Written by Albert Gnoza
This past March was unlike any of us have ever seen, that is for sure. A lot of people’s worlds would be turned upside down. But Catholic schools around the state moved quickly to right their ships.
Right indeed. Those in the right places of leadership saw the right signs and made the right moves.
“It’s just been great teamwork and buy-in by everybody,” said Ben Tolerico, the Principal of Holy Cross High School in Dunmore, PA. “I can still remember, we had an all-day in-service planned for Wednesday, March 11th. I had a great day set up for my faculty, all these different things we were going to do, some speakers coming in. I’m on my way to the girls basketball game, they were playing down in Easton in the second round of the state play-offs. I get there about 5:30 and I look at my phone and see an email. Our Superintendent Kristen Donahue said anything you had planned let’s put on hold and take the whole day tomorrow to work with your faculty on the chance that we might have to go with some form of distance learning.”
Tolerico said that enabled the school to be on top of things right from the get-go. That email came out March 11th, two days before their building was shut down along with all the other school buildings in the state.
“We were able to get our faculty prepared for the plan that we put forward—that our school’s office put forward. So I start with the great leadership in our school’s office with Mr. Jason Morrison, our CEO and the Secretary of Education, Kristen Donahue our Superintendent and Kathy Gilmartin, our Assistant Superintendent. They put out a great plan for us as principals to put in place.”
Tolerico also gave large credit to the way the faculty went with the plan.
“They really took everything in stride. They took the challenge and recognized how important this is for our students and with that we were able to prepare our students and families for that Friday, Friday the 13th ironically, that being the last day that we were in, to kind of say ‘here’s what we’re going to do to move forward.’”
Tolerico talked about the girls basketball game and the fact many activities outside of school have been either put on hold or cancelled.
“Even the little things—from their last day that they are in the building before final exams and they all sign their shirts. They wear their golf shirts, their polo shirts and they sign them. That’s a big tradition at our school. Something like that, which is so small, but so meaningful is taken away on that realm. Athletics, and any kind of activity, but especially athletics is so important in our society and meaningful. Myself, as a former high school and college athlete, I can’t imagine not playing my senior year. I can’t imagine what that looks like and feels like for our students.”
Tolerico also talked with pride about the school’s mock trial team, which won the state last year. They had high hopes again for a repeat last year, but they just found out that has been put on hold, without plans for even a virtual competition.