St. Patrick High School (Portland, Michigan)
|St. Patrick School|
|122 West Street
Portland, Michigan, (Ionia County), 48875
|Motto||We Pray. We Learn. We Achieve|
|Religious affiliation(s)||Roman Catholic|
|Pastor||Father Larry King|
|Color(s)||Green and White|
|Athletics conference||Central Michigan Athletic Conference|
|Average ACT scores||22.3|
|Athletic Director||Pat Russman|
St. Patrick School was established as a grade school in 1906 by the Sisters of St. Joseph. The high school was added in 1951.  The school currently teaches preschool through high school in a Catholic environment. It is one of the few preschool-12 schools supported by a single parish. The school has served families from Portland and the surrounding area since 1906, providing them with the opportunity to give their children a quality Catholic education. The school's mission statement is: We Pray. We Learn. We Achieve. The standardized test scores are regularly the highest of all schools in the Ionia County area.
THE FIRST SCHOOL BUILDING: 1906 The first school in 1906 was two-stories of cement block, 59½ x 42½, with cement block basement and an interior finished with Southern Pine. The newspaper article about the new school noted that it was lighted with electricity. “The rooms are 12½ and 13 feet in height, airy, pleasant and commodious, both upstairs and down and the school altogether has pleasant surroundings. There are plenty of radiators in each room and the heater and boiler is of such capacity that there is no doubt that the building will be properly warmed,” said the column in the Portland Review and Observer. This building was sufficient for the first forty years.
NEW SCHOOL ERECTED: 1950's In 1945, when new pastor Father Louis Flohe arrived, he found an overcrowded school. He purchased the rest of the property on the block and replaced the original school with a building that could accommodate more grades. Now students could remain at St. Pat’s through graduation. The new school, which had the largest and best gymnasium in the entire area, opened in 1951. By the end of the 50’s, the classrooms once again were filled to capacity, and there was a waiting list of students who wanted to attend St. Pat’s. Father Flohe initiated another building campaign, to which the people of the parish again responded. The new addition opened in 1961, adding eight classrooms and a lower level cafeteria.
FINAL BUILDING PHASE: 2002 As the 20th century drew to a close, the parish recognized that the school once again needed to be enlarged. Father Charlie Hall oversaw another pledge drive, and within twelve weeks the money was raised. On St. Patrick’s Day, 2002, the groundbreaking ceremony took place. In November 2002, an 18,000-square-foot (1,700 m2) addition, including two state-of-the-art computer labs, an art room, a music room, two new classrooms and a library/media center was completed.
EARLY DAYS: THE STUDENTS The first St. Patrick School enrolled 60 students. The three teachers (and one housekeeper) were nuns who came to St. Patrick’s from Nazareth convent near Kalamazoo. It would be more than forty years before lay teachers arrived in the classrooms. There were no extracurricular activities at St. Patrick’s. The students were there to learn, and their days were filled with academics, catechism, and the Palmer Method of Penmanship. The only exception was music class and a few occasions when Sr. Lucille took the students outdoors, lined them up in rows and had them perform some exercises.
EARLY DAYS: DISCIPLINE The priest and nuns were strict disciplinarians about behavior. Every morning, children did their early chores at home and walked to school for 8 a.m. Mass. Students were expected to be on their best behavior. They walked two by two in perfectly straight lines, and were not allowed to speak to each other at all. The students were “frightened like the dickens” of Father O’Rourke, pastor from 1922-34. He handed out report cards, then he would call a name, and that child would stand next to him while he reviewed their grades. He was known to spank kids whose grades were not up to par.
EARLY DAYS: DRESS CODE The dress code was very rigid in the early 20th century. Boys wore long sleeved shirts and ties; sleeves could be rolled up while on playground, but had to be rolled back down when they re-entered the school. The girls wore long sleeved dresses and long cotton stockings under them. No skin showed other than hands and faces.
Upon graduation from 8th grade in 1906, there was no ceremony, no diploma, no celebration. The students were expected to go out into the world to begin working. Very few students continued their education beyond that level.
The School Today
Today the school enrolls over 300 students in fourteen grades. St. Patrick’s is the only Preschool through twelfth grade school in the Grand Rapids Diocese, which is supported by a single parish. The core curriculum at the school today still contains basic subjects, which remain a necessary part of every child’s education. However, today’s students are also instructed in subjects like computer literacy, graphic arts, and foreign languages. In addition new guidelines for Religious Studies have been instituted at the school. All high school students receive their religious education from teachers who have at least a minor in Theology, and all elementary classroom teachers are certified catechists.
All of the classes coexist within the same building. This close-knit environment affords unique learning opportunities. For example, a “Big Rock, Little Rock” program pairs older youth with younger students for everything from help with homework to educational games. During Advent, elementary students worship with older “Prayer Buddies.” The young children look admiringly at the High School students, no doubt already dreaming about their own future as Shamrock football players and homecoming queens. The older students tousle the hair of the younger ones or give them a high-five on their way past—ever mindful that they are heroes in those little eyes.
While today's administrators do not practice the disciplinary style of their predecessor, Father O’Rourke, they do have high expectations of the students who have been put in their charge. They are determined to provide the students of St. Patrick School an academic environment where gospel values permeate the entire curriculum. They strive to give each student the ability to achieve his/her full academic potential. They believe that the teaching faculty must be qualified, dedicated and excellent role models who challenge every student, every day, to achieve success in Catholic education.
Today’s students aren’t held to the same rigid dress standard that the students in 1906 faced, but St. Patrick School does have a uniform dress code. The uniforms consist of plaid skirts/jumpers, khaki or navy slacks, and white collared blouses for the girls and white or navy collared shirts and khaki or navy slacks for the boys.
Today, a full 100% of St. Patrick’s students graduate, almost all of them go on to college, and very few require remedial classes when they get there. The school is known for its high expectations, contributing to good study habits and strong work ethics.
The Shamrocks of St. Patrick School field teams in football, volleyball, girls basketball, boys basketball, cheerleading, softball, baseball, boys golf, bowling, cross country and track & field and are part of the Michigan High School Athletic Association (MHSAA).
The girls' basketball program is by far their most famous and prestigious of all of Shamrock sports. MHSAA Hall of Fame coach Al Schrauben has led the team to six Class D State Championships (1994, 1995, 1996, 1999, 2000, and 2002). The program also features six runner-up finishes (1978, 1982, 1988, 2003, 2004, and 2006). The football program at St. Patrick experienced great success in the 1990s. Led by Coach Chris Schrauben, the Shamrocks won a Division 8 State Championship in 1992, and took Division 8 State Runner-Up honors in 1991 and 1997. Baseball is another sport in which the Shamrocks have experienced consistent success. Since taking Division 4 State Runner-Up trophies in 1971, 1973 and 1993, the Shamrocks have established a highly competitive program under St. Patrick alum Bryan Scheurer, making appearances in the state quarterfinals in both 2009 and 2010 and earning a semifinal berth in 2010.
Notes and references
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