Spirit of the Renaissance alive at OLR School

GREENVILLEĀ  Students at OLR stand to greet visitors today as they did when nuns in habits ruled parochial schools, and the school uniforms are reminiscent of those golden years in Catholic education. Yet the Piedmont school is as modern as the computers that beep and ping in every classroom.

During a visit last week by The Miscellany, the seventh grade was whale watching off the Virginia coast and the principal was bragging about the eighth grade, which scored in the aggregate at the 90th percentile in the nation on the Iowa Test of Basic Skills in both math and verbal last year.

That principal is veteran Keith Darr. He credits the parents (“very active”) and the students themselves for the school’s successes, and is especially proud of the faculty at OLR.

“They are remarkable people,” Darr said. “A child could not be in better hands.” Beverly Farley, parent of two at the school and a certified teacher herself, agrees with the administrator’s assessment: “There’s more community spirit here than at other schools I’ve visited and worked at. These teachers have changed my daughter’s life.”

Farley is also pleased with the active role played in the life of OLR School by Father Charles Day, pastor. Darr said that Father Day, an academic, is interested in all aspects of the school programs and celebrates Mass weekly for the children. Mary Alice Ryan-Morris, mother of four OLR students, likes the open-door policy promoted by Darr and his faculty. She called the faculty “nurturing” and said that they care about the spiritual growth of the student population. She called Darr a fabulous principal.

“The atmosphere at this school is created by him,” Ryan-Morris said.

That atmosphere includes parental involvement and academic achievement. Graduates of OLR routinely place in honors programs at Greenville area high schools; they are National Merit Scholarship winners and valedictorians of their classes. Slots in the Regional Science Fair are based on performance and OLR has been allotted two extra ones for 1997. Five Rosary students are competing at that level. Another OLR middle schooler, Michael Graziano, was recognized by the State of South Carolina for his winning essay in the Lieutenant Governor’s Writing Competition.

In addition to its academic standards, Our Lady of the Rosary enjoys high levels of participation in athletics. The recent successes of the school’s basketball teams prompted Darr to dub his school “the Duke of the parochial league.” Duke University is a rigorous academic institution that is a perennial powerhouse in NCAA round ball.

Although OLR’s student population is about 80 percent Catholic, minority races and religions are well-represented. Children of the Greenville international community that staffs the many foreign-owned businesses here are also part of the student body. Classes average 22 students per teacher and the school’s academic goal is to challenge all of them, Darr said.

OLR also offers after-school programs in piano, dance and gymnastics, as well as the big favorite among parents, study hall, where staffers help students with their homework. The networked computer lab, donated by area businesses, complements the full-sized gym in the three-building school complex. Students write and produce a monthly newsletter and the school offers summer camps.

The upcoming Renaissance Celebration is a two-day event with a feast at the Greenville Country Club and a day-long fair on the school campus. Along with professional performances by the likes of The Society for Creative Anachronism and pianist Emile Pandolfi, the school drama club will put on Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream and students will “celebrate the human spirit” with displays, demonstrations and other performances.

The spirit of the Renaissance is the spirit that pervades Our Lady of the Rosary Catholic School.