The Secret’s Out

Dec. 2-8, 2004
The Secret’s Out
By Holy Family, Norwich staff
Holy Family School in Norwich Serves all of Chenango County Norwich — Holy Family School (also known as Chenango County Catholic School) is the only Catholic school in the county. The students come from seven school districts in the county. The school is supported in part by parishioners from seven parishes and serves students from nursery school through eighth grade.

Students are taught in two separate buildings. Grades N-4 are in the Holy Family School at 17 Prospect Street, while grades 5-8 are taught at 81 East Main Street in the Msgr. Festa Middle School. The seventh and eighth grades were added in successive years — 2002 for the seventh grade and 2003 for the eighth grade. Honors classes are offered in biology, math, and English for the eighth graders. All of the seventh and eighth grade students are taught Spanish and take the proficiency test at the end of eighth grade.

The school was begun by the Dominican Sisters and all the teachers were nuns. With the steady depletion of religious vocations, Norwich lost its last sister in 2001 when Sister Marie Denise retired as the principal and moved to Oneonta. With the combined efforts of Father Douglas Cunningham (the supportive pastor), Father Isaac Patrick (India) and Bishop James Moynihan, once again sisters teaching in our school. Four sisters came from India to work in Norwich. Sister Sheena (computers) and Sister Alice (1-4 religion) teach in the school. All the sisters are loved by the community, and the school feels fortunate to have them.

Holy Family provides a solid academic base for students. Their rigorous studies are taught within a loving, caring atmosphere. Students respond to and do well on the New York State assessments. In the 2003-2004 school year, 91% of fourth graders attained the third and fourth levels on the ELA assessment and 100% attained the same level on the math assessment. Seventy-eight percent of eighth graders attained the third and fourth level. All of these scores were the best in Chenango County, a source of pride for the school community. In addition to academic programs, students receive lessons in music, art, and physical education in all grades. Additionally the school offers Home and Career Skills (HCS) in seventh and eighth grade. The talents of student artists are constantly on display in the cafeteria and hallways of the schools. The musicians and vocalists present their talents at a winter concert and a spring concert, demonstrating a wealth of talent in the small rural area.

On Nov. 17, the middle school was filled with the aroma of a turkey luncheon prepared by seventh graders. The middle school students, staff, and the parents and grandparents were invited to the feast, a wonderful family event that all enjoy. The elementary school had a similar luncheon with parents and grandparents also invited. This event on Nov. 9, saw a tremendous turn out. Everyone left with that full feeling. These are annual events that bring everyone together as the school lives up to its name and continues to be a large family.

The students at Holy Family are speaking differently this year. They have embarked on a program which teaches Spanish to the students from kindergarten through grade five. The school purchased a video/audio program designed to be used approximately 15 minutes per day with younger students. The interactive program can be used by any teacher even if he or she doesn’t know Spanish. The students are excited with this addition to the classroom. God is always in the thoughts of the school community at Holy Family School. Each morning begins with students leading the morning reading, the Lord’s Prayer and the Pledge of Allegiance. Students attend religion class each day. Each grade (K-8) is responsible for presenting the liturgy at the monthly Mass.

As one of their projects in religion class last spring the seventh graders studied the mysteries of the Rosary. In the process they came up with a set of mysteries which they called the “Healing Mysteries” and sent them in a letter to Pope John Paul II. They received a response from the Holy Father’s assessor.

The school is often called the best kept secret in Chenango County, but they don’t want to remain a secret. People have said they can feel the warmth and love as they walk into the building. This is who the school is — a family, and they welcome students of all faiths. The school community strives each day to be better than the day before.

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