Catholic school principals reflect on recent appointments, prepare for Catholic Schools Week


PROVIDENCE — About six months after beginning their new roles at Catholic schools in the Diocese of Providence, seven principals say they are enjoying their respective experiences. They are also gearing up for open houses and other activities that will take place during Catholic Schools Week, a national event that annually promotes faith-based education from January 25 through January 31.

Dan Hodes, principal of Coventry’s Father John V. Doyle School, said one of the highlights so far has been planning for the school’s faith rally, which culminates with Catholic Schools Week.

“We have a very packed schedule from Monday to Friday,” said Hodes, noting that the events are being funded by the school children, as they raised $14,000 via the “Saints Go Marching In Walkathon” they held on campus in November.

During the rally, students will be treated to a live performance by Bob Lesnefsky, also known as “Righteous B,” a world renowned Catholic rapper who evangelizes by entertaining children and teens with “powerful” performances. They’ll also receive a visit from Kevin “K-Rob” Robinson, a professional BMX rider, who will talk to them about the importance of treating one another with respect, as well as how his faith influences his career.

Other activities include Masses, along with “Adopt a Seminarian,” which encourages students to donate goods and create care packages for men training to be priests. Additionally, the entire school is participating in another activity that will be educational and entertaining.

“We’re breaking the whole school up into the Twelve Tribes of Israel and having students from each grade represented in every tribe,” said Hodes. “They will travel around the school and explore the twelve stages of salvation history. It will all end with Adoration and the Blessed Sacrament at the last station.”

Hodes and his school community are also planning the school’s 50th anniversary celebration, as is St. Rose of Lima School Principal Kim Izzi and her staff. Izzi said while everyone is looking forward to the event, students are excited about the upcoming “History Day” competition, which is part of National History Day, an academic program for elementary and secondary school students. Winners will be on display at the school during Catholic Schools Week.

Izzi went on to say that students will be treated to “Bubble Mania” and “Mad Science” presentations to promote science education, as well as a dress down day fundraiser in support of Haiti.

“Every teacher will be doing a lesson on Haiti,” said Izzi, noting that students are each donating $1 to dress down. “The funds will be donated to ‘Food for the Poor,’ which helps build villages in Haiti” and other poor areas throughout the world.

The school, which is located in Warwick, recently started a robotics program, as well as implemented the STAR Reading and Math Assessment Program, along with the STAR Accelerated Reader Program. All classes from Pre-K 4 to grade eight will be assessed using the program.

“The goal by the end of the school year is to have everybody trained and every class assessed twice,” Izzi said.

Izzi is also excited about the school’s recently expanded Spanish and computer programs, as Pre-K 4 and the “Rose Buds,” the school’s youngest students, now have access to the programs. They revamped their music program, too.

“We started a school chorus this year and we sang at a Providence Bruin’s game,” Izzi said. “It was so neat. They went right out on the ice.”

The same is true for Father Holland Catholic Regional School in Pascoag. Principal Maria Rocheleau said in addition to implementing two robotics programs, 21 students from kindergarten to grade eight recently sang — and signed—“God Bless America” during a Bruins game.

“We selected ‘God Bless America’ because we are very proud of being a Catholic school,” said Rocheleau, adding that it was the first time a group used sign language at the local team’s home rink.

Her students took part in another singing event, as they recently went Christmas caroling. They sang religious songs to share the beauty of Christ’s birth with their neighbors.

“We had such a warm reception,” Rocheleau said. “The children loved that.”

She said the children also love their new school logo. They are beginning to receive school spirit wear to promote Father Holland Catholic Regional School.

“We want to make the school more visible,” Rocheleau said. “We find that a lot of people in our town don’t even know we exist. We are in a remote area and we want to advertise. If we wear our school gear, more people will realize what we represent.”

The school also has a new lunch program, which presents healthy and balanced meals with more variety. Guy D. Alba, Principal of Saint Margaret School in Rumford, said his school adopted a new food program, as well, as students are now offered more nutritional options. They also recently increased school safety with an emergency preparedness plan, among other initiatives.

Going forward, students are taking part in several activities to remind them of the importance of helping others, such as “Smile Train,” a non-profit organization based in New York that provides free cleft repair surgeries to those in need while helping to train doctors. Each year, more than 17,000 children are born with cleft lip and/or palate.

“Some people who are born with a cleft palate can’t afford the surgery, especially those who are from third world countries,” Alba said. “We’re trying to help. One of our students, Will Giguere, did a PSA on it, and we are having a dress down day to support it.”

In keeping up with his vow to carry on school traditions, Alba is proud of the school’s “Buddy” program. Since 2000, it has paired older students with younger students as a means to connect children of all ages. While sixth, seventh, and eighth-graders are learning valuable peer leaderships skills, the younger ones each have someone to look up to.

“I made some promises that I will embrace and honor the wonderful traditions that were here in the past,” said Alba.

Principal Janet Maloney of Our Lady of Mount Carmel School (OLMC) in Bristol says she is keeping that same promise, as is Principal Scott Fuller, who leads Our Lady of Mercy in East Greenwich. They both succeeded religious sisters, as Maloney followed Sister Carmela Santarsiero, M.P.F., and Fuller replaced Sister Jeanne Barry, R.S.M.

“The Religious Sisters Filippini governed our school for over 50 years and so bringing in a lay principal was a key transition for both the school and the parish,” Maloney said. “While any new principal faces a myriad of challenges, one of our first tasks was to update our school Mission Statement while affirming the school’s Catholic identity. I was pleased with the outcome, which declares our Catholicity and recognizes our role in helping students become intentional Disciples of Christ. Effecting this mission is truly a collaborative effort and I am blessed to work with a talented team of teachers and staff who are taking on greater ownership of our success. While there have been many other challenges, our core focus is encouraging our students to serve God and others as part of a strong, socially responsible, Catholic community.”

Principal William J. Lippe of The Cluny School in Newport, agrees. The children, he added, make it rewarding to work at a Catholic school and promote the faith.

“We are creating a culture at the school that reflects our Catholic identity,” he said.

To see a full listing of dates and times of school open houses in the diocese, please see the advertisement on page 13.