Updated: Sep 2, 2022
The following story appeared in the August 26 Idaho Catholic Register.
New clothes, new teacher, new classmates, new day!
Top, Sacred Heart Boise first grade students with Father Roger Fernando and their teacher, Emily Major. (Courtesy photo/Sacred Heart FB page)
Middle row right, St. Ignatius Meridian students are hard at work on the first day. (Courtesy photo/St. Ignatius Facebook page)
Middle row left, St. Mark’s Boise students are happy to be together again. (Courtesy photo/Amanda LaMott)
At bottom, St. Joseph’s Boise boys ham it up on the first morning of school. (Courtesy photo/St. Joseph Facebook page)
By Emily Woodham
Like most teachers, Randy McCormick, the new principal at St. Joseph’s Catholic School in Boise, went into education to make a difference. He had been in real estate, but he felt the call to be a teacher. “I’m so glad I answered that call,” he said.
What he didn’t expect was how much teaching would shape him, especially in the inner city schools of southern California.
“I thought that I had something to
provide in the inner city schools, but in hindsight, I think I learned more than the students did,” he said.
McCormick is bringing his 21 years of experience in public and Catholic education to St. Joseph’s School. But he also has in his background an experience that not many dads can boast: He spent five years as a stay-at-home parent to his three children.
“By far, that was the hardest job I have ever had,” he said.
McCormick taught in the Long Beach, Calif. Unified School District, when he decided to pursue his master’s degree in administration. “It was after I had lost my third student to violence that I decided to go into administration,” he said.
After that, he and his wife, Erica, decided to relocate their family. Erica found a position as an occupational therapist with the Boise School District in 2006. They sent all their children to St. Joseph’s School. After his five years as a stay-at-home dad, he noticed in a church bulletin that St. Paul’s School in Nampa needed a new principal. “I was really blessed to land at St. Paul’s,” he said.
McCormick became principal of St. Paul’s in 2010. Working with the community at St. Paul’s and with the pastor at the time, Father Jerry Funke, was a wonderful experience, he said. “Catholic identity was really palpable; you could really see that at St. Paul’s. Father Jerry really encouraged me to jump in with both feet,” he said.
In 2016, McCormick left St. Paul’s to teach at Ridgvue High School in Nampa. However, he missed being in a Catholic school. “I truly believe it makes such a deeper connection when you’re able to share your faith in the classroom,” he said.
Being able to share his faith and keeping a Catholic identity in the school is important to him, McCormick said. He converted to Catholicism from the Methodist Church after he met his wife in 1993.
She knew he was struggling because his brother had been killed by a drunken driver. So she invited him to Mass. “My faith was shaken to the core, and I was angry,” he said. “But in so many ways in my life, God has put people or situations in front of me that I can point to and say, ‘This is divine intervention.’ ” Meeting Erica and her family was one of the points, he said.
Erica’s father encouraged him to continue to go to Mass, even if it was just to spend time being thankful. “I started going to Mass regularly and then went to RCIA and became Catholic.”
Along with keeping the Catholic identity at St. Joseph’s, McCormick also wants to build community. “We’re coming out of a very challenging time the last two years,” he said. “For all schools, there wasn’t a lot of student growth because of the challenges of COVID.” The pandemic also created a disconnect in communities, he said.
“All schools, all families, all communities have to heal,” he said. “We have to give grace to our community, most importantly to our little ones, our students.”
By Emily Woodham
Idaho Catholic schools began their new academic year on the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. “I think it’s beautiful and significant that we started on that feast day,” said Stephany Herrera, new principal for St. Paul’s School in Nampa. “Because with any goal, you start with the end in mind, and ultimately our goal is to be like Mary and go to heaven.”
Herrera hit the ground running as principal of St. Paul’s as soon as the last academic year ended. Throughout the summer, she met with Father Justin Brady, pastor of St. Paul’s Parish, faculty, staff and parents of students. The community helped to
renovate parts of the 100-year-old school.
“It has been a full community effort to get ready for the school year,” she said. “I am so grateful for St. Paul’s. I would absolutely have to thank the community because
every single person I met asked, ‘What can I do?’ ”
In addition to all the physical work on the building, Herrera has been researching and choosing curriculum for the Classical school. The school is a part of the Institute for Catholic Liberal Education, which emphasizes liberal arts and an integrative approach to education.
“Parents are the primary educators, and Catholic schools really help complement that in such a beautiful way to build roots for the students,” she said. “Bridging the academics with the spiritual so that you can work on the whole development of the child is an art form.”
Keeping Catholic identity in a school must be intentional, she said. Of all the things Catholic schools do, helping develop children’s spiritual roots is the most important. “Life is messy; the world is messy. The kids are going to have to live in messy. But when those roots are strong and develop, they know where to go, what to do when things get hard and how to come home,” she said.
“I like to work off of themes, and the theme that we came up with for St. Paul’s this year is, ‘Totus Tuus,’ ‘Totally Yours.’ So the whole year, we are making sure that our decisions are going to be focused and centered on Christ.”
Before coming to St. Paul’s, Herrera worked at Bishop Kelly High School in Boise for 11 years, first as student support director and then as assistant vice principal of academic affairs. Before working at BK, her emphasis was in special education for elementary and secondary grades.
“One of my cousins inspired me to go into special education,” she said. “He has physical impairments and is blind, and he is an absolutely gifted musician. I went to school for education because I wanted to be a part of bringing out that magic, that music, in each student.”
She completed her bachelor’s degree in special education and her master’s in special education and administration at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas.
She married her husband, Ed Herrera in 1994. They moved with their two young children to Boise in 2006.
Herrera describes her upbringing as being “casual Catholic.” Ed was also raised Catholic, but he was not Confirmed until adulthood, when their daughter received her First Holy Communion.
“Ed decided that year to go through RCIA to get Confirmed. That’s what really ignited a fire of faith in our family,” she said. Ed is now beginning his acolyte year in the diaconate program for the Diocese of Boise. Stephany recently completed her certificate in Catholic theology-catechesis from the McGrath Institute at Notre Dame.
By Gene Fadness
Brian Cummings, who has spent the last year as the Dean of Students at St. John Bosco Academy in Cottonwood, is the school’s new principal.
Cummings replaces James Hickel who has been appointed as the founding headmaster at Chesterton Academy of Orlando in Florida.
“I am leaving Saint John Bosco Academy in good hands in order to help new Catholic Classical high schools get start-ed. I will share the virtues, best practices, and successes I have experienced at St. John Bosco Academy with other new schools,” Hickel said.
Cummings is a native of Albuquerque. He attended public elementary schools but attended high school at St. Pius X High School in Albuquerque. After high school, he earned a bachelor’s degree in communications from Loyola-Mary-mount University in Los Angeles.
Following graduation, he spent a year with the Jesuit Volunteer Corps working with homeless children in Seattle. He then returned to St. Pius X High School for two years to teach theology to high school sophomores and juniors, filling in for a teacher who
was on sabbatical. When the teacher returned, he went back to Seattle where he married his wife of 26 years, Rebecca.
Cummings then became a Seattle firefighter. “For the next 25 years, I spent my time on the frontline, in the Fire Marshal’s office, working for the Training Division, and retiring as a captain,” he said.
During his career with the fire department, he continued to teach for youth groups at various parishes and coached soccer and track.
For the last eight months of his career, he commuted from Seattle to their new home in Idaho. After they had moved to Idaho, he and his wife searched for a Catholic school for their youngest children to attend and learned about St. John Bosco Academy.
Cummings was later hired as Dean of Students at the school. “I spent the last year working at St. John Bosco Academy under Jim’s mentorship and the prayers and hospitality of the great community of families there. I hoped to continue as the high school Dean of Students, but Jim left and, after much prayer and encouragement, I humbly applied to be the principal.”
“I have a heart for kids,” Cummings said. “I think education is such a powerful tool that can be used for good or evil, and my love of our Catholic faith continues to grow the more I learn. My hope is that educating kids about the One who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life will begin to take back the culture and grow the kingdom of heaven here on earth.”
Cummings and his wife, Rebecca, have five children. Their two oldest adult children live in Florida. A daughter will begin attending Benedictine College in January and their two youngest attend St. John Bosco Academy.
By Emily Woodham
Amanda Kuznia prayed for a year to discern whether to change her career from teaching to administration. Her husband, Ben, as well as a mentor were encouraging her to use her gifts in leadership, but she wanted to be sure before she made the switch. Then during a homily by Father Len MacMillan, then pastor at Holy Apostles in Meridian, she knew what she was meant to do.
“He talked about the way God sews us together in the womb in a specific way to serve the world. And when we run or hide from that, we aren’t honoring the gifts he gave us,” Kuznia said. “We have to humble ourselves to be able to listen to what He is telling us.”
Encouraged by what she heard, she decided to enroll Northwestern Nazarene University to study administration. Now, she is the new assistant principal at St. Joseph’s Catholic School in Boise.
Before her interview with St. Joseph’s School, she prayed during Mass, “God you have probably told me exactly what you want from me. You also made me stubborn, and I am going to need a little more.” The next words from her current pastor at Holy Apostles, Father Vitalis Onyeama, were, “When God opens a door for you, walk through it.”
When the doors opened at St. Joseph’s, she was excited to make the switch to Catholic education, she said.
“I am still a huge supporter of public education and feel like it should be supported and funded better. But, St Joe’s is where I have been called to be. I feel great about that decision,” she said.
Kuznia didn’t always want to be in education. She went into counseling and worked with foster care youth in California.
“I just kept thinking that if I could spend more time with these kids, I could make a bigger difference,” she said. “Teaching seemed to be where God was calling me.”
Kuznia moved to Boise from Redding, Calif. 17 years ago. She met her husband in 2015. One of their first dates was to Easter Mass. It was the first time she had been to a Catholic Mass.
“I fell in love with the beauty and history of the Church. I was baptized and confirmed the following year at Easter,” she said. She and Ben have three children.
Kuznia taught fourth and fifth grades before becoming the K-12 Instructional Technology Specialist for the Boise School District. She then served as principal for the Boise Online School for one year. Last year, she was vice principal at a Boise elementary school.
“I think the most important thing for kids is for them to become well-rounded and positive, contributing members of our global society. That includes identifying your God-given talents and how they can best be used to serve Him,” she said.
“The staff, students and parents here are simply incredible. I look forward to working with Randy to help continue to grow the culture.”
Cox, Izzo begin first full year as Catholic school principals
In our Feb. 11 issue, the Idaho Catholic Register profiled Sara Cox, the principal at Sacred Heart School in Boise and in our April 8 issue, we profiled Sandy Izzo, the new principal at St. Mary’s School in Moscow.
Cox, who has 13 years of Catholic school education and was a first-grade teacher at St. Joseph Catholic School in Boise, was named principal at Sacred Heart earlier this year and mentored last semester and this summer under outgoing interim principal John Loffer.
Cox completed her degree in education at the University of Northern Iowa in 2008. She and her husband, Jared, moved to Boise in 2009. She began teaching first grade at St. Joseph’s Catholic School in Boise soon after settling in the area. She earned a master’s degree in literacy from Boise State University in 2013.
Izzo is a native of Moscow and a graduate of Moscow High School. She enlisted in the U.S. Navy, serving for nearly 10 years as an electronics technician. After her enlistment, she returned to her hometown to attend the University of Idaho and then worked at the Coeur d’Alene Tribal School as the math instructional coach for three years and a classroom teacher for two years.
She then started at St. Mary’s Catholic School, a Presbyterian teaching 1st Grade students in a Catholic school.
During her second year of teaching, she said she would “slip into the 2nd Grade” during her classroom prep time to learn about the Sacraments of Initiation from her former students as they were preparing for First Holy Communion. She liked the idea that her former 1st Grade students were teaching her what they were learning about Reconciliation and First Holy Communion. Her students must have been good teachers. She became Catholic.
In addition to teaching, Izzo has also been the technology coordinator for the school and implemented a Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) Program for all grades.
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