While a few things are different at Holy Rosary Academy this year, the school’s new principal said her goal is continuity.
“My goal was stability,” said Principal Lisa Williams who leads the kindergarten through 12th grade independent Catholic school.
“We haven’t changed a lot because we wanted it to feel very, very similar and very consistent,” she added.
Lon-time principal Catherine Neumayr moved to California last year to be closer to family. She had been head of the school for seven years, and had taught at Holy Rosary Academy in Anchorage for many years prior to that. In addition to changing principals, the independent Catholic school has adjusted the structure of administration, adding the position of vice principal, held by upper-school teacher Austin Welsh. Williams said that it’s been immensely helpful having his administrative presence in the upper school building, while she has her office in the elementary school building.
During Neumayr’s successful tenure, enrollment at the school skyrocketed, and has dipped only slightly this year due to several military families having moved for new assignments. Enrollment this year is at 123 students.
One change is the introduction of Catechesis of the Good Shepherd into the kindergarten curriculum. It is a Montessori-based religious education, which currently is taught by the kindergarten teaching assistant, Deanna Hodgson, who is a Montessori certified teacher.
The school has elected to introduce a theme for the academic year; this year’s is charity.
“We’re really focusing on charity among the faculty, and charity among the students,” Williams said, “and building the community from within.”
This year the school also introduced student government, which Williams said is “getting its feet on the ground.” They are also currently looking into the possibility of adding a pre-kindergarten program.
Reflecting upon the year thus far, Williams has seen much fruit from the stability they provided during the time of transition and the large emphasis on charity. She finds the school to be a haven of peace for all of those within its community.
This was most evident during Anchorage’s recent earthquake. What could have been a time of intense fear and chaos went incredibly smoothly with everyone doing what should have been done, following emergency protocol perfectly, Williams recalled.
“That was such a moment of grace for the school,” she said. “The faculty and teachers really kept their calm and were very peaceful. When I walked through the classrooms afterward, the students just had the most beautiful demeanor.”
She recalls a first-grader telling her after the first earthquake, “Oh, it’s no problem! You just dive right under your desk like this. Then we say our Hail Mary!”
Parents commented on the calm atmosphere as they came to pick up their children. One parent remarked that it was “an oasis of peace,” Williams said.
The school only sustained minor cosmetic damage to ceiling tiles in one of the buildings.
For the upcoming nationwide celebration of Catholic Schools Week, Holy Rosary will join other schools in the Anchorage Archdiocese for the annual Catholic Schools Week Mass at Our Lady of Guadalupe Co-Cathedral. They also traditionally enjoy donuts on Jan. 28, the feast of Saint Thomas Aquinas, who is the patron saint of students. This feast always falls during Catholic Schools’ Week.
Additionally, the entire school gathers during Catholic Schools Week for a community-building event. In past years students have gone ice skating or sledding.
Holy Rosary was founded in 1987. It began as a group of homeschooling families, and eventually became Anchorage’s only K-12th grade independent Catholic school. While separate from the archdiocese, it operates with the blessing of Anchorage Archbishop Paul Etienne. Elementary tuition is $5,500 and upper school tuition is $6,750. There is financial aid available, and tuition discounts are offered for families with multiple students enrolled.
The school will host an open house, 6-8 p.m., on Feb. 20.