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


New school year sees new leadership for five Catholic schools

by Mitch Finley, Inland Register staff

(From the Aug. 21, 2008 edition of the Inland Register)

Five Catholic schools in the Diocese of Spokane welcome new principals this fall.

At Holy Family Catholic School in Clarkston, Maribeth Richardson takes over the principal’s chair. Born and raised in Grangeville, Idaho, she attended Sts. Peter and Paul School there. She later completed work on her teaching certificate at Lewis Clark State College, in Lewiston, Idaho. During her college years, she began volunteering at Holy Family Catholic School, across the river in Clarkston, Wash. “I loved being involved with the families and their children and the small school atmosphere,” she said.

After graduation in 1976, Richardson was offered a teaching position at Holy Family. “I have been a primary teacher,” she said, “most of that time teaching first grade. I think that I am really going to miss being a first grade teacher, as that is what I love to do, but I am looking forward to the challenge of being a principal.”

Richardson acknowledged that being a principal isn’t an easy job. “I would never attempt it anywhere else but at Holy Family,” she said. “I have experienced such overwhelming support and a deep faith from the parish and school community. The pastor, teachers, kids and all their families have already been so supportive and encouraging. I am looking forward to a new beginning with this new school year.”

The new part-time principal at Guardian Angel/St. Boniface Catholic School, which serves Colton and Uniontown, is also the new part-time 7th and 8th grade teacher. Joseph Ormsby is a life-long member of Spokane’s St. Aloysius Parish and will divide his time between the school in Colton (during the week) and his family in Spokane (on weekends).

He earned B.A. and M.A. degrees in Education from Eastern Washington University and subsequently received his Administrative Certification from Gonzaga University.

“This is my first assignment as a principal,” Ormsby said. “However, I taught as a substitute teacher for one year in the Spokane Public Schools, and I taught for seven years as a first, second, and third grade teacher at St. Paschal School” (which closed at the end of the ‘07-‘08 school year).

He prefers teaching in a Catholic school. “I feel that this is where God wants me to be,” he said. “I get to serve the Lord while at the same time working with children as they embark on their life-long journey of faith. Anyone who has witnessed a child grow in faith knows what a beautiful and powerful experience it is and we, as Catholic school educators, get to see that every day.”

Looking forward to the new school year, Ormsby said that he has no specific expectations: “As someone more wise than I once said, ‘Expectations only lead to disappointment.’ Rather, I have hopes: I hope that the students, staff, and parish get what they need from me, I hope that the students feel safe to learn and grow, and finally I hope to serve God by serving his children.”

“I am very thankful to Father Ed Marier (pastor of St. Gall and St. Boniface Parishes), the Guardian Angel/St. Boniface school community, and the Colton and Uniontown community for welcoming me and for this opportunity to continue to serve as a Catholic school educator,” said Ormsby.

For 25 years in Walla Walla, St. Francis of Assisi parishioner John Lesko has served in various roles at DeSales High School. He has been a teacher and coach and held various administrative positions. This year, in addition to being principal of DeSales, a position he has held for eight years, he also becomes principal of Assumption School. His official title is Principal of Walla Walla Catholic Schools.

Lesko is himself a graduate of DeSales High School. He then earned a bachelor’s degree at Pacific Lutheran University, and master’s degrees in Professional Development and Administration from Heritage University in Toppenish, Wash.

“I understand the responsibility and challenges presented this year serving as principal (of graces) K-12,” Lesko said. “The administrative reorganization for Walla Walla Catholic Schools, however, provides a tremendous opportunity for growth for our system. I have great expectations that we can continue to enhance an already rich tradition and history and provide an ‘education for life’ for our students and families that may serve as a model for others.”

The new principal at Spokane’s St. Patrick School is a veteran of both Catholic and public schools in the Spokane area.

Richard Pelkie Sr. worked for Spokane’s District 81 public schools for 31 years, as both a teacher and principal. Growing up in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, he attended Catholic elementary and secondary schools prior to moving to the U.S. to attend college. He became a U.S. citizen in 1969.

Following his public school career, for 11 years Pelkie served as principal at Spokane’s Cataldo School, and he was principal at St. Paschal School, in Spokane Valley, during the ’07-’08 school year, prior to the school’s closing.

Pelkie, a member of Spokane’s St. Thomas More Parish, received his bachelor’s degree in Education from Eastern Washington University and a master’s degree and principal’s credential from Whit-worth College in Spokane. He has also done doctoral-level studies at Washington State University.

His enthusiasm for and commitment to Catholic schools comes from his experience of an educational environment that integrates faith into all aspects of the school experience, he said. “It’s the spirituality aspect of it,” he said. “I remember my first day as a teacher in a public school. I was a little bit nervous, the bell rings, the kids are coming into the classroom, and I’m saying, ‘Okay, gang, let’s get started,’ and automatically I reached my hand up to my forehead to make the sign of the cross, and then I remembered, ‘Oops, wrong place for this.’ So when I had the opportunity to come back into the Catholic school system I was right at home, I was very comfortable. These last 13 years have been most pleasurable from that perspective.”

The new principal at Spokane’s Trinity School is Sandra Nokes, another member of Spokane’s St. Thomas More Parish, who taught for many years at St. Thomas More School. She earned a bachelor’s degree with a major in Reading and a minor in Math. Her master’s degree in Reading and her Administrative credential are from Whitworth University, Spokane.

Nokes began teaching in 1986 when she taught Music at Spokane’s St. Charles and St. Thomas More Schools. After that she taught at St. Thomas More through the 2007-2008 school year.

Over the years she taught grades 1, 2, and 5, and Music to preschool through 8th grade, plus pre-Algebra to 8th grade and Fine Arts on the middle school level. She also served as Vice Principal at St. Thomas More for the last eight years that she was there.

“As Vice Principal,” she said, “I worked with curriculum, parents and students, faculty, and assisted the principal with all day-to-day operations as needed. One of my main responsibilities became initiating our early childhood program, including the Preschool and Educare program. We began with the Preschool and added child care. This past year, we remodeled and moved our programs to one building and finally added an Infant/Toddler program that began taking children in June. I was responsible for the building changes, curriculum development, licensing, personnel, program, and day-to-day operations.”

With a firm conviction that teaching is a vocation, Nokes believes that Catholics schools are “a great place for me to serve,” she said. “Catholic schools provide a curriculum with a foundation of faith, community, and tradition. Children and their families experience their faith commitment in daily encounters within the school and in activities that support the community and parishes. Families sacrifice greatly when they choose Catholic education for their children. It is my prayer that as Principal (at Trinity) I will lead with humility and work faithfully and enthusiastically to continue to help provide a Catholic education to children.”


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