At a time when many private and religious schools are struggling, Little Flower Catholic School is growing. So, what is their secret?
"We have a great pastor in Al (Kemme.) He's in is his sixth year and he has done a great job at just setting the tone," principal Bill Moredock said. "And the faculty is unbelievable. They're here because they believe in our mission. They love the children. They love education. They're passionate about teaching. They make a difference. I've got a lot of experienced teachers who have been here more than 20 years."
The school at 900 Stevenson Dr. in Springfield draws students from communities as distant as Virden, Girard and Rochester. It also serves families from all parts of Springfield.
"We are a south side school that really isn't in a neighborhood. So, we really have to market ourselves in the community to let people know we're here," Moredock said. "We're a very diverse school. You've got kids of all academic abilities, of all colors, of all races and ethnicities."
Each family at the school is expected to volunteer. They may serve in a variety of capacities ranging from painting rooms and monitoring kids on the playground to driving youngsters on field trips.
While Springfield public schools were practicing remote learning during the last school year, Little Flower continued in-person classes.
"This really benefitted us. Parents who hadn't considered a school like Little Flower before came and enrolled their children because they wanted them in a classroom setting," Moredock said. "And the great part is that most of those new students who enrolled last year have returned this year."
Little Flower parent Joe Kulek said it's the sense of community that attracts families.
"We made a point of getting involved in the parish and the school. It was important to us," he said of he and his wife, Maggie. "And the more you become involved, the more you want to stay. This is our community."
The Kuleks live on Springfield's west side but chose to send their three daughters to Little Flower.
"We decided it was worth the extra gas money for them to attend Little Flower. Academically, it is excellent, and they have some good, experienced teachers there," he said.
But what do the students think of the school?
Well, here is how 10-year-old Jersee Jackson described Little Flower:
"Little Flower is a very good school. The people here are very nice; same with the teachers and, Doc, the principal. If there's a problem with bullying, it's very rare here. Everyone is very nice. And here we are taught actions speak louder than words."
Her 10-year-old classmate, Liam Harris, added, "Well, the teachers are nice and we get good lunches. I would say everybody in the school is nice. You make a lot of friends. And you get recess for about 25 minutes. And then we get to do fun things like last year, somebody actually brought pumpkins to the school. And we got to carve them and did a contest. And sometimes when we're good, we get extra recesses."