York’s Catholic schools: soldiering on amid changes in education

I spent part of yesterday afternoon in Principal Peggy Snyder’s office at St. Joseph School in Dallastown.

A delightful woman, Snyder, 55, is in her 32nd year at St. Joseph, the first 25 as a teacher. I am doing a feature story on her career with the school for next week’s paper.

In this November 2008 York Daily Record file photo, St. Joseph School’s third-grade class of the month poses for a picture. The class is performing one of its everyday assignments, reading.

We ended up talking about a variety of topics, like the state of education today in both public and Catholic schools. The differences can be striking. I happen to agree with Mrs. Snyder that discipline and high expectations are a must for future success.

She mentioned that many public schools have given up assigning homework, something St. Joseph remains committed to.

“We see such a great value in it because it’s practice,” she told me. “If you have high expectations, the kids will bring their performance up.”

All students also wear a school uniform.

Still, reality is reality and St. Joseph is an old school. It is celebrating its 85th birthday and every inch of space is used.

Then there is enrollment. St. Joseph has 134 kids this year, down from last year and down from the days of 160 to 180 kids. Mrs. Snyder said the school likely enrolled over 200 in its heyday.

These are issues at urban Catholic schools around the country as they adjust to modern realities. Look at Philadelphia, where the Archdiocese of Philadelphia is handing over management of its secondary and special-education schools to a private foundation.

In Seattle, this Catholic school is pinning its hopes on charter-school style changes.

What remains unchanged is the quality of education. Mrs. Snyder’s three boys went through St. Joseph, and she taught all of them. Josh, Steven and David all went on to graduate Drexel University and earn their master’s degrees.

“My husband, who’s not Catholic, credits their success to the education they got here,” Mrs. Snyder said.

I’d like to hear from other York County residents who received a Catholic school education. What were your experiences? Do you think Catholic schools can adjust well enough to survive?

Comment here or drop me a line at jhilton@ydr.com.

About John Hilton

I grew up in Susquehanna County, Pa. and graduated Syracuse University with a dual degree in journalism/political science in 1998. After working for nearly three years for a weekly paper in upstate New York, I came to southcentral Pennsylvania. I spent 13 years as a reporter and editor for The Sentinel in Carlisle and joined the York Daily Record as religion reporter in September 2011.
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