The smiling face in the morning drop-off line at St. Pius X School, the person who always says good morning to each and every student, the one who gives mom or dad a wink and grin, the leader of the welcome committee is retiring. Since the day the school’s doors opened in 2008, Elaine Holmes has been the principal. After this school year, she is headed in a new direction, but it won’t be taking her very far.
“My entire career in education was in the public schools. I enjoyed my years in the classroom teaching fourth and fifth graders, my years as a principal in two elementary schools within the district, and three years in a middle school,” noted Holmes, whose assignments totaled 37 years of service in public schools.
According to Holmes, in 2003 Monsignor William Schooler, or Father Bill as he is known at St. Pius X in Granger, established a team of parishioners to initiate a feasibility study to ensure the need and success of opening a Catholic school in the Granger area.
“In 2004, Bishop John M. D’Arcy granted permission to build an education center to meet the educational needs of our rapidly growing parish. Father Bill approached me in 2007 and asked me if I would be his principal. In 2008, we opened our parish education center with 445 students and today we have 684 students for the upcoming year and a waitlist in almost every grade,” said Holmes.
The experience of an educator comes with many memories, especially when your career spans more than 40 years. Being part of the team that created a brand-new school was one of the most impactful moments for this educator. “There are so many memories over the years, but some of the most memorable ones are watching the construction of the building, meeting with the architects, working side by side and meeting after meeting with Father Bill, and hiring a full school staff, collaborating with them in the basement of the rectory week after week; sometimes day after day,” recalled Holmes. “The staff was amazing, and I learned so much from each of them as we developed our curriculum. And, of course, opening our doors on the first day of school late in August 2008 and greeting more than 200 students will always be in my memory.”
A highlight of her time at St. Pius X is when the school received the National Blue Ribbon Award in 2015. According to the organization, the National Blue Ribbon Schools Program recognizes public and private elementary, middle, and high schools based on their overall academic excellence or their progress in closing achievement gaps among student subgroups.
One of Holmes’s greatest accomplishments was the development of a top-notch fine arts program at St. Pius X. “Over the years, our fine arts department developed outstanding opportunities for our students. I went to elementary and Catholic high school and never had a class in the fine arts department — no art, no music, and never a language. It was important to me to provide a fine arts program for our students. We have amazing teachers throughout our building,” said Holmes. “Over the years, we are proud that in our two Catholic high schools, we can see our contribution to student successes as valedictorians, salutatorians, science awards, fine arts scholarships from major areas, and admission into major colleges.”
Retirement still has not totally sunk into her mindset yet. Holmes said she will miss the outstanding staff, greeting the children in car lines every day, and building relationships with students and parents. “I will miss Father Bill tucking his head in my office every day, checking in whether it was one minute or five minutes. I love everything about St. Pius and will not roam far from it. I can honestly say that I never dreaded coming to school in all the years I have been here with the exception of having to make a decision on a snow day. Then I dreaded it, not school but having to make a decision on do we go or do we not. Driving the roads at 5 in the morning to make a snow day determination was not at all fun,” said Holmes.
In the 2023-2024 school year, Holmes will stay at St. Pius three days a week, not as a principal but as another set of hands to help.
“There are a lot of demands on principals and teachers. Father Bill asked me if I would work three days a week and support the administrative team as well as the teachers. I chose Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. I am looking forward to being back in the classrooms more, and not just to observe but to teach when there is a need,” said Holmes. “On other days, I hope to do more traveling with my husband.”
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