EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

November 7, 2012

Parents, alumni pitch in, pay for fine arts center

By Paul Tennant ptennant@eagletribune.com
The Eagle-Tribune

---- — NORTH ANDOVER — Eighth-grader Gabi Hillner said the new fine arts center at St. Michael School “will promote learning.”

Students “will learn a lot more” in a more “professional” environment, she said.

In what used to be storage space in the basement, there are now two new classrooms, one for art, the other for music instruction. Parents, alumni and other supporters of the parochial school provided most of the $440,000 cost of what Gabi called “a fantastic addition,” according to Principal Susan Gosselin.

The new classrooms have been used since the end of September. The school formally dedicated the center last Friday, with the Rev. John Delaney, former pastor of St. Michael Church, blessing the classrooms with holy water.

Delaney, who was reassigned to Sacred Hearts Church in Bradford in April, predicted the fine arts center will be a “wonderful space for years to come.” Delaney noted that teachers and parents realized some time ago that the school should have space dedicated to the teaching of art and music.

Building an addition to the school, located across Main Street from St. Michael Church, would have been very costly, but then people began to ask, “What about the basement?” Delaney said.

“A year ago, it didn’t exist,” he said of the new center.

“God is good,” Delaney said, and the parish and school community provided the money to make it all happen. “Family support and strong faith,” he said, were the assets that made the effort succeed.

“I think it was needed,” said Connor Grant, an eighth-grader. It’s better to have art and music taught in more spacious quarters, he said.

Two grants of $2,000 each, from the Pringle Foundation and the Catherine McCarthy Trust, helped pay for the fine arts center, Gosselin said. The rest of the $440,000 needed came from parents and other benefactors who believe in Catholic education, she said.

“It’s incredible,” said Tara Kelly, a St. Michael School Board member who led the fundraising effort. “We are fortunate to have a school community that believes in the arts and is incredibly generous.”

They did not finance the project by doing a lot of bake sales, Kelly said. Rather, she and the others working on the campaign appealed directly to parents and others.

“We said, ‘we really can’t do it without you,’” she explained.

The St. Michael School support system came through and the new classrooms were built.

“That’s what makes St. Michael’s a remarkable place,” said Kelly, the mother of a third-grader and a fourth-grader at the school. “They believe in a place that wants to do the best it can for the students.”

St. Michael School was founded in 1950 by the Sisters of Charity of Halifax. The school serves 530 students in nursery through eighth grade and it continues to grow, Gosselin said.

Students range in age from 3 to 14.

The Rev. Kevin Deeley, who replaced Delaney as pastor of St. Michael Church and also attended the dedication, said the fine arts center has made the school “even greater.”