Catholic high schools in Cape Girardeau, Perryville make national top 50 list

Friday, October 15, 2010
St. Vincent juniors Mark Kutz and Katie Franklin hold the banner during an assembly to celebrate the school's recognition on the list of the best 50 Catholic secondary schools in America, presented by the Catholic High School Honor Roll. This is the first time St. Vincent has received this distinction. (Kristin Eberts)

A parish parent once described St. Vincent High School as the "best-kept secret" in education.

The secret's out.

St. Vincent joins Notre Dame Regional High School on the list of the best 50 Catholic secondary schools in America. Both schools will hold celebrations this morning.

The list is presented by the Catholic High School Honor Roll, an independent project of the Grand Rapids, Mich.-based Acton Institute, a research and education organization. The Honor Roll is to recognize and encourage excellence in Catholic education.

For Notre Dame, the honor is a repeat performance. The high school has made the top 50 list six consecutive times.

For St. Vincent, it's a first, but not necessarily a surprise.

"I was almost stunned, but pleasantly so," said the Rev. Joe Williams, St. Vincent schools superintendent and pastor of St. Vincent de Paul Parish in Perryville, Mo. "It's an honor we've been working on for the last three years, and to realize we've made good progress and we have a quality school ... as well as a good Catholic model is very thrilling."

About half of the 1,300 U.S. Catholic high schools go through the application process for the Honor Roll list, according to Kara Eagle, education initiative manager at the Acton Institute. Selections are based on performance in academic excellence, civic education and Catholic identity. Schools provide extensive data on standardized testing and other academic measures, and administrators answer surveys on academics, Catholic teaching and social studies.

While the Honor Roll doesn't rank the top 50 schools overall, it does break down rankings in the three categories. St. Vincent was second in Catholic identity. That's a distinction the small high school, with an enrollment of 155 students, is especially proud of, said principal Lisa Best.

"It's not just about your uniforms; it's not the way the school looks. It's about everything we do," she said.

Notre Dame ranked seventh in academic excellence, and 10th in civic education, according to Eagle. The school is one of five Catholic high schools that have been named to the top 50 list in each of the honor roll's six years, according to Eagle.

"We've kind of come to know them over the years," she said. "They epitomize excellence in Catholic education."

The top 50 distinction never gets old, said Notre Dame principal Brother David Migliorino.

"I'm blown away that we got it again," he said, noting the school's success is the product of the hard work of students, faculty, parents and community.

The Honor Roll was compiled annually between 2004 and 2008, but it has since become a biennial recognition.

Missouri is well represented on this year's list, with five high schools, including two in Kansas City, earning placement. The Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau boasts two schools, Notre Dame and Springfield Catholic High School.

"I think it's a testament to the strong commitment in southern Missouri to an exceptional quality of education within our Catholic school," Bishop James V. Johnston Jr. said. "We are challenged at times on our resources but not in the area of love for our children and their future."

It's been a banner year thus far for Notre Dame, which this fall posted growing enrollment, at 528 students, and its largest freshman class of 150. That's an anomaly in a U.S. Catholic school system, Eagle said. Nationally, student enrollment in Catholic schools declined by 533,697 students, or about 20 percent, in the last decade.

mkittle@semissourian.com

388-3627

Pertinent address:

210 S Waters St., Perryville, MO

265 Notre Dame Drive, Cape Girardeau, MO

Map of pertinent addresses

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