Two by Two

March 23-29, 2006
Two by Two
By Luke Eggleston/ SUN staff writer
SUN photo(s) Paul Finch
Students from Our Lady of Pompei, Cathedral School Getting to Know One Another

When the Syracuse Diocese announced the reconfiguration of eight of its schools, no one said the process would be easy.
In January, the diocese announced that the Cathedral School in downtown Syracuse as well as St. Ann’s, St. James and St. Patrick’s in the southwest quadrant of the city, would all be closed. The students from those schools would switch to new locations. Students from the Cathedral School, for instance, will attend the newly renamed Cathedral International Catholic Academy at Our Lady of Pompei in the fall.

Cathedral School Principal Chuck LaBarbera will retain the same position at the new location at the former Our Lady of Pompei School next fall. The administrator has been proactive in easing the merger process along. Earlier in the school year, students from Cathedral School attended Our Lady of Pompei’s Christmas Concert. Last week, students from Our Lady of Pompei joined Cathedral students at a performance of HMS Pinafore at the Civic Center downtown.

“The kids love the opportunity to get to meet with new friends,” LaBarbera said. LaBarbera noted that the staff is considering assigning pen pals among the fifth graders at either school. The administrator added that he hopes some of them will be able to keep in touch via e-mail and that the pen pal assignment could become an educational experience for the students as well as an element of integrating the two schools.

LaBarbera also had plans for the future including combined picnics at both schools in the spring. As of Monday, March 13, the new faculty for each of the schools had yet to be determined. LaBarbera noted that the lack of resolution was creating considerable stress for the staff. “It’s a tough situation,” he said. “People are concerned about their jobs and they bring that concern to work. There’s a lot of anxiety.”

Along with the schools’ respective student bodies, the teaching and support staffs will also need to become acquainted with one another. LaBarbera said that a retreat for the teaching staffs will be held March 31 at Stella Maris Retreat Center in Skaneateles with Father Joseph Champlin presiding. Father Champlin is the director of the Guardian Angel Society, an organization that supports Cathedral School. “It [the retreat] will give them a chance to discuss, share prayers together and share experiences,” LaBarbera said.

Also at the end of March, parents from Cathedral School will have an opportunity to tour Our Lady of Pompei and meet with parents from the latter. The tour will conclude with a short discussion period during which parents’ concerns will be addressed. While the students were interacting at the operetta, Father Champlin toured Our Lady of Pompei and was impressed with the facility. He noted that the new school could offer Cathedral students certain opportunities that would have otherwise been unavailable to them in their current building. He qualified that, however, by noting that he bears a certain amount of reluctance regarding losing Cathedral School.

“There is still some sadness on my part because we had a unique culture at Cathedral School,” he said. During the HMS Pinafore performance, students from the different schools were each paired with a counterpart from the other school. When they returned to Cathedral School for lunch, most of the students relaxed into the groups from their respective schools that they associate with on a daily basis. Jaquay Whatley is a fifth grader at Cathedral School. While she hadn’t gotten to know many of the Our Lady of Pompei School students well, she was enthusiastic about the merger next year. “I’m excited about meeting new people and trying new things at a different school,” she said. Matthew Malvasi, a fifth grader from Our Lady of Pompei, said that he had yet to form any strong friendships, but the events the schools were participating in together had helped him become more familiar with the young people he will share a classroom with next year. “I’ve gotten to know them better,” he said. “I’m excited about school next year.”

Nyibol Akol of Cathedral School and Sabrina Gullotto of Our Lady of Pompei met at the Christmas Concert when they sat near one another. The trip to HMS Pinafore afforded the two a chance to get reacquainted. Both agreed that the musical was fine and that it was fun to get together again. Father Champlin believes that the integration of students into the new school could give the City of Syracuse an example of cultural diversity.

“This is a great chance to give the city a model for integrating cultures,” he said. Superintendent of Diocesan Schools Mike Colabufo said that more events will be held to smooth the integration of the schools including a pep rally in the spring at Bishop Ludden Junior/Senior High School. During the pep rally students will be allowed to meet one another when they are grouped according to class. The superintendent said that he hopes the experience will also encourage sixth graders to consider furthering their education in Catholic schools.

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