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

Despite two locations, All Saints School has unity of spirit

by Mitch Finley, Inland Register staff

(From the Dec. 21, 2006 edition of the Inland Register)

Students at All Saints School received national attention for one of their service projects that helped young children in the cancer ward of Sacred Heart Medical Center. Last spring, seventh grade students raised funds to purchase books for the patients, then made recordings of the stories. The story of their hard work and dedication was just published in November 2006 issue of the Chronicle of Philanthropy, a magazine for non-profit organizations. Pictured are Stephen Ferraro and Madison Clarry. (IR photo from All Saints School, Spokane)

A few saints had the ability to bi-locate. All Saints School, on Spokane’s south hill, is the only Catholic school in the Diocese of Spokane that carries out its own version of “bi-location” each day of the school year.

The school’s Primary Building, for grades K through 8, is next door to St. Peter Church, on the 3500 block of E. 18th Ave., while the Middle Building, for grades 5 through 8, is a couple of miles west, next to Our Lady of Fatima Church, on the 1400 block of E. 33rd Ave.

The configuration came about as a natural progression.

The Primary Building started out, in 1958, as the elementary school for St. Peter Parish. The Middle Building opened a year earlier as the elementary school for Our Lady of Fatima Parish. Back during the early 1970s, when many Catholic schools coped with declining enrollment, the two parishes, plus St. Ann, located in the 2100 block of E. First Ave., decided to combine their three schools into two, All Saints Primary Middle schools.

Each school had its own principal, and each offered two classrooms per grade level. This included two half-day kindergarten programs. In 1988, however, the two schools became one school, with one principal.

Currently, the enrollment is 394 in K-8, plus 67 in the pre-school. There are two classes for each grade level, with each class blended for an academic, gender, and social balance. “We don’t do any ability grouping,” said the school’s principal, Kathy Hicks.

About 16 percent of the students are from Our Lady of Fatima Parish, about 65 percent are from St. Peter, and about 2 percent are from St. Ann. About 17 percent are from other parishes or are non-Catholics.

Said Craig Bartmess, pastoral administrator at St. Ann, “The other two parishes are obviously larger and more financially capable of supporting the school than St. Ann, but we try to support it, as we can, with different activities and fund-raisers. I see the school as a ministry within the parish. In fact, the current chair of the school’s advisory board is a St. Ann parishioner.”

Father Ty Schaff, pastor of Our Lady of Fatima, said that the school is “a mission of the parish; it’s one of the ways that we live out the Gospel. We use the school to help prepare children for their life in the parish later on, particularly in terms of the Sunday liturgy. As a pastor, I work in close cooperation with the principal concerning the religious formation and prayer life of the kids.” The parish donates financial support to the school each year.

“I have an All Saints Catholic School mug in front of me,” said Father Joe Bell, pastor of St. Peter Parish, “and it says, ‘Gifted With Faith, Growing With Knowledge.’ The school is a vital part of the parish’s life and the future of the parish, as well. It’s a blessing for all of the parishes involved.”

Parents, of course, have in important perspective on the school, so their experiences carry special authority.

One parent, who asked to remain anonymous, speaks high praise for the school because she has a child in one of the early grades who has special needs. “I have one child who went to All Saints and is now doing really well at Gonzaga Prep,” said the parent. “My younger child, who is still at All Saints, was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, which is a very intelligent, high-functioning form of Autism. The staff at All Saints has been very good at accommodating in ways that my child’s therapists advised. This year things are going really well socially and exceptionally well academically. The teachers at All Saints have been so helpful.”

Barb Allen attended All Saints Catholic School herself, some 20 years ago, and her positive memories made it easy for her and husband, John, to enroll their own two children there. “The environment at All Saints is very much the same as when I went to school there, and that’s why I wanted my kids to go there, too,” Barb said. “Our son has Type 1 Diabetes, and All Saints has bent over backwards to make sure that he is safe and to keep things as normal as possible for him. The teachers and staff are very accommodating, and it’s a very loving environment.”

Similar to other Catholic schools in the Diocese of Spokane, All Saints maintains a Fair Share tuition program, which provides in-parish families with financial and spiritual support so their children can attend All Saints. Parents pledge to pay what they can toward the cost per pupil, and they make a commitment to support the school through volunteering. Fund raisers and parish support make up the difference in order to balance the budget.

Most school days, Kathy Hicks, the principal, is in her Primary Building office in the mornings and in her Middle Building office in the afternoons. Each of the two buildings has a vice-principals, and each can make decisions when the principal is unavailable.

From left: All Saints School’s vice principals Nick Senger and Debbie Lampert, and principal, Kathy Hicks. (IR photo by Mitch Finley)

The Middle Building vice-principal, with 17 years in Catholic schools, is Nick Senger, who also teaches eighth grade half-days. Vice-principal at the Primary Building is Debbie Lampert, half-days kindergarten teacher and a veteran of 11 years in Catholic schools. Without the two of them, “I couldn’t do my job,” said Hicks, “because when I’m not here, they are here.”

One thing that makes All Saints Catholic School special is “our community; we have a very strong parent and teacher community, very strong and very dedicated to Catholic education,” said Hicks. “We have successfully combined two groups in two separate buildings into one school. Our effort has always been to build unity between two things that look separate.”

One of the ways that All Saints nourishes unity is through the Sparks Program. “Once a month,” said Nick Senger, “the eighth graders are trained as mentors in some social or academic skill – it might be respect, or organizing your time, or how to handle conflict 0 – and then the next day they go to the fifth grade, for half an hour, to mentor them in this same skill. Then the idea is that at other times the fifth graders have an eighth grader they can look to for help, and at the same time this develops leadership skills in our eighth graders.”

School administrators also make a concerted effort to use both buildings more or less equally, for instance, by alternating sites where school Masses are celebrated. According to Hicks, “the idea we try to reinforce is that it doesn’t matter where we are, we’re all one school.”

Now in its third year, the All Saints hot lunch program came into existence at the prompting of a parent, said Hicks. “A parent came to me and said, ‘What about the public schools? Have you ever thought of becoming one of their clients?’ So I went down to District 81, and I met with them, and they were phenomenal about working with us. We entered into an agreement that they would supply hot lunches for us on a daily basis. It’s a great program. The food arrives hot. It’s a federally funded program, so we actually get funds from the state, and there are free and reduced lunches for people who are eligible. District 81 provides the food, and we collect money from the parents.”

All Saints Catholic School has what principal Hicks calls “a huge volunteer program, and none of it is mandatory. We have found that just letting parents know what our needs are is enough.” The parent volunteer rate stands at about 95 percent, she said.

Volunteer opportunities abound, from helping organize classroom materials to clerical tasks to classroom presence and tutoring, and leading retreats.

Service projects are a part of everyday life for everyone. Senger offers one example: “The seventh grade works very closely with the pediatric oncology unit at Sacred Heart Medical Center (SHMC),” he said. “We form a team every year that participates in the Relay for Life, so the kids camp out at Spokane Falls Community College. They spend the whole night, in teams, walking around the track to raise money. This happens the first weekend in June, right around graduation time.

“Last year, the seventh grade got a grant from SHMC to buy some recording equipment, a microphone and sound board, and a piece to tie into a computer, and they recorded books onto the computer, and burned them onto a CD for the kids in the cancer ward. They did Green Eggs and Ham (by Dr. Seuss), and some fairy tales, and Sacred Heart really appreciated it. Each student would read a page or take different parts.”

The whole school gets involved in projects to support Spokane’s Guild School and Neuromuscular Center, an assessment and treatment center for children with delayed development skills. For Halloween, the kindergarten students visit Spokane’s St. Joseph Care Center, in costumes, and bring treats for the residents who can’t get out. The Care Center residents “love to see the kids in their costumes,” said Hicks. “We sing for them and give them treats instead of getting treats.”

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