Second-graders recently presented their summer reading projects in class. The students dressed up as a favorite character from their selected summer book. Way to go reading champs.
ROCKLEDGE, Fla., Aug. 14, 2017 — St. Mary School Principal Sandra Basinger started the school year with a big surprise. She was recognized for her leadership and commitment to her community with the Jeni Heneghan Administrator of the Year Award.
A surprised Basinger accepted the award from School Superintendent Henry Fortier on Aug. 7. Fortier oversees education for the Diocese of Orlando Office of Catholic Schools, which covers Orange, Brevard, Osceola, Polk, Seminole, Lake, Marion and Volusia counties.
“Sandy is an amazingly beautiful person who lives her faith and loves the students,” Fortier said. “This is a well-deserved honor for her years of dedication and service to the community.”
The award was named in honor of Jennifer Heneghan, who served as principal of All Souls Catholic School in Sanford from 2011 to 2014 when she died from a brain aneurysm. Previously she taught in public schools and was recognized as Volusia County’s Teacher of the Year in 1993.
Heneghan was very much involved in her church and Catholic schools. She was an active member of the Diocesan Superintendent’s Collaborative Council, and a member of the 2015 NCEA Steering Committee for the Orlando Convention, and the Diocesan
elementary school principal representative to the Catholic Youth Sports organization for many years. As a former softball player, she also enjoyed helping build good sportsmanship and collaborated on special events such as the Coaches Play like a Champion Day at Bishop Moore High School.
Basinger was selected from among Catholic school administrators throughout the Diocese for her exemplary leadership, inspiration, and modeling Christ for the entire St. Mary School community.
“Sandy is an amazing principal and an inspirational human being,” said Zenaida Kotala, whose son attends second grade at the school. “She’s a great administrator and as a parent you always know she cares about your child and your family. She has a challenging job juggling so many responsibilities, but she does it while exemplifying Christ’s teachings. I’m so happy she was recognized this way.”
Basinger, who has been principal at St. Mary in Rockledge for the past 6 years, embodies the spirit of the award. She lives to help her students and their families succeed and supports her teachers and staff. When she isn’t working long hours to ensure that teachers have the resources they need and that students and families are being served, she makes time to attend sporting, artistic and musical events. It’s not odd for her to attend various games, a musical performance and an afterschool club activity in the same week. She does it to demonstrate to her students and families that she really cares about the whole child. She serves on multiple committees and also volunteers at St Mary church having served in various capacities including overseeing religious education for children at the church.
Father Ivan Olmo who nominated Basinger for the award said, “What makes Sandy such a good principal is that she understands that in order to lead, inspire and teach – she must be led, inspired and taught. As a student, she continually seeks the assistance of our Mother Mary to learn how to minister to God’s children and administer to those who have been entrusted to her care. From Mary, she has learned to remain open to God’s possibilities and receptive to his gifts so that with the help of his grace she can continue to follow Jesus, be inspired by him and become that good leader who always learns, teaches and inspires.”
Her teachers are big supporters too.
“Sandy has a great devotion to the Blessed Mother Teresa and looks to her words for inspiration. One of her favorites quotes is, ‘I alone cannot change the world but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.’ That’s what being a mother, teacher, and principal has meant to Sandy,” said first-grade teacher Suzanne Strain. “We cannot always see the farthest ripple of our deeds or actions but the ripple can go on forever effecting many and creating positive change.”
Basinger, who’s been at St. Mary School for 20 years knows the school well. Not only did she teach English at the school before becoming its principal, but she had three of her own children attend the school.
“Receiving the Jeni Heneghan Award is a great honor” she said. “It is humbling to have been selected from all of the outstanding principals in the diocese. I am truly grateful!”
St. Mary’s School students have been on a secret mission this month spreading hope and love throughout Rockledge, Viera and Meritt Island. Project Cougar Kindness, named after the school mascot, had students placing more than 1,000 post it notes in businesses and public spaces with unsigned messages inspiring joy, love and hope. The notes read: You are Amazing, You are Loved, You are one of a kind, You’re braver than you think, and God loves you among others. “The students wanted to spread some love during these times of negativity,” said eighth grade teacher Nancy Potchka, who helped the students organize. Middle school students in the National Junior Honor Society led the effort, but students as young as first-grade participated by creating the notes and sticking them everywhere from bathroom doors to store shelves. Police stations, fire stations and senior living communities weren’t left out either. More than 1,000 notes were delivered from Feb. 1 through Valentine’s day. “I wrote the notes to make peoples’ day, encourage many people, and to raise people’s attitudes,” said sixth-grader Austin Munchbach. Eighth-grader Jenna Lester wrote and delivered messages with her family throughout the month. “The kids at St. Mary’s Catholic School wrote a bunch of encouraging notes to spread love and joy to the people in our community,” she said. The students completed the notes with the help of their teachers. Student then asked parents to help with the deliveries. Kat Deane, a parent of two children at the school, set up a Facebook group to help parents organize and make sure the love notes were spread throughout the community and not just in one location. “We wanted everyone to know how AMAZING our community is and we did just that with kindness notes,” Deane said. “We are all children of God and this was a fantastic way to spread love to one another in honor of our Saint Valentine.” Denise Yelvington drove her children, second-grader Kate and fifth-grade Luke, to the Avenues in Viera to make their secret deliveries. “We love the Cougar Kindness Project,” Yelvington said. “There’s been so much negativity in the news lately and this has been a way to remind people that we should be kind and love one another.” Some were lucky enough to watch the reaction of residents as they looked up and spotted notes. Principal Sandy Basinger said the project was a good one to help students see how they can make a difference in the community. “We not only teach our students about math, science and English,” Basinger said. “We teach the whole child and this wonderful project is an example of students learning a lesson and wanting to spread it around. We are all part of this community and we all need to take care of each other. Sometimes that’s as easy as a simple word of kindness. I couldn’t be more proud of our students.”
*St. Mary’s School Partners with UCF to Bring Star Gazing Night to Rockledge* ROCKLEDGE, Fla. Nov. 28, 2016 — St. Mary’s School is hosting its 3rd annual Star Gazing Night from 6:30 to 9 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 9th*. * The event is aimed at sharing the exciting things middle school students are learning about in space science. Students will display exhibits that illustrate potential new planets to explore, techniques for exploring these new planets and sustainable practices to colonize new worlds. The Astronomy Society from the University of Central Florida will be at the school with several telescopes to give the community an opportunity to get a close-up look at the stars and planets. Society members will also be there to explain what people are seeing. They will be set up on the basketball courts through 9 p.m. weather permitting. The St. Mary’s Music Boosters will also be selling space-themed baked goods along with hot cocoa. Money collected will go toward the school’s music program. The program is free and open to the public. Visit the school, 1152 Seminole Drive behind the Rockledge Fire Station, to find out the exciting way science is coming to life at St. Mary’s School and for a chance to get a closer look at the night sky. Exhibits will be ongoing in the Parish Hall. For more information visit http://www.stmarys-school.org/ or call the school at 321-636-4208.
ROCKLEDGE, Florida, Oct. 11, 2016 — More than 50 families from St. Mary’s Catholic School and Church helped clean up the school grounds after Hurricane Matthew Saturdayand then a locally-owned business spent hours Sunday removing a 25-foot high tree that crashed onto the school’s playground.
Florida Home & Dock Life, LLC owner Davin T. Erickson and a few of his employees spent several hours Sunday cutting down the fallen tree with tools workers powered with a generator they brought along since there was no electricity. The men gave up their day of rest to ensure the area was safe for the children to play on Monday.
The families and business did it all at no cost to the school.
“We are very blessed that nothing happened to our home or business and so we wanted to focus on the people in our community that really needed the help,” Erickson said. “This community has been amazing to us and we wanted to give back.”
Erickson’s step-daughter, who suffered a traumatic brain injury, attends St. Mary’s and the support, generosity and kindness of the school and church community provided much needed support to the family as it adjusted to its new reality. She’s been recovering since the accident and is progressing.
“We were lost in life and were very scared,” said the Merritt Island native. “In the 36 years of my life, I have never been a part of a community that loves and cares about one another as much as this one.”
So when pictures of the damage and families cleaning up were posted on the school’s Facebook page, Erickson and his wife (who co-owns the company) made the decision to help.
“We are so grateful for all our wonderful families and church personnel who came to work at the school all morning Saturday to clean up debris, rake lawns, cut down fallen branches, and work to get the school ready to open on Monday,” said school principal Sandra Basinger. “And we are especially thankful for Florida Home & Dock Life, llc., that allowed us to open up the playground to our students Monday.
This kind of generous spirit and kindness is the reason that we are the wonderful community that we are … because of our caring and selfless school and church families.”
There’s still some work to be done, so students will be pitching in Wednesday, Oct. 12 to clean up as part of an early celebration of Make-A-Difference Day.