ROBERTSDALE, Alabama — “Reading and writing and ‘rithmatic ….”
Those subjects, along with science and language arts have been taught at St. Patrick Catholic School in Robertsdale for four decades now, with the addition over the years of art and technology.
“The curriculum has changed through the years and technology has certainly enhanced that,” said St. Patrick’s School Principal Sister Margaret Harte. “But I still believe in a balance between textbooks and technology. Students still need the hands-on teaching tools. They need to be able to turn the pages and feel a book in their hands.”
St. Patrick School will celebrate its 40th anniversary on Friday, Nov. 15 with an old fashioned 70s Disco Night, to be held from 7 to 10 p.m. at the school, 23070 Alabama 59, Robertsdale.
The adult event will include food, drinks and disco, with many shared memories from the four-decade long history of the school. While the event is free, you must RSVP to attend by calling the school at 251-947-7395. The deadline to RSVP is Nov. 7.
In 1979, Harte said, Father James Kirwan, the church’s first pastor, who was also a native of Ireland, decided to invite the Sisters of Presentation in that country to establish a school in Robertsdale.
“He had heard of the order and their work with Christ the King School in Daphne,” Harte said. “He went to Ireland to meet with them and the Superior General visited Robertsdale. She said ‘Let’s do it,’ and with that the school was established with a varying number of sisters through the years.”
The school was established in August of 1979 with grades K-8 with Sister Anna Flannagan as its first principal.
She was followed by Sister Marie Ryan, then Sister Una Murphy. Harte, who came from Ireland to Robertsdale in 1980 as an eighth-grade teacher, succeeded Murphy as principal in 1990 and has served as the school’s top administrator ever since. Harte is now the only member of the order who serves the school.
“It was a culture shock moving from another country,” she said. “I think it would be a culture shock even today. People think that social media has brought us all together culturally, but each country has its own way of doing things. But there were a lot of people who made my transition as smooth as possible, including Father Kirwan. We worked together for 10 years and brought a lot of great things to the school.”
K-4 was added at the school in 1997, then K-3 was added several years later, Harte said, but the school remains a one-classroom school, meaning that there is only one classroom per grade, with limited class sizes for a more hands-on learning experience..
“The school provides an added opportunity for families to make choices about their children’s education,” Harte said. “I think it’s important to have choices when it comes to education.
“We’ve always had a good working relationship with the local public-school system and the Superintendent of Catholic Schools has a good relationship with the superintendent in Baldwin County.”
The school participates in various activities with the local school system, such as Red Ribbon Week, the annual Spelling Bee and various sports competitions.
The addition of St. Michael’s Catholic High School has afforded the school additional opportunities, such as participation in band, along with junior varsity soccer, baseball and football, Harte said.
“We’ve always been able to keep everything up to date through the years to provide a well-rounded education opportunity for our students,” Harte said.