By Cathy Harasta
The Texas Catholic
Parents eagerly examined jackets, skirts and slacks while students modeled sweaters and plaid jumpers in the St. Philip the Apostle Catholic School cafeteria on a sunny March morning.
The plaid, with its tasteful purple-and-gray motif, pleased everyone.
But when the time came for a vote on whether to choose bow ties for boys or the long, flowing traditional ties, the result was…
Ties of a different nature strengthened as the parents and students helped choose the inaugural uniforms for the new St. Philip & St. Augustine Catholic Academy, which will open on Aug. 24.
The academy will occupy the recently renovated St. Philip the Apostle Catholic School campus in Pleasant Grove. It will combine St. Augustine Catholic School and St. Philip Catholic School with a focus on Gospel values and a rigorous academic program.
The new school has made progress not only in registering students for the fall, but also in forging an identity and fostering school spirit, said Marian Davis, the St. Augustine principal who will serve as the academy’s president.
Students, parents and staff collaborated on the choice of purple and white for the academy’s colors and the selection of “Saints” as the mascot.
“Our mission is to have our students become saints,” said Erica Romero, the St. Philip principal who will become the academy’s principal. “People come in every day to tour and ask questions, and that’s good.”
About 20 parents serve on the uniform selection committee.
“It’s empowering for them and a way to take ownership,” Romero said. “There’s a lot of positive buzz.”
St. Augustine student Emma Antunez, who will be a fifth-grader at the academy in the fall, said that she liked the purple plaid skirt she had tried on for her mother, Maria Antunez.
“I’m excited,” said Emma, whose two younger brothers also will attend the academy. “But I’m kind of shy, too.”
Emma ticked off the names of several St. Augustine classmates whom she knew also had registered to attend the academy.
“Change can be scary but it also can be good,” Maria Antunez said. “Change can mean something wonderful for our kids and their future.”
Last October, Bishop Kevin J. Farrell announced the creation of the academy as a means to better serve the St. Augustine and St. Philip communities at the lower and middle school levels.
The St. Augustine Catholic School campus will become home to the new Cristo Rey Dallas College Prep.
Academy leaders have sent postcards about the new school to prospective families and described plans for the expansion and additional structural upgrades on the St. Philip campus. Construction phases call for a new wing to be completed by the 2016-2017 school year.
“We’ve tapped into the faith formation communities at the parishes,” Romero said. “Word-of-mouth is a good formula. Latin American families like face-to-face contact.”
Romero said that hiring is underway for foreign language and art teachers.
Strategies for uniting the academy’s inaugural students also are getting off the ground. Davis said that a trip for St. Augustine and St. Philip fifth through eighth-graders to Houston to visit NASA in April is among the joint ventures intended to give students the feeling that they are stakeholders in the academy.
A joint field day also is on the agenda this spring.
Davis said that she is pleased with registration for the new academy.
“I’m really pleased with the number of kids talking about going to the new St. Philip & St. Augustine Catholic Academy,” she said. “We’re making progress.”
Ximena Carranza, who will be a first-grader at the academy in the fall, modeled the jumper that the committee had selected while her mother, Karmina Carranza, took cell-phone photos of her daughter.
“We are excited about the new academy,” she said. “We are excited about the opportunity for our kids.”