Clarice McKay “can’t imagine not working in a Catholic school.”
After serving as an eighth-grade homeroom teacher last year at St. Clare Catholic School, located at 214 W. 3rd St. in O’Fallon, McKay was promoted to the school’s new principal this year.
“I taught English classes for seventh and eighth grade, but then I did the religion classes for eighth grade,” McKay said.
Before that, she spent six years as principal at St. John the Baptist Catholic School in Smithton, the town she calls home with her husband of nearly 15 years, Curtis, and two sons, and eighth grader and a third grader, both of whom attend St. John the Baptist.
“At the time, I was ready to go back to my love of teaching for a little bit, and that’s when I moved to St. Clare School to teach that eighth grade spot,” McKay said.
Then the position as principal came open people and the Holy Spirit kept nudging me that I should consider it.
Clarice McKay, St. Clare Catholic School principal.
“Then the position as principal came open, (and) people and the Holy Spirit kept nudging me that I should consider it,” McKay said.
The school has 428 students and about 22 teachers.
Professional development is something McKay is passionate about.
“Looking at: What gifts do each of the teachers bring to the table and how can I support them? What additional trainings would help them? What curriculum would they like to review and update? These are questions I ask, and (I) look forward to facilitating the answers,” McKay said.
So is using all the tools the tech world has to offer.
“Technology is really important to me,” she said. “We want to make sure we are using all the tools that are available to us, and that the program continues to be updated,” McKay said.
Fifth- through eighth-graders at St. Clare currently have iPads they take home with them. Each is equipped with Microsoft products and educational programs for homework, studying and creating projects. They even have some textbooks on them, McKay said.
But it is faith that is paramount, not only in McKay’s life as a whole, but also “helping the students, teachers and families grow in their relationship with Jesus Christ is essential to our identity as a school.”
Looking at what gifts do each of the teachers bring to the table and how can I support them — what additional trainings would help them? What curriculum would they like to review and update? These are questions I ask, and look forward to facilitating the answers.
Last spring, McKay said, the school board approved a strategic plan to weave all of these areas — building and grounds, faith formation, curriculum and technology — together.
“So that will be a good part of what we focus on this school year, looking at each of the areas and working toward those goals that they have set for the next three years,” McKay said. “I think what makes us stand out is that we try to set high expectations for our students. Our goal is academic excellence, but also focusing that relationship and working with students so that they think about, what is their relationship with each other, and what is their relationship with Christ like. Because that definitely influences how they treat each other as they continue growing up.”
McKay also said a development committee is working on addressing ways to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the school being founded in O’Fallon, not just the parish. The school was first founded in 1868, but in a different building than the current one.
“(We are) looking for ways to teach families some of the history of the Catholic school here,” she said. “We’ve been here 150 years. It’s interesting.”
She said the current building has been changed with additions made over the years — results of the signs of growth of the school with the most recent renovation made in 2013.
Helping the students, teachers and families grow in their relationship with Jesus Christ is essential to our identity as a school.
The St. Clare School Chapel, 221 W. Third St., holds Mass for the school, parents and locals interested in attending twice during the school week, on Tuesdays and Thursdays usually, McKay said.
“We do have a lot of parishioners who come to celebrate Mass with us, as well from the three parishes. I always thought it was neat last year to see the parishioners coming and seeing some of the parents, too, when we would go,” McKay said.
The school is a ministry of three different Catholic parishes in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Belleville: St. Clare of Assisi Roman Catholic Church in O’Fallon, Corpus Christi Catholic Church in Shiloh, and St. Nicholas Roman Catholic Church in O’Fallon.
“Sometimes, it might just be part of the school. It might be (grades) five through eight, and the other day it might be kindergarten through fourth. But when we celebrate Mass as an entire school, which is usually about once a month, we usually go down to the gym, because we just don’t fit in there — we don’t all fit in the day chapel,” McKay said.
In addition to a new principal, St. Clare also has four new teachers this year. They are:
▪ Danielle Schnable, eighth grade
▪ Beth Brandmeyer, seventh grade
▪ Jessica Wright, sixth grade
▪ Ali Hookway, first grade