by Jill Ragar Esfeld
Congratulations to St. Matthew principal Heather Huscher who has a simple formula for the steady growth in her school’s enrollment numbers.
“I am surrounded by people who love God and love kids and are willing to tell people about it,” she said.
Increased enrollment is one of many reasons St. Matthew has been presented the Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann Catholic Education Foundation School of Excellence Award for the second time in three years.
“One of the [application] categories is ‘Prudently Managed,’” said CEF executive director Michael Morrisey. “A part of that is enrollment.
“If we look at St. Matthew today, the enrollment is almost to capacity.”
Huscher credited the outstanding preschool located within St. Matthew School with helping raise the numbers..
“They’re a top-ranked preschool in Topeka,” she said. “And so that makes my job pretty easy.
“Having it in the school is key, too, because the preschoolers see it as their school.”
Huscher also employs some very proactive recruitment methods.
“I teach baptism prep in my parish,” she said. “So does my kindergarten teacher and another school mom who’s very dedicated to the school.
“So we shamelessly plug the school from the very beginning.”
Sustainability is another quality looked for by CEF and, again, St. Matthew scores high in keeping its students through graduation.
“In a lot of ways, that’s probably most important,” said Morrisey. “Then hopefully we’ve got them closer to God; and that’s what we’re trying to do.”
Presenting the award to Huscher at this year’s Gaudeamus, superintendent of schools Dr. Kathy O’Hara commented on St. Matthews’ forward-thinking philosophy.
“The application said they are constantly looking for ways to become ‘holier, bigger and smarter,’” she said.
The school continues to excel in academics and is known for including faith lessons in every subject.
“That’s part of my observation tool,” said Huscher. “I’m looking for intentional infusion of the faith every time I’m in a classroom.”
St. Matthew students are encouraged to live their faith through stewardship. Every year, a day is set aside for all grades to engage in community service.
“They’re just out in the community making sure they’re putting their faith into action,” said Huscher.
A third of St. Matthew students receive CEF scholarships.
“We simply couldn’t exist without CEF,” said Huscher. “It takes the worries of money off the table for families.
“The thing that keeps me going back to work here every day is that sense of family,” she added. “We just keep doing what we’re doing — not for awards, but for love of God and each other.”