By Tim Leeds
St. Jude Thaddeus School has provided education in Havre for the last 83 years. It has gone through many changes, and is preparing to continue educating Havre youths into the next millennium.
Principal Therese Cowdery said the school has a strong academic curriculum. She said the school has 13 teachers from preschool through grade eight. All of the teachers hold education degrees and are certified under Montana state standards for teachers, she said.
Shannon Patterson, director of development at St. Jude School, said education standards are high at the school.
"I like how academics are stressed strongly," she said.
Cowdery said the school is moving forward to keep up with modern technology. She said there are computers in every classroom, the school has a computer lab, and it has Internet connections available for use for grades three through eight. She said the school has been able to use E-rate funding from the Schools and Libraries Corporation to pay for part of this, including equipment, phone lines, and phone bills. Cowdery said Patterson has been heavily involved in this.
"Shannon has done mountains of paperwork to get this in," she said.
Cowdery said what makes the school unique is bringing the Catholic faith into their education. She said classes include daily prayer services, and an all-school Mass is celebrated weekly in the school.
The school also participates in community services and national and international aid, Cowdery said. She said the students have worked at local soup kitchens, collected food for Sister Judy Maender's Native American Ministry, and helped in other local food drives.
The school has also helped in programs across the nation, Cowdery said. She said Alma Seidel's junior high classes have collected socks for two years to send to Minneapolis, as part of Mary Kopeland's Sharing and Caring Hands program for the homeless there. Karen Kamla's classes at the junior high have also collected funds to donate to the capitol restoration project in Helena, Cowdery said.
Cowdery said the school has collected funds to help flood victims in Honduras. She said students also collected in-line skates to send to children in Guatemala where Merrick O'Connel, an alumnus of the school, was working.
Cowdery said that as part of the National Catholic Schools Week, celebrated from Jan. 30 to Feb. 4, there will be a special emphasis on the beliefs of the church in the classes.
"The tie between our beliefs and ourselves, who we are and what we do, will be shown all week," she said. She said this will be emphasized all week as part of the celebration of Catholic schools, but it is a foundation of the school the entire year.
This national celebration has gone on all week, Cowdery said. It began with a family dance on Saturday, included recognition of school families in the weekend Masses, special activities and drawings throughout the school week, and having the students invite guests to lunches at the school, where classroom work was displayed all week. The millennium celebration continues through the year, Cowdery said. She said there will be Jubilee 2000 celebration in Billings next September, with all Catholic churches and schools encouraged to participate. She said classes will not be held at St. Jude School the Friday before the event to encourage school members to attend.
The original building, a two story brick building which is still used as part of the school, was built in 1916. For the first eight years the building space was shared with the church and all functions of the parish.
The school opened in September of 1916 with one hundred students in the first four grades. Classes were taught by two Sisters of Penance and Christian Charity. By 1919, the school had grown to 300 students in eight grades, taught by six teachers. A high school was added in 1924, but closed in 1927.
In 1947, classrooms were renovated over the summer. The walls were freshly painted, the floors were sanded, and new lockers, blackboards and lights were added in time for the fall classes.
Havre Central High School opened in 1949. The Social Hall and kitchen were included in this building, which left more space in the elementary school. The Central Gymnasium was added in 1951.
Due to increased enrollment in the 1950s, construction was started in 1954 on a two-story addition to the elementary school with twelve classrooms, lavatories, and office space. While this was being done first- and second-grade classes met in Central High.
In September 1955, the first classes were held in the completed lower floor of the addition. When the second floor was completed, some of the rooms in the original building became the library, music room, projection room, Boy Scout room, and later, the teachers' lounge.
The increased enrollment and a decrease in the availability of Sisters in the early 1950s necessitated the hiring of lay teachers. In 1956, the elementary school enrollment reached 450. Two sections of the lower grades were added and yearly another class was divided, requiring the hiring of more lay teachers.
Due to the financial burden imposed by the need to hire qualified lay people to maintain accreditation, the school decided to close Havre Central High in 1968. That fall the seventh- and eighth-grade students moved into the high school building, and in 1971 it officially became Havre Central Junior High. In 1984, the sixth grade was also moved to HCJH.
In the 1970s, a kindergarten was added, but was dropped after one year due to lack of students.
In the 1980s, the enrollment, which had dropped off in the 1970s, had climbed again. A new kindergarten was added in the fall of 1987. Preschool and extended care services were added in the fall of 1989.
The 1991-92 school year marked 75 years of education at St. Jude/Havre Central. During the summer of 1991, an all-school reunion was held, attended by more than 1,000 past students of the school. An alumni association was formed to help prepare for the reunion and remains active today.
1994 was the last year that Jesuit Priest assignments included St. Jude Thaddeus parish and school. The school participated in the send-off for members of the order, called "A Salute to the Jesuits."
In 1997, the school celebrated 80 years of Catholic education in the community. Retired teachers and staff were honored at the opening ceremony for Catholic schools week.
Currently, the school offers education in all elementary school areas of study. This includes physical education, a music program, athletics, student government, and a relationship with the Havre Public Schools in athletics and special education services.
Cowdery said the funding for the school comes from parish support and student tuition. The annual jog-a-thon sponsored by the school is the primary fund-raiser, she said. Fund-raisers are also held to finance the school's financial aid program, she said, which is used by many of its students.
The school also has several active parent organizations, including the Home and School Association, the Booster Club the Alumni Association, and the school board.