St. Margaret of Scotland School announces educational partnership

Parents and students of St. Margaret of Scotland School had plenty to be happy about at their back-to-school barbecue. The weather was gorgeous, the food was plentiful and pastor Father Matthew O'Toole was announcing a partnership with four organizations in their neighborhood, adding to their already vibrant and growing school.

St. Margaret of Scotland School will be joining with Cardinal Glennon Foundation, St. Louis University, Gateway Greening and the Missouri Botanical Garden to form the Community Alliance for Education in an effort to expand the educational opportunities of students and their families.

"St. Margaret of Scotland School has a long and fine tradition of taking the initiative to make this school not just survive the changing times, but to thrive with new approaches to education," said Father O'Toole.

The development of the alliance began with the work of Tom Purcell about a year ago. Purcell is a longtime parishioner of St. Margaret of Scotland and refers to himself as "the old one," according to Father O'Toole. Purcell saw a need for community involvement after trying to determine what to do next after the school was recognized as a Blue Ribbon School.

"For love of this parish, for love of this school, for love of this city, Tom helped bring these institutions to combine their gifts to the work and mission of St. Margaret of Scotland School," Father O'Toole said.

The alliance's four organizations will provide varied services and opportunities for the grade school. Cardinal Glennon Foundation will work with faculty, parents and students to nurture healthy eating habits and active lifestyle. They also will provide instruction in sports medicine.

"By sharing their professional knowledge, as well as their affectionate care for God's little ones, we hope to become the healthiest school in St. Louis," Father O'Toole said. The school and Cardinal Glennon are currently working on a survey to help determine how exactly to define a healthy school.

SLU will provide numerous resources including student-teachers and student service programs such as tutoring. St. Margaret of Scotland School will also receive help from SLU with curriculum planning and pedagogical guidance. SLU is also partnering with St. Margaret's Athletic Association to provide practice fields for the growing number of teams.

The Missouri Botanical Garden intends to open its property frequently to the students and provide horticulturists for educational opportunities, which aim to deepen children's stewardship for the ecosystem.

"Both the Garden and St. Margaret of Scotland Parish have been integral to the rebirth of this area," said Bob Herleth, executive vice-president of Missouri Botanical Garden and a St. Margaret of Scotland parishioner. He said it was a natural fit since the school is within walking distance of the garden and part of the mission at the Botanical Garden is the education of children.

Gateway Greening will continue to work with the students in Dragon's Grove, the established community garden at the northeast corner of Shaw and Lawrence, across from the school's parking lot.

"Everything has begun. It's sort of stunning," principal Juliann Hesed said. She noted that there are larger plans in development for the coming years. "I think what is going to come to fruition will be astounding."

"We don't see this just as something for St. Margaret of Scotland, we really see it for Catholic education in the city. Our hope is that it begins here and just grows," Hesed said.

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