By Marty Denzer
Catholic Key Reporter
KANSAS CITY — Barb Deane has been principal of Holy Cross School at St. John and N. Quincy for just a few months, but she has fallen in love with the school, the families, and especially the students.
“There’s a feeling of family here,” she said. “Parents trust that their kids will be cared about and cared for in a safe environment, and educated the way they would want. When those kids graduate they are caring and welcoming.”
Holy Cross School was established in 1905, with both boys and girls attending St. Agnes Academy. In 1910, the boys moved to two classrooms in the basement of the church. A school building was begun in 1923, and finally completed in 1941. The current building was opened and dedicated in 1962.
Students come from many linguistic, cultural and faith traditions, but at Holy Cross, they soon become a community.
Deane is daily thrilled by the renovations accomplished over the summer. A generous donation from the Neeb Family Foundation, along with some monies from the diocesan Bright Futures Fund, paid for new paint, tearing out drop-ceiling tiles, new lighting, rerouting and eliminating old wiring, refinishing surfaces, new paint and lighting in the restrooms, new white boards, new glass and professional window washing. Energy efficient shades hang on the windows of the classrooms and offices on the first floor.
Thanks to a professionally developed, 3-phase updating plan offered by Holy Cross parents Jake and Kara Palin, an architect and an interior designer, and the supplies and labor to accomplish phase I, the changes to the first floor are dramatic.
The institutional tans and discolored greenish yellows on the walls have given way to a bright, clean cream color which, coupled with the new lighting, makes the hallways and classrooms brighter and feel more welcoming and warm. The outdoors is visible through the shades but they block the heat so the classrooms feel cooler, despite the lack of air conditioning. The bathrooms feel almost new, with clean bright paint. The donations paid for the supplies but the labor was all done by volunteers. Deane hopes to repaint and install new lighting and shades to the upper classrooms in the not too distant future.
In August, the Chartrand Foundation awarded Holy Cross School a $500 grant which was used to purchase new portable soccer goals. One of the goals had been destroyed by vandals and the other was worn out from hard use. The portability of the new goals allows them to be brought inside the school when not in use.
Deane said she’s learning the community, and developing a five-year plan for Holy Cross School: the facility, curriculum and marketing.
Lillig said that Donnelly College’s ESL program, which is still in the formative stages, would start at Holy Cross and Our Lady of Guadalupe. The English as a Second Language classes for parents would, as they would be in the evenings, also offer day care for the younger children and tutoring for older kids. Survival English would be a good start — familiarizing the parents with common phrases to help them and their children, such as greetings and directions or how to ask for assistance.
Another program to assist parents as well as the students is in the planning stages. Lillig said that Holy Rosary Credit Union is working on a plan for teaching Financial Literacy to Strong City School parents, beginning with Holy Cross and Our Lady of Guadalupe schools. The credit union has programs for students to teach them to save and learn the value of money.
In each classroom, Deane has hung a “wordle,” a visual representation of thoughts and reactions. She asked each student what three words describe Holy Cross. Fifth graders agree that other students and the teachers are trustworthy and respectful. Second graders find the newly painted bathrooms “beautiful.” Third and fourth found Holy Cross as a whole, “Christful.” Other students said different, colorful, compassionate, protective, creative, loving, teaching and forgiving. And of course, lunch and recess.
Speaking of outside, Holy Cross second graders are gardeners. As part of their curriculum, they learned to plant and care for a garden on the school grounds. Several weeks ago, the class harvested and ate the fruits of their labor.
Two Strong City Schools, Holy Cross and Our Lady of Angels, have entered into a partnership with the Owens/Cox Dance Company. Once each week, fourth graders at the schools are taught by former professional ballerina Rebka Sakati and composer/musician Brad Cox. The arts of dance and music engage the kids in a fun, rigorous, success-oriented environment focusing on concentration, tenacity and determination. Through the program, the students learn to use that same concentration, focus and determination to enhance their class work. The 30-week program, underwritten by Michael Avery, features two interactive assemblies for classmates, family and friends.
Rockhurst High School, in partnership with the Bright Futures Fund, facilitates the Hurtado Scholars, a new program for 5th and 6th grade boys attending one of the Strong City Schools. The program, named in honor of St. Alberto Hurtado, a Chilean Jesuit who provided educational opportunities to youngsters in his homeland, involves bi-weekly tutoring, summer school and high school preparation. Currently there are about 10 Hurtado Scholars — Rockhurst faculty facilitators and a student tutor ride the metro to Holy Cross and Our Lady of Angels twice a week, pick up the scholars, and those from Our Lady of Guadalupe who carpool to Our Lady of Angels, and all ride the bus to the Catholic Center for their tutoring session.
Another bright spot of the Bright Futures Fund was the notification of the generous legacy of Richard and Olivia Mock, giving the Strong City School Fund about $1.2 million for scholarships, with individual scholarships matched by St. Pius X High School, making attending a diocesan high school a reality for 10 students in its pilot year.
Deane, who with the Holy Cross faculty, is in the midst of accreditation requirements and paperwork, is excited to come to work each morning. As excited as the kids, who with big smiles say ‘good morning’ to her at the door, before heading to their classrooms and another day of love, learning and laughter at Holy Cross.