Ladue-Frontenac Patch is conducting interviews with the heads of all the local schools. School leaders will have the opportunity to go into great detail about the present state of their institutions. This is the first of two parts with Anita Reznicek, President of St. Joseph's Academy, who took over in July after serving St. Teresa's Academy in Kansas City for 23 years.
Ladue-Frontenac Patch: You’ve been on the job four months. What are your initial impressions?
Anita Reznicek: This is a fabulous school, and it’s been nonstop action since I’ve been here. I taught at the sister school (St. Teresa’s) in Kansas City, and there are lots of things about St. Joe that are similar to St. Teresa’s. The line I use: They are twins. They are sister schools. They are a lot alike, but they are not identical.
This community has tremendous alumni support and parent involvement. It’s a bigger school than 600 (enrollment), so I hit the ground running in July, and it's been very, very busy.
Patch: I understand St. Joe is a very welcoming community.
Reznicek: Absolutely, there were lots of events at the beginning of the year for our new parents and our new students, and it worked out very well. And I had the opportunity to be introduced to the mother’s club and The father’s club, the alums, the board. There are lots of constituencies, and I’ve had great support of people. I got a lot of “you’ve got to meet these people, oh let’s come, let’s go to dinner.” The network of St. Joe is very strong, and so is this network of St. Louis people. These relations are very interesting to me. This is a very connected town and especially the Catholic community.
Everyone seems to have a St. Joe story wherever I go.
Patch: How do you remember the names and faces of all those people?
Reznicek: I get good help before I go and have lots of pictures in my office. That helps a lot. Remember, there is just one of me. We have 600 students. We have 7,000 living alums, 1,200 parents. When you think of the ratio of number of people I need to meet it’s phenomenal, but I’m working at it.
Patch: Do you think you know all the girls in the school?
Reznicek: No, not even close. When I taught, I knew every student. Over the course of four years, every girl would be in my classroom at one time. You are in the classroom one on one, that’s a completely different environment of meeting 170 or 177 at a time. But my office is on the junior hall, so I get to see the same students every day and that helps. And I see students involved in activities whether its the musical or at Mass. It is a big school and it will take a while.
It’s a vary large school for an all-girls school. Typically, that population is around 300 to 350.
We have a great reputation. St. Joe is very, very lucky. We have a great academic reputation, great athletics. The fine arts are phenomenal. There is a place for everyone here. There are clubs and organizations. If they get to our front door, we know there is a place for them here.
Patch: Any thoughts to boosting academic programs in the future?
Reznicek: It’s always a goal of St. Joseph sisters to pursue a goal of academic excellence. I love hearing from our faculty ideas they have. Our math department and our English department are going to national conferences. Now there’s a great opportunity to go out and see what’s going on academically around the country.
I always attend national conferences, too, to see what are cutting edge for instance science, technology and math are really important for girls, and I love to hear what our faculty is learning.
Patch: How integral is athletics in the success of this school?
It’s very important because it’s all about self-discipline and even body images. If you just sit and study all day you are not a whole person. I ask students how do they exercise their bodies and how do they use it. I know they think clearer when they’ve exercised. They sleep better and actually, they are better students when they are involved. It’s an important part of their development as adolescents.
If we have a trapeze artist, we don’t know, because we don’t offer that. But we offer cross-country, and they can try and excel in different areas.
Run and jump and yell and scream is great at the end of the day of hard classroom work. It’s fabulous they can think about their bodies. We have dance. Even in the productions, there’s opportunity to do ballet and stretch and grow and learn about themselves in all kinds of ways.
Patch: If students are involved in sports and activities, getting to their homework can be much later in the evening.
Reznicek: We have students from 51 zip codes. We have several students who drive here from Illinois every day. Time management is a very important skill. It’s absolutely important for their life and for college, and they absolutely have to be doing that here. Some have jobs after school or have family responsibilities so they absolutely have to use time management to be successful at St. Joe.
Next report: the interview with Anita Reznicek concludes with a review of the national reputation, integrating new students into the system and other timely topics.