St. John Central welcomes Bishop

BELLAIRE — Students, faculty and community members gathered at St. John Central High School in Bellaire on Wednesday to welcome Diocese of Steubenville Bishop Jeffrey Monforton to their school.

St. John held the open house event to help boost enrollment for the next academic year. Information previously given to The Times Leader indicates St. John’s enrollment is at 40 this year, after the school lost a number of students in the wake of sanctions from the Ohio High School Athletic Association that caused the school to forfeit four of its 2015 football games. Kim Leonard, principal of St. John Central, is eager to welcome new students and said she was very pleased to see how many people turned out Wednesday in support of the school.

“I’m just so happy to see this many people here tonight,” Leonard said.

Leonard kicked off the open house in the gymnasium, which was filled with parents, current students and potential future attendees. She thanked everyone for coming, especially the bishop and all of the students, before turning over the floor to the speakers for the evening. The first guest to step up to the podium was math teacher George Irvin. Irvin spoke about the passion that many students have for their school.

“Our student body is one of our biggest assets,” Irvin said. “The smaller number of students allows for a much closer relationship between students and staff.”

Robert “Bubba” Kapral, the girls’ basketball coach, agreed that the students make the school special. He said the kids focus on academics first and noted the lowest grade point average for a player on his team last season was a 3.2. He praised the connection between students and coaches, citing it as one of the reasons he enjoys working for the school so much.

“I’ve been here 29 years because I love the place,” Kapral said. “The kids are the best there are.”

When Monforton had his turn at the microphone, he also spoke warmly of the students at St. John Central. He thanked the students for helping to promote and organize the event, saying it showed how much they care for their school. He said there are 13 schools in the Diocese of Steubenville, and he tries to visit each of them at least three or four times a year. He said he was honored to be speaking at the school, and to let the parents and students know that their bishop cares about the school.

“The best support we can give is presence,” Monforton said.

He believes what makes St. John special is the Catholic education that looks at the individual students, as well as the respect the students have for the school and one another. He said that while he understands people may be a little wary of the local diocese, they shouldn’t be afraid to look into a Catholic education for their children.

“Come kick the tires and take a look at it,” he said.

After the crowd had heard from all of the speakers, Leonard invited interested parents and potential students to explore the building and talk to teachers and current students. By letting potential students investigate what interests them, faculty members hope to encourage their interest and solidify their decision to attend St. John. As they walked around and learned more about the building, it became apparent that all the teachers and students have great pride in their school and are eager to show it off.

“I was an alumna of St. John,” said Arianne Leonard, a preschool teacher at the school. “When the teaching opportunity arose, I came back, and I’m so glad I did. I just love everything about it.”