Shannon Calice has had a whirlwind first month in her new job as principal of St. Peter’s Catholic School in Delano. She arrived on Aug. 6 and immediately plunged into getting ready for the new school year.
Somehow she got done what she needed to do. “The families are so helpful,” Calice said. “They love this school. They told me how it’s done. I couldn’t have done it without them.”
She came from St. John the Baptist Catholic School in Savage, where she taught social studies and math to students in fifth through eighth grades.
In her first week she discovered one reason she likes being a school principal — the opportunity and need to be flexible. As a teacher, she pretty much had each day planned out.
An example is the first Friday of school at St. Pete’s. Calice was all set to return phone calls, when a young kindergartner suddenly needed her attention. He was having a bad day and obviously was tired after his first experience with being in school all day for a solid week. She helped him be calm in a corner of her office and decided that was more important than picking up the phone.
Already, she has her sights set on what she would like to accomplish at St. Pete’s. “Technology is our big push this year,” she said.
Calice wants to put the school’s computer lab to full use. Even though the lab is composed of 13-year-old Macintosh computers, she sees possibilities and is teaching computer classes to older students.
First, she is bringing in “a solid curriculum” for the technology. Also, she is testing students so they can engage in more individual goal setting.
“They’re going to have to take ownership,” Calice said. “Where am I and where do I want to be? Kids have to take ownership of their education, and we have to teach them how to do it. A good start is helping them to understand how to move.”
Thinking back on her own education, she calculated that she has been in school for 20 years. “You have to go to school, and you have to work for it,” she said. “Where is anything handed to you?”
Originally from the Detroit area, Calice went to public schools because Catholic schools were difficult to get into. Her father was a deacon, and her mother was very involved in the church.
After that she prepared for a career teaching in Catholic schools. Her undergraduate degree is from National Louis University in Chicago. She holds a masters degree in curriculum and instruction from St. Thomas University in St. Paul and an education specialist degree from Capella University in Minneapolis.
Calice lived in Chicago for 10 years with her husband Bill and daughters Sabrina and Megan. Twelve years ago the family moved to the Twin Cities area. Bill, Sabrina and Megan all are products of Catholic Schools.
Launching a new school year was only part of Calice’s to do list at St. Pete’s. By the end of the first week, students and families already were diving into the school’s annual “Ride for a Reason,” part of the Marathon for Nonpublic Education. Students were collecting names of people to honor and remember during their bicycle ride in the Delano area in early October — along with donations to support the school.
And on Friday, of the first week, the new principal led a pep rally to rev up excitement for the upcoming ride. Fresh from the pep rally, she expressed her enthusiasm for the “Ride for a Reason.”
She said she was impressed with efforts that children and families put in every year. “They usually overshoot our goal, and we have only 80 kids in the school,” she said.
While this year’s fund raising goal is $50,000, Ride for a Reason participants usually bring in $60,000. “I am awed with $50,000,” Calice said.
“If we didn’t have this, we couldn’t stay open,” she continued. “This helps us meet our bills. All of these people are helping us to stay alive.” And the Ride helps the school keep tuition down.
Then, at last, Calice turned to a telephone that was asking for attention. Her parting words were, “The feeling in this building is wonderful. The kids are so sweet.”
For information about St. Peter’s Ride for a Reason, call 763-972-2528.