Dear HRA Families and Friends,
I was delinquent last weekend and did not complete a blog update in the hopes that you would understand how very busy this little brown school on Fireweed Lane can be at times! Indeed, the last week and a half have been a time of great hustle and bustle. Time and time again so many wonderful people have stepped forward to promote and improve the school and for them I give great thanks. Let me begin by recounting some of the key events that have colored the last nine days.
The week of November 18th began pleasantly. I enjoyed a working lunch with Fr. Patrick Brosamer, who is entirely delighted to offer the elementary mass in our school chapel and has been able to join us about twice a month. He enjoys and admires the students’ grasp of the faith and their natural piety. Thank you, Fr. Patrick!
We had an all-school mass last week as we wanted to come together to celebrate the Presentation of Our Lady in the temple. It was a Marian mass filled with beautiful readings, an inspiring homily, and Marian hymns. Thank you to Fr. Augustine for joining us for this Feast.
Mrs. Kathy Tappel, mother of freshman, Mary Tappel, spearheaded the Teacher Luncheon for November. She made turkey and had many of the wonderful HRA parents bring in all the Thanksgiving fixings for a delicious and enjoyable meal for the teachers. What a treat it was. A huge thank you to Mrs. Tappel and to her helpers, Mrs. Cook, Mrs. Cookson, Mrs. Knox, Mrs. Biegel, Mrs. Klump, Mrs. Koop, and Mrs. Stevens for spoiling the faculty with such a delicious meal!
The HRA HS Girls’ Volleyball Team continues to grow and improve as a team! We are so proud of their incredible play in the Kenai Tournament the weekend of the 22nd and 23rd. They played a phenomenal tournament finishing fourth although they nearly made the championship game losing in a close game of 34-32! Bravo Knights. We wish you well in your next tournament and in the Regional Tournament approaching. Special acknowledgement goes to junior, Karina Ramos, for her superb play; she was named to the All Tournament team. A huge thank you goes to head coach, Mr. Lucas, and assistant coach, Sang Nguyen who led the team to success. Finally, thank you to Mr. Bernie Droege, father of junior, Anne-Marie for chaperoning and supporting the team in their efforts. Go Knights!
Mr. Shaut was able to inform the school of the outcome of the fundraiser for the Philippines. All the students put their pennies together to send funds to the Philippines who have suffered so cruelly from natural disasters. The students raised just under $4,000.00 in one week! I could not be more proud of their efforts. Fifth grade teacher, Mr. Shaut, led the effort and turned it into a fund competition. The students who turn in coins score the most points and those who turn in bills lose points. The idea is to make charitable giving accessible to the students and avoid having them force their parents to contribute. Nevertheless, the parents did participate. One generous man sent a $1,000.00 check which was delivered to the third and fourth graders who had quietly collected nearly $600.00 and were set to win the event. They took it well and accepted the check and were so proud that they raised the most of any of the classes. Still, it was the kindergarten, Squirrels, of Mrs. Shaut who won the event for collecting the most coins and will enjoy a pizza party. Most noteworthy is that the high school participated the most they have ever done for a fundraiser like this!
On the heels of that effort, the students also participated in our annual contribution to Anchorage Catholic Social Services. We were asked to collect corn and beans for the Thanksgiving dinner offered to 6,000 needy families. We turned it into a competition; the high school took beans and the elementary, corn. Lo and behold, the high school defeated the elementary contributing 177 cans of beans to 165 cans of corn. The Catholic Social Services were so grateful to the school and sent a very kind note of thanks. It was wonderful to see the entire student body participate so beautifully. A Pizza Party for high school is coming up!
I just wanted to take a moment to ask you all to continue to pray for the health and recovery of seventh grader, Michael “Chip” Chennault who is fighting Hodgkin’s Disease at the Children’s Hospital in Houston, Texas. He remains ever in our school’s daily prayers; I hope that you will add him to your family prayers as well. Every week one of the grades writes letters of good cheer to him. He is such an amazing patient, however, that he sends thank you notes back to the students here. A big pile just arrived and there was a kind note to me as well. He is so grateful for all of our prayers and loves to hear from his classmates and fellow HRA students. God bless all the Chennaults during this difficult time. We hope you come home soon, Chip!
Part of the reason you did not hear from me for over a week was because I was preparing for the high school retreat we attended on Monday, November 25th and Tuesday, November 26th. Two amazingly spiritual and inspiring religious Brothers who belong to the Brothers of St. John Community flew in from Laredo, Texas and Trenton, New Jersey to lead the Lumen Christi and HRA high school students in a two day retreat focusing on Advent. Mr. Bob McMorrow, Youth Minister at St. Benedict’s Parish and Church History teacher at Lumen Christi, organized for the Brothers to come and arranged a top notch retreat for the students. Thank you to Mr. Bob McMorrow who is also father to Catie McMorrow, one of our sophomores!
The Retreat was a great success. The students threw themselves into the talks and discussions, the masses, confession and adoration hour, the meals and free time with great gusto. The event was held at the newly purchased Catholic camp, St. Theresa’s Camp in Palmer. It was a perfect location for a retreat. We were surrounded by gorgeous mountains and a frozen lake that served as a spectacular backdrop for the beautiful spiritual events planned for the students. Special thanks must go to Rebecca Berry (mother of freshman, Anna) who shopped for and served up all the delicious meals. Thank you to HRA teachers Erin Furby and Mr. Haggard who joined me for both days in support of the students. Special thanks go to our drivers, Jason Fouch, Lisa Cookson, Kathy Tappel, and Michael Rannals for bringing the students safely too and fro. Finally, thank you to Jason Fouch for keeping the students safe by shouldering night duty and for Kathy Tappel who bravely chaperoned in the girls’ cabin and led small group discussions. The retreat never could have happened with all of the support from the HRA parents and faculty. Thank you all. Thanks also to all the wonderful Lumen Christi parents, the Lumen Christi Principal, John Harmon, and the Lumen Christi faculty for all their hard work and support as well. It was truly a spiritual renewal and joy for me to attend with the students and learn from the good and holy Brothers Peter Francis, and John Joseph!
While I was gone, Miss Danielle DiCiero, my Business Manager took care of the front office and stepped into my shoes to keep the school on an even keel. Thank you, Danielle. Further, Mr. Shaut and Mr. Welsh kept order in the elementary and high school respectively. Thank you, gentleman, for taking care of students’ safety and discipline while I was gone. Thank you further to Mrs. Stevens and Mrs. Holder who came in to answer phones in the front office while Miss Brittain was away on an early Thanksgiving home visit. Finally, many thanks go to Mrs. Doerner for substituting in the high school for Mr. John Haggard and for Mr. Andy Coldiron. I am so grateful you will join us again in the coming week to step in to substitute classes for Mr. Krepel and for Mr. Welsh! You are a Godsend to the school.
Upon my return to the school on Tuesday afternoon after the retreat had ended, I was sad to learn that Miss Verreux’s purse had been stolen from the school premises. This is only the second robbery at HRA in the last twelve years. According to my teachers, a strange man was spotted trying to offer his services for community service at the school. Though all five of the teachers who ran into him on campus told him go to the office which he eventually did, after Miss DiCiero sent him away, he may have exited the back instead of the front of school and taken that opportunity to penetrate Miss Verreux’s unlocked classroom while she and the students were at mass or at recess. It is terribly unfortunate situation and one for which I am making some security adjustments:
1) FROM NOW ON THE BACK DOOR OF THE KOLBE BUILDING WILL BE LOCKED BY 8:30 AND UNLOCKED AT 3:00 P.M. IT WILL REMAIN LOCKED DURING THE DAY TO AVOID ANYONE ENTERING WITHOUT OUR KNOWLEDGE FROM THAT SIDE OF THE BUILDING.
2) Unfamiliar visitors will be escorted by the Front Office Staff to the front door of Kolbe and watched until they are off campus if their behavior and words raise suspicion.
3) Teachers will escort all visitors to the Front Office instead of directing visitors to the Front Office in order to be sure that the proper actions are followed and that the stranger is never unattended on the campus.
4) Mr. Lederhos is looking into helping HRA purchase cameras at the major doors of the campus to be able to view entering and exiting visitors.
We hope these adjustments will continue the tradition we have at HRA for keeping a close watch on all strangers visiting the campus. I hope to give you a follow up on the security measures shortly.
The filming crew is arriving during Thanksgiving week. REMEMBER THAT IF YOU WOULD PREFER THAT YOUR CHILD NOT BE FILMED, YOU MUST FILL OUT AND SUBMIT THE “OPT OUT LETTER” THAT WE DISTRIBUTED BY EMAIL FROM THE OFFICE AND ATTACHED TO YOUR WEEKLY CLASSROOM NEWSLETTERS. More copies can be found in the front office should you need to stop in and sign it.
Wednesday of this week was the last day of school before Thanksgiving and a busy day indeed. Many thanks go to Mrs. Shaut and Mrs. Verbout who helped the Kindergartners put on the first annual Kindergarten Thanksgiving Dinner. The students made special hats (Puritan mens’ hats, Puritan women’s white wimples, and feathers for the Native American Indians invited to the event.) It was quite a sight to behold to see such mature and civilized kindergartners sitting at the tables set up in St. Dominic’s and eating their full plates of turkey and the fixings as if they were truly adults. Thank you to all the many parents who volunteered to help.
Special thanks go to Mrs. Colleen Duncan and her husband, Mr. Gavin Duncan for putting in two and half hours of music practice to prepare the high school for the upcoming Festival of Lessons and Carols. The music is beginning to sound truly beautiful. All your extra care and time will make the special event on December 11th a rich spiritual experience for everyone in attendance.
Thank you to Mr. Welsh, Mr. Haggard and Mrs. Furby for leading the all-school seminar. The students read the Tolkien short story, “Leaf by Niggle,” and discussed the topic of beauty for about two hours. What a practice in sustained thought and attention to details all three teachers demanded of our students. This exercise remains one of my favorite special activities. I am convinced that these afternoon discussions increase our students’ love of good literature and foster the art of conversation in a way few schools today pursue. Bravo again to the teachers and students for this great final session before the holidays.
Two alumni of the school came to visit. Sean Doody who attended the school twelve years ago stopped in to tell us that he has recently begun work as a firefighter at Station Five and graduated UAA in the Fine Arts field. We are proud to see you have done so well, Sean.
2013 graduate, Jamie Cookson, came back from her first semester of college at Gonzaga University and took time to visit her former classmates and teachers. I had the privilege of enjoying lunch with her on Saturday and came away from our time together so heartened by her ability to successfully transition from HRA to college and continue to do so well academically and spiritually. Keep the faith, Jamie and keep up the great work. It was so wonderful to see you come back to us all grown up and ready to take on the world!
I trust that this recounting of the many events that have transpired over the last nine days has convinced you that we are indeed a busy and happy little school. We are abundantly blessed with a fine Staff, great teachers, interested students, and loving parents. I am indeed so very thankful for all of you this Thanksgiving Break.
Life will be no less busy in the coming week. Here are some events to anticipate:
- Monday’s Assembly is moved to Tuesday in preparation for the arrival of our visitors.
- Tuesday mass for elementary at 2:15 P.M. in the chapel.
- Eighth grade travels to Campbell Creek Center with the visiting students for a snow safety lesson. Mrs. Pearch will drive the bus. (Grades 3,4,5,6 will enjoy P.E. at school this day.)
- The Juniors and Seniors will take the two visitors to Beans Cafe to serve lunch on Thursday and will miss periods 3,4,& 5.
- The Dress Rehearsal Practice for the entire student body will be on Thursday from 1-3 P.M. in St. Dominic’s.
- Students will attend the Byzantine Liturgy on Friday at St. Nicholas of Myra Church on Arctic Blvd. from 1-3 P.M. in honor of the Feast of St. Nicholas on December 6th.
I must warn you that my responsibilities for assisting the visiting students and the camera crew throughout the week is extensive. I will be much less available to meet and talk with you this coming week for which I apologize. Know that if you leave me messages and share in detail on my phone any concerns or needs you might have, I will get back to you as soon as I possibly can. Thank you for your understanding in advance!
I wish all of you an enjoyable remainder of the Thanksgiving Holiday weekend. We are in the home stretch of three weeks before Christmas and more holiday for the students. As we move into Advent, may the anticipation of the Christ Child be an invitation to awaken and renew your love for your faith and your God who dearly loves you enough to send you as a helpmate and a Brother, His Son, Jesus.
Miss Neumayr, Principal
P.S. Thank you for the delicious pecan pie, Mrs. Lucas. The faculty loved it!
P.P.S. Thank you, Mr. Stankewich, for your ongoing work to improve the Bernadette Building heating system and for your plumbing and electrical expertise. Your foresight to purchase snow melt and put it around campus is so very appreciated. Your efforts help me sleep better at night! God bless you!