What’s new in 2013 at St. Theodore school?

Published 3:37 pm Saturday, August 17, 2013

Matt Benda, Guest Column

Editor’s note: The following is the annual State of the School report for St. Theodore Catholic School.

Matt Benda

Matt Benda

The 2012-13 school-year can best be described as “transitional.” Under the helpful guidance of the Diocese of Winona, our school is in the process of reinventing itself.

Email newsletter signup

We have taken great strides toward long-term viability through the commencement of the accreditation process — a step-by-step review of all the details of running a school. Any renewal process takes time and our school’s journey is no different.

Did you know that Catholic schools in America provide K-12 education for more than 2 million students, at a tremendous cost savings to the taxpayer? The Catholic school tradition is an amazing testament to the power of our church community in evangelizing the words of Jesus.

Our school operates under the mission of: St. Theodore Catholic School promotes excellence through a well-rounded academic curriculum in a Christ-centered environment. Our students are exposed to Christ’s teachings on a daily basis and through weekly Mass. Our monthly PAKET day (Parents And Kids Eat Together) program provides our children with a chance to actively share what they have learned with their families.

We were fortunate that a generous (and anonymous) parishioner stepped up and offered to pay the salary for a principal for two years. This contribution provided our school with the ability to have a full-time administrator focus on the running of the school and pushing forward the long-term changes that need to be made. For 2012-2013, Sean Kennedy filled this role — for the upcoming school year Sue Amundson is serving as our school principal.

If you ask the students, they will likely agree that the best change was the hiring of Jolene Dillemuth as the school cook. For many years, our school relied upon an outside vendor to provide food service. Having our own in-house cook, however, allows for better selection and freshness for the students.

Our school also was able to qualify for the free-and-reduced lunch program — meaning that for those that qualified based on need, our school was reimbursed for the costs of these meals. For 2012-2013, this change brought in more than $8,000 in outside reimbursement. Moving forward, we can continue to provide high-quality cuisine for all of our students — including those in need of help.

Other quiet changes included the implementation of a formal bullying policy, an Internet usage policy and an emergency action plan. These efforts focus on the safety and well-being of our students and staff and provide a structured framework to address some of the challenges of today’s society.

Our students, of course, are the guiding light of our mission. One experienced substitute teacher commented that the students at St. Theodore’s were some of the best behaved and respectful students she had ever seen. Our Christ-centered curriculum encourages our students to be engaged citizens as well as pursuing academic excellence. The elderly who receive monthly contact from our students treasure their letters, pictures and contact with young faces.

Our students are exposed to art, music and Spanish and often demonstrate their talents through displays and concerts. Our school participated in the spelling bee for the first time and continued to dominate the local science fair — receiving the most trophies of any school in the area.

Our parent association also continues to support the school mission through programs for the students and appreciation to the staff. The PSA continues to strengthen its financial support of our school by helping with the fish fry and other fundraising activities, which raised in excess of $40,000. Our Catholic school marathon raised a record-breaking amount this year — more than $10,000.

The financial commitment from our church community is absolutely overwhelming and crucial in continuing our pursuit of the long-term viability of our school. Our in-parish tuition of $2,300 per year for 2013-14 remains on the lower side of rates in the diocese and is intended to provide an affordable education for all. We also continue to offer financial assistance to families in need.

Enrollment, of course, continues to be the greatest challenge facing our school. We pride ourselves on small class sizes with quality and compassionate teachers. Class sizes that are too small, however, make it financially challenging to grow the school and provide new opportunities for our students. We continue to work toward the opening of a pre-kindergarten program that will help with enrollment.

We must all ask, however, what more can we do to boost our enrollment. Family and friends are the greatest referrals and we all must commit to help actively promote our school. We must recruit more students to take advantage of the unique experience we offer. Please call the school office at 373-9657 if you wish to enroll.

We need your help in any way to help our school be successful — watch for upcoming opportunities!

Thank you for your prayers, blessings and support of our school. We must work together to continue to provide a wonderful environment for our children.


Matt Benda is the chairman of the St. Theodore Catholic School board.