School Spirit

Nov. 6-12, 2003
School Spirit
By Eileen Jevis/ SUN staff writer
SUN photo(s) Paul Finch
St. Margaret’s School stands for a tradition of excellence and pride

MATTYDALE –– Since its inception in 1954, St. Margaret’s School in Mattydale, staffed by the Sisters of St. Francis, has educated and nurtured several generations of children. As their Golden Jubilee comes upon them in 2004, the school’s staff, parents, alumni and parishioners gear up to celebrate and give thanks for a half-century of academic excellence. “Only through the support and dedication of our families and staff has St. Margaret’s continued to thrive,” said Sister Miriam Anthony, OSF, principal at the school. “Our goal is to maintain academic excellence in tough economic times,” said Sister Miriam. If test scores are any indication, the school has reached its goal. Of the 41 students who took the fourth grade math exam given in Onondaga County’s Catholic Schools in May, all of the students passed. Passing means students meet the state standard by scoring at Levels three or four on the four-level test.

St. Margaret’s School is the third largest Catholic elementary school in the diocese. However, Sister Miriam is concerned that the rising cost of tuition will result in more parents choosing to send their children to public school. The school houses grades K through six. “Unavoidable tuition increases are causing people to remove their children from a Catholic education after grade six,” said Sister Miriam. “However, some are removing their children after grade four in order to get them settled in a public middle school.” With the threat of declining enrollment, Sister Miriam and Father David Baehr, pastor of St. Margaret’s Parish, sent a visionary letter to parents and parishioners asking for help in coming up with creative ways to secure financial stability for the future. The school has always depended on the support of the parish community to meet and maintain its operating costs.

The parents and parishioners responded enthusiastically by increasing their weekly Sunday offerings and organizing a variety of fund-raising events held throughout the year. The fundraisers, which include a fall craft show, a St. Patrick’s Day dance and a silent auction. Fish fries during Lent and a golf tournament have also been very successful in raising funds to offset operating expenses. Patti Hawk, the president of the school council, has two children attending St. Margaret’s. She said the school council is brainstorming for additional ways to raise funds. She worries about her son’s education in the event the school were to close. “They learn much more than academics,” she said. “At age four, my son knows how to behave in church, can recite the Our Father and Hail Mary and has a positive spin on real life experiences.” I don’t think a public school can hold a candle to a Catholic school academically.”

Josephine Corbacio agrees wholeheartedly. She has a long and strong connection with the school. Not only did Corbacio attend St. Margaret’s, but her children attend there also. After volunteering for six years, Corbacio became the school secretary in September 2000. “I told someone once that a Catholic school cannot turn your children into something they’re not, but it reinforces what they are learning at home as far as respect, accountability, confidence and faithfulness,” she said. “The opportunities offered at a Catholic school will last a lifetime. So, keeping the choice of a Catholic education alive is very important to me.” The parents interviewed all agreed that the relationship between the students and staff at St. Margaret’s is unparalleled. Marie Rosecrans gave a good example. Rosecrans is also an alumni of the school and has four children who attend St. Margaret’s. “When I was in fourth grade, my favorite teacher was Mrs. Crader-Streeter. She opened the world for me through reading, math and telling time. She had such a huge, positive impact on me. I was thrilled when my first two children were assigned Mrs. Streeter as their fourth-grade teacher. And next year, my twins will have her.”

The parents admitted that the cost of tuition is a struggle, but well worth the sacrifice. Rosecrans said that the values and education her children receive are invaluable. Her mother, Jean Noroski, felt the same way when she sent Rosecrans and her sister to St. Margaret’s a generation earlier. “I went to a Catholic school, so I continued that tradition,” said Noroski. “My daughter’s received a good education here at St. Margaret’s as well as learning respect, discipline and their faith.” Both Rosecrans and her mother volunteer at the school each Tuesday. They work together in the cafeteria and look forward to seeing their children and grandchildren come through the lunch line.

St. Margaret’s School celebrated the newly established “Children’s Day” for the State of New York. The child recognition day was established thanks to 10 years of hard work and determination of retired Van Duyn schoolteacher Tina Norton. Norton petitioned state government officials to mandate a day to celebrate children. The day, which took place on May 28, was filled with children’s programs, storytellers, magic shows and speeches from community leaders and members of the armed services. There were also letters of congratulations from the White House and state government officials. “St. Margaret’s is an important first step in an excellent education,” said Sister Miriam. “Our mission will continue to be to educate our children in a Christ-centered environment.”

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