Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington

From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302

All Saints School, Spokane: ‘When I witness the caring the teachers show, I know I’m in the right place’

Story and photo by Bonita Lawhead, Inland Register staff

(From the April 29, 2004 edition of the Inland Register)

All Saints School: Middle School

All Saints School is split between two campuses. The primary grades are at St. Peter Parish; Our Lady of Fatima hosts the middle school building (above). St. Ann Parish also participates in the interparochial school. (IR photo)

All Saints’ School is located in two former parish school buildings on the South Hill in Spokane. It is supported by three parishes, Our Lady of Fatima, St. Ann, and St. Peter. It’s not so unusual that a school would have more than one building for its grade levels, but it is somewhat unusual that the two buildings have several miles between them.

The three parishes merged their education efforts in 1972-73. Prior to that time, Our Lady of Fatima had operated a school since 1957; St. Peter School opened in 1958.

The primary building, grades K-4, is in the former St. Peter School on E. 18th Ave. The administrative offices are located on lower level of St. Peter Church, as are the kindergarten classes.

The middle building, grades 5-8, plus the preschool, is next door to Our Lady of Fatima Church, on 33rd. In fact, Our Lady of Fatima Church is now inside the school. The church building has been torn down and the worship space is now temporarily situated in the gym while a new church is being built.

Both school buildings are oblong rectangles of solid brick, with access to classrooms mostly on the outside. This style of building was popular during the 1950s when many Catholic schools were built.

Both campuses have large playgrounds, allowing lots of room for energetic children at play. The preschoolers’ playground is fenced, giving them an extra measure of safety and security.

With 452 students, All Saints has the largest study body of the diocese’s schools. There are two classes for every grade level. There is also a preschool and an Educare program. Kathy Hicks is principal; the staff numbers about 30.

While there is generally a low hum of noise during a school day, the atmosphere in the two buildings was pretty quiet two weeks ago; students were taking tests. The school uses both the WASL and the ITBS, even though they are not required to do so. School officials want to make sure everyone is on track with their studies and lessons.

All Saints School works with District 81 to provide a hot lunch program to its students each day. A staff member brings the correct number of lunches from Lincoln Heights Elementary School, where the lunches are prepared. Students eat at their desks; there is no separate eating space.

Because of the distance between the two buildings, there is a bus shuttle that is used to transport students back and forth for events such as all-school Mass and the end of the school day.

While All Saints holds the usual fund-raisers – there is a dinner-auction, a magazine sale, the annual appeal and an ice-cream social – its Fair Share tuition program is unique in that there is no set tuition charge. Parents who want their children to attend All Saints are asked to pray about what they can give financially, and then give that amount.

“Part of our mission is to provide a Catholic education to every child, regardless of family finances,” said development director Janet Dixon.

The school does the same with parent volunteer hours. Some schools set minimums, but All Saints asks parents to volunteer as they can. “It’s always worked out, in both areas,” said Dixon. “We’ve always met our budget.”

The preschool program is very popular, with morning sessions held every day, along with an afternoon session. The South Hill area around St. Peter Parish continues to attract residents, and Dixon said there is continued interest in the program.

The school has a full range of sports and other extracurricular activities such as band. A good example of parent dedication is Joe Weaver, who has coached the All Saints’ football team for 30 years. Dixon marveled at his willingness to coach the sport all these years, even though “all his children are girls.”

A new art program, called Art Attacks, was started at the school this past fall. Students study a particular artist or artistic style, learning the history, and then emulate the artist or style by making their own artworks. Pictures demonstrating texture hung on the walls outside one classroom, and each one had pieces of furry material glued to it.

Kolleen Murray has been involed at All Saints for some 30 years now: first as an alumna, then a parent, and now a teacher. She has taught seventh grade for four years. She loves her school and feels blessed to be on staff.

“I used to be a banker,” she laughed as she told about becoming a teacher. “I was over there (at school) all the time and every year, someone would ask me ‘why aren’t you a teacher?’”

It wasn’t long before she was on staff, which she said is “a great blessing. It’s definitely my calling.” Murray is following meaningful footsteps, since her mother also taught at the school.

What Murray finds at All Saints is a caring atmosphere. She gave a personal example of that spirit. She was seriously injured in a bicycle accident in the summer following her hiring. She wasn’t sure she would be able to take her new job, since she had suffered a brain injury and her recuperation was slow. “Kathy (Hicks, the principal) and the other teachers all helped me that first year,” she said. “It was a huge affirmation.”

Murray remembers when Our Lady of Fatima School became All Saints. “I think it was hard on the students who had to leave their school to go to the other building,” she said. She said that there had been gatherings for a year prior, to help everyone adjust to the new arrangement.

Murray especially likes students being educated in their faith and in values and morality.

Monica Eugenio currently has two children at All Saints; the youngest will start kindergarten next year. She likes the community feeling of the school and how the teachers are so “willing to be there even with less pay. Even though there are lots more kids now, that feeling is still the same.”

The school gives students “a strong sense of faith and a good grounding in helping others,” Eugenio said, which is important since it “reconfirms what’s taught at home.”

The “wide diversity” was what appealed to the Hooper family when they relocated to Spokane and were looking for a school for their daughter. “We wanted that for her,” Betsy Hooper said.

Hooper also values the individual attention given to students and to her daughter who is an advanced reader. “The staff helps find books for her to read that are appropriate for her reading level,” Hooper said.

But even more important, she said, “for us as a family, it’s the faith foundation she receives there. She’s surrounded by it at a young age and she will be able to draw on that inner strength when she’s older.”

CeCe Padon has been involved at the school for nine years. The oldest of her five children graduates from eighth grade this year; her youngest started preschool this year.

“I love the community where we can raise our children in the Catholic faith,” she said. “It’s a big parenting help to have the school help our children be aware of God’s presence and what they can do to help others. They hear it at home; it’s nice they can hear it every day of the week at school. I’ve been so glad for my Catholic education, and I wanted that for my kids.”

Padon also praised the teachers. “They’re there because they want to be there,” she said. She commented on the prayer service the teachers do at the end of the school year to bless the children and how moved she is by it. “When I witness the service, and the caring the teachers show, I know I’m in the right place.”

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