Okay, full disclosure. I am a product of Catholic Education.
I was a Wildcat here in Orland Park circa '72-'80 (loved almost all of my eight years there) before heading to MAA in Lemont for four years of high school.
I used to think a Catholic education was "all that" with a "Hot Dog Day Friday" thrown in. Today, I cannot say that with a straight face and an internal need to get my butt to confession, pronto.
My family moved to Orland Park forty years ago from 86th and Wood where we were parishioners of St. Ethereda Parish. The neighborhood was changing quickly and my parents saw the move to the 'burbs the best for all involved.
Back then, Orland Park was a small town--believe it or not--way back when Harlem Avenue was a dirt road while 143rd and LaGrange was a four-way stop.
School District 135 was hardly the established state-of-the-art dream it is now, and so Mom and Dad enrolled us kids over at St. Mikes.
Dad’s opinions regarding a kid educated by a nun wielding a wooden ruler were quite clear. Dad felt with kids you "either pay now or pay later." And, so he chose to "pay now" by instructing mom to write the check for the tuition bill each month.
And with that mindset, once my oldest was ready to head to kindergarten, I filled out an app for our parish school and crossed my fingers.
We got a letter of acceptance on Christmas Eve 1999. I felt it was a sign from the baby Jesus on the eve of his birthday. Whispering this is what is meant to be...yep, I definitely thought this was the "right decision".
We were good Catholic soldiers the first few years. Perhaps all new parents (yes, even the "publics") are all rah rah regarding their youngsters formative years. I know we were.
The impressiveness of what the school promised to deliver was undeniable.
A brand new facility boasting experienced teachers, a state of the art computer lab, an art studio with a flippin' kiln, weekly school mass, Spanish instruction beginning in kindergarten, along with a "family community."
The Catholic administration assured us these were perks that a public school could not provide. In the same breath they assured us of their mission statement...Jesus would be "present" in each and every classroom.
Like a pamphlet advertising a vacation of a lifetime, all these years later, I am disappointed I didn't realize the marketing angle.
We woke up after a miserable first grade experience with our younger boy.
Clearly, Jesus was unable to find this particular classroom because the woman sitting at the desk exhibited behavior unacceptable to any child.
Unacceptable no matter how many questions he asked, how many times he rolled his eyes, or how many hours he hid out in a lower level bathroom so he wouldn't have to listen to the grown-up in the room harp on his "garbage penmanship" as she tossed assignment after assignment in the trash and required him to do it again until he got it right.
Yeah, a real peach...but as the pamphlet promised...she was experienced.
After a completely wretched year, we pulled the plug on the freak show and took his second grade show on the road to unfettered territories...to (gasp) public school.
Public school is a dirty word to most Catholics...I know, hardly the all encompassing acceptance and Christian love fest usually touted on Sunday morning before joining hands and singing Kumbaya.
I could go on and on about how "The Blue Ribbon Palace" sold my kids short, but that would just sound like sour grapes.
Instead, I'll share with you a well-known secret in Orland Park. Something the catholic soldiers with the blinders on do not realize nor appreciate.
School District 135. Simply phenomenal if you ask me.
When we enrolled our younger son at Prairie all those years ago, we chose to leave our oldest boy at The Blue Ribbon Palace.
He was headed to sixth grade and we feared switching him to a public junior high
at this point in his educational career was, well, cruel.
You know what was cruel? Leaving him there. Hindsight is 20/20.
He is now a well-adjusted junior at Sandburg while his younger brother is headed to seventh grade at Jerling.
The difference in the education each received...simply amazing.
I did not fully realize this until the younger experienced second, third, fourth and fifth and sixth grade "publicly".
The teachers at School District 135 are dedicated, seasoned, and fully aware that each and every child learns differently.
And, suffice it to say, in the five years we've enjoyed educational joy, we have not experienced one.single.stinker.
Our luck across town when we paid for our education (with the mystery tossed in at no extra charge) was not as good.
I don't kid myself, I'm quite sure there are a few bad apples in the District 135 bunch...I've just yet to meet one.
I will never regret the experiences and challenges my younger boy was fortunate to have.
And, that includes the time spent at the Blue Ribbon Palace. One cannot enjoy the sunshine without experiencing the rain.
Maybe you are on the fence regarding a catholic education or sending your kid to School District 135.
There is no question in my mind where a kid can get a quality education from dedicated teachers. I’ve been on both sides of the fence.
Catholic education can certainly be a viable alternative to public education in many towns. In my opinion and experience, our town does not seem to require an option.