|June 26, 2017 • VOL. 55, NO. 12 • Oakland, CA|
| Treasuring Catholic schools' legacy of excellence
St. Martin de Porres Regional School
'The work that began at this school is not over'
A day before St. Martin de Porres Regional School closed its doors the student body gathered to pray together June 1 at Oakland's Sacred Heart Church and celebrated their bond as a school family for one final time.
Hollis Pierce-Jenkins, who served as the school's president, later said to the assembly that they could all look back with joy at the years they had spent with one another learning and working together. The foundation of Catholic education at St. Martin de Porres School "has been laid," she said. "The work that began at this school is not over."
Pierce-Jenkins, along with Dara Northcroft, the school's principal, thanked the faculty and staff for their service, a moment that led to prolonged applause and cheers by the students.
One of five elementary schools to close in the Diocese of Oakland at the end of this school year, St. Martin de Porres itself was born from a round of schools closures some 20 years earlier. The school was born from the merger of three fallen elementary schools — Sacred Heart, St. Columba and St. Patrick. Classes for grades kindergarten to five met on the Sacred Heart campus while grades six to eight were held at the former St. Patrick School site. The final eighth grade graduation took place at St. Patrick Church on May 26.
For a number of years famed world class musician and opera singer Frederica von Stade directed the choir at St. Martin de Porres School as a volunteer. Many kindergartners learned how to play the violin from twice-weekly instruction. That gift of a music education was again showcased and celebrated when several students performed a song playing violins during the farewell liturgy.
"It is unfortunate that our commitment to inner city schools is no longer as strong as it was 25, 30 years ago," said Robert Ratto, the first principal at St. Martin de Porres, who returned to the campus to attend the final Mass. "It is a terrible loss for the kids and it's a terrible loss for the Church as well."
As students walked out of the church they passed a collage featuring photos of the late Elsie B. Horton which was on display in the vestibule. Mrs. Horton, a revered second grade teacher, taught generations of pupils at the former Sacred Heart Elementary School. A celebration of the legacy of Sacred Heart School may take place later this year.
— Carrie McClish
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