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So, what do you think of Roncalli?

by Joseph D. Hollowell, President of Roncalli

One of the ways to get a good conversation started around these parts is by asking our parents to tell me about the events and decision making process that led them to choose to send their children to Roncalli.  It is one of the most instructive questions I have ever asked of our parents over the years.  As a general rule their answers fall into one of three categories.  The first group is those who have known, seemingly from the time their children were born, that they would send them to a Catholic school.  They are generally, though not always, graduates of Catholic schools themselves and want their children to have the same types of experiences they had.

Then there is a second general category of families.  This group tells me that they  turned the decision over to their child.  I must tell you that my wife and I have a hard enough time raising our own family so I am always reluctant to give do’s and don’ts to other parents.  But I have some questions.  If your child were afflicted with a life threatening disease would you let them choose their doctor?  Would you let your kids choose to work at a job that you knew to be dangerous?  Could a bad decision not ruin their life forever?  Would this not be an abdication of your fundamental responsibilities as a parent?

The four years a student spends in high school are critical.  The friends they make, the attitudes and interests of their peers, the inspirational zeal of their teachers (or lack thereof), the level of discipline in the daily environment, and the degree to which they are challenged to develop intellectually will all have a lasting impact on their life.  We only get one chance to properly educate our children and I believe the stakes are high.  The student’s school has a profound and life-changing impact on what that education will mean to a student.  To suggest that a thirteen-year old has it within themselves to make the best decision for their future on this important matter defies reason.  

The third and largest of these groups is composed of families that have explored options including local public schools and other Catholic and private high schools.    Inevitably, when these people talk about their decision making process they will get around to mentioning a key conversation they had with a current or former Roncalli parent.  This conversation starts with, “So, what do you think of Roncalli?”  As you well know, there are no shortages of opinions about Roncalli.  Some people think we are the greatest thing going while a few others don’t understand how we can keep the doors open.  However, judging from the continued strong interest in our “product,” I am assuming that many times this question is answered very positively.

Allow me to digress for a moment.  I must tell you that as a private school leader who knows that our stability depends upon a strong tuition base I feel compelled, even driven, to ensure that the question - “What do you think of Roncalli?” - continues to be answered positively.  This is a very powerful incentive to see that we are constantly improving the quality of our work. This leads me to suggest to you that if we truly want to see the schools of this country improve, one of the best tools at our disposal is the introduction of school choice options that provide parents with vouchers.  These vouchers would let the tax dollars of parents follow their children to the school they feel is the best for their child.  I know from lived experience that the competition makes us better here at Roncalli.  I believe it would make every school better.

Now back to my original point.  To you who are reading this who are Roncalli parents both past and present, I want to take this opportunity to encourage you to be a thoughtful witness to those parents who seek out your advice on your experiences at Roncalli.  Applaud those parents who are getting involved in the high school decision making process.  It is too important to be left solely to an eighth grader.  And then give those parents an honest answer about Roncalli.

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