Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington
Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302
Sharon Clizer retires as principal at Holy Family School, Clarkston
by Mitch Finley, Inland Register staff
(From the Aug. 21, 2008 edition of the Inland Register)
As the 2007-2008 school year concluded, so did Sharon Clizer’s career as a teacher and principal at Clarkston’s Holy Family Catholic School, where she served as principal for 19 years.
Just before the school year ended, the parish and school held a farewell party and barbecue to celebrate. “It was enormous and enormously fun,” Clizer said. “I saw so many people and received wonderful gifts and wonderful cards that I have already re-read a few times. One little girl kept trying to get me to come cut her a piece of cake. Finally, we got to the cake, and it had my picture on it. She wanted the eyes, and we cut them right out of the middle. She will be my prayer pal next year!”
Looking back on her years at Holy Family Catholic School, Clizer said that at least from her present perspective, there were no real challenges along the way. “It was simply working through one problem at a time,” she said. “I always said, ‘There is no way to prepare for an emergency! You never experience the same thing twice!’”
The retired principal did remember one particularly dramatic event, however.
“One day, during the ice storms, I walked into the gym, and there was a flood coming down in the corner like water falls. I about died. Father Len Forsmann (d. 2007) and I just looked at each other. I called Joe Schmidt, a long time parish member, and he came over, looked at it, and said, ‘We’ll fix it, don’t worry.’”
A second memory:
“Another time I was sitting in the parish center looking rather glum. Parishioner Leo Schmidt (no relation to Joe but good friends) asked what was the matter. I said there were just so many things needed at the school, and I didn’t know how to get them all accomplished. He said, ‘I’ll go on your board, and we’ll talk to people, and we’ll get things done.’ Another parish member, Gus Fuchs, supported every project that we were able to dream of. He purchased computers, carpeting, phone system, gates, roofing, and reading textbooks. Every Christmas, he would give each teacher a $100 bonus. Also, we could always count on the Knights of Columbus to support the school. It seemed when we would write down a goal, it was like a prayer, and was always answered.”
She said that one of the most difficult times for her as a principal was when her husband, Wes, had a kidney/pancreas transplant, for which he had to go to Seattle. “It was so hard for me to be away from the school for eight or nine weeks,” she said. “The entire staff, parents, students, Father Len, and the parish were very understanding and helpful through this time. Especially it was difficult for Kelli Sheppard, the school secretary, who not only did much of my work but had to handle all the calls asking about Wes’s condition. Be an organ donor! Wes has been healthy for eight years, and we believe that the power of prayer is responsible for his continued good health.”
One of the major high points of her years as principal, she said, was when the school received a grant from the E.L. Wiegand Foundation for $168,000. “The school has terrific technology,” she said. “Thanks to Rick and Kathy Carlson of RC Technology, the school is able to continue to service the equipment very reasonably.”
Another high point: “After our first accreditation, it was suggested that the school needed new windows throughout the school,” Clizer said. “A board member, Tricia Stilson, suggested that we call (the project) ‘Heal Our Panes,” and one by one parish members purchased a window until every window was replaced, which made the building more energy efficient. Each window has the donor’s name on it. However, each day had its miracle. Everyone should be so blessed as to work in a Catholic school.”
As she leaves behind her years as Holy Family Catholic School’s principal, Clizer continues as a major cheer leader for Catholic Schools in general.
“The major challenge for all Catholic schools is financing,” she said. “Every parish needs to look deeply at what a tremendous opportunity (it is) to assist in educating children in their faith. Teachers already work for 20 percent less that their public school peers. What if parish members contributed to their nearest Catholic school so teachers’ salaries could be equal to salaries at public schools? What if we only had to worry about educating students and not fund-raising all the time? Catholic schools are a wonderful gift to our communities. I hope everyone increases their support.”
She has zero plans to spend major parts of her day in a rocking chair, however. She has little time to miss going back to her principal’s job because she enrolled for the coming fall in the Nursing Assistant class at the Clarkston branch of Walla Walla Community College. A new adult family home will open in Clarkston this winter, she said. “My husband and I will be working for them in a whole new endeavor.” Also, she wants to spend more time with her three grandchildren, plus one that is due any day now. She plans to attend more Washington State University football games. “Our lives will be busy and full,” she said.