Christ Jesus. As a Catholic school principal who espouses the teaching and beliefs of the Catholic Church, I recognize that I have been given a sacred responsibility to share the faith with joy, enthusiasm and hope.”
Parents may send their children to either campus, and according to Lichter, some are choosing to send one child to the north campus and one to the south campus. Both locations will offer identical programming, uniforms, curriculum, textbooks, athletics and all other offerings, including clubs. However, if a particular club will be offered at one campus, the students from the other campus will be invited to attend as well.
Instructors in courses such as art, music, foreign language, library and resources will serve both campuses. Each school will have a designated physical education instructor.
All former teachers and staff members were encouraged to apply for a position at All Saints Catholic School and were guaranteed an interview. More than 60 applicants applied for 35 positions and teachers were hired from all four of the merging schools. While there was an understandable sadness and grief among the staff during the process of closing their beloved schools, Lichter said that most were encouraged that Catholic education would continue to grow in Kenosha.
“We had our first faculty meeting on Tuesday, May 31, and it quickly confirmed what I was feeling, and that was God is truly in our midst,” she said. “The teachers will be doing curriculum planning together; and our faculty meetings will be a combined group with grade level teachers meeting one week, department level, such as primary, intermediate, and middle, meeting the following week and the combined faculty/staff meeting the third week. We even hope to have Mass together with students and faculty/staff once per month or quarter. However, we need to work out the logistics.”
For most students, the tuition for active parish members $2,550 for one child, plus $300 school fees, and $3,050 and $300 school fees for non-parish members, will be comparable to previous years at their parish school.
“The biggest change will be for families who attended St. Therese School,” explained White. “St. Therese tuition was low compared to the others and this new tuition structure will be a more significant difference for them and their sacrifice will seem a greater burden for them, but will be aligned to the other schools.”
With encouraging feedback from the 10 supporting parishes for their collaborative efforts, Lichter hopes to maintain at least 80 percent of the students who attended the four merging schools.
“Optimistically, 500 children would be wonderful,” she said. “We hope to grow the relationships between the school children and the members of the supporting parishes. We have dreams of having the children’s choir and different grade levels committee to visiting the various parishes once per month to sing and participate in liturgical ministry by reading, bringing forth the gifts, serving or celebrating from the pews. This would be our way of saying thank you to the supporting parishes and a way of helping the parishioners get to know the children attending All Saints Catholic School.”
In addition to a rigorous academic program with a goal of 80 percent of students scoring in the 75th percentile in math and reading on the Iowa Tests of Basic Skills, Lichter plans to add algebra in 8th grade. She also hopes to offer additional academic clubs, e.g., math, Spanish, art and book.
“We plan on getting SMART Boards for every classroom and our technology committee is currently discussing ways to implement iPads into the intermediate grades with the hopes of integrating technology more fully into the curriculum across grade levels,” she said. “We will also be offering an engineering curriculum to children in grades K5 through 6th grade with the hopes of expanding the program to include Project Lead the Way in the future. Engineering is Elementary is a curriculum developed by researchers, teachers and engineers at Boston Museum of Technology. Each unit weaves in math, science, technology and reading skills that are aligned to state standards.”
In addition to working with teachers and assisting them in aligning instruction to the Archdiocesan Exit Expectations, Lichter plans to utilize data from baseline and benchmark testing, and Iowa test scores to drive instruction.
“We will be spending time mapping the curriculum in order to establish cohesive instruction between the two campuses and to learn spiral skills rather than re-teach and then use the curriculum maps to eliminate gaps in instruction,” she said. “And lastly, it is my goal to establish a collaborative relationship with St. Joseph’s Catholic Academy so that together we will continue to keep Catholic education alive and thriving in Kenosha.”
Sustaining Catholic schools is a growing challenge, but with the commitment of all Kenosha and Pleasant Prairie parishes, White believes that All Saints will be as successful as the recently formed Kenosha St. Joseph Catholic Academy. Since the formation of the Academy, enrollment has increased 100 percent and it is estimated that 100 more students will attend this fall.
“Both All Saints School and St. Joseph Academy will be supported by all 10 Catholic parishes,” White explained. “This means that each parish will make a financial contribution into a fund and the money will be divided between both academies. This is a collective regional effort from all parishes in District One and is really something that the community can be proud of.”
Merging the four schools into All Saints and pooling resources will save the school more than a half million dollars, and after the initial start-up costs, savings should be even greater in future years.
“This is a much more effective model from a financial standpoint and continues to be a stronger savings hope for the future,” said White. “We are adding strength, value, Catholic identity and providing an excellent Catholic educational program.”