Metro-East News

Vandals break windows, not spirit, at Sister Thea Bowman School


Vandals broke out windows and toppled shelves sometime last weekend at Sister Thea Bowman Catholic School, but nothing was stolen.

School officials said more than 35 window panes were broken out in the science lab, and books and other materials were strewn all over the floor and outside on the ground at the school, 8213 Church Lane.

However, several flat-screen televisions and iPads remained in the school, said Roberta Trost, advancement director.

As a result of the vandalism, school officials have beefed up security, and school officials are looking for ways to replace the windows through donations.

“Fundraising efforts were already under way and this will accelerate our efforts,” Trost said.

Although the violent act probably evoked anger in some in the community, the students and faculty said they are peacemakers and as such they prayed for whoever did damage to the school they love.

“Each class makes peacemaker flags that are unique to their class and if someone does something that is not nice or right, their flags get turned over. And, no one wants their flag to be turned in the opposite direction,” Trost said.

Mary McGeathy, the principal and also a math teacher at Sister Thea Bowman, said students there “work to be exceptional.” They are also taught that “prayer is integral to life when hardships come in. The first response should be to pray. We want it to permeate all of their lives,” she said.

“And, every single morning the students recite the peacemaker pledge. We teach the children to be peacemakers. They say the pledge together,” said Sister Kathleen Murray, assistant principal.

Sister Thea Bowman is looking to increase its enrollment from its current 125 students. “We’re the best kept secret in East St. Louis,” she said.

“We’re off the beaten path in a pretty quiet neighborhood. You don’t see people milling around,” Murray said built in 1954. She said parents who want their children to get a “quality Catholic education, who want a peaceful learning environment, who want small classroom sizes and who want their children taught by highly qualified teachers, should send their children to Sister Thea Bowman.”

Former St. Clair County Judge Milton Wharton said he graduated from St. Mary’s, the first African-American Catholic school in the Diocese. It was located at Fourth and Converse streets in East st. Louis.

“The U.S. Conference of Catholic bishops recognized that Catholic schools in poor inner city neighborhoods and rural areas are the Church’s most-effective contribution to families who are poor and disadvantaged.”

Wharton said the East St. Louis community has already stepped up and has been making some donations to the school. He also said members of the community helped to clean up the debris from the damaged windows.

Karen Lundy, the part-time school counselor, said some of the children have family problems or trouble getting along with other children, and that’s where she comes in.

“We ... work on communication skills. We make it a fun experience and address whatever the child’s needs are,” Lundy said.

Contact reporter Carolyn P. Smith at 618-239-2503.

At a glance

If you would like to donate to help pay for the vandalism costs at Sister Thea Bowman School, call Principal Mary McGeathy at 618-397-0316.