School Will Take on a New Name this Fall: All Saints Catholic School

WHEELING, W.Va.—Officials with the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston announced today that SS. James & John School in Benwood, W.Va., will be moving permanently to the former St. Francis Xavier Grade School building in Moundsville, W.Va.  The school has been operating in Moundsville since a fire at the adjoining St. John Parish in Benwood on March 30.

This is the latest in a series of announcements from the diocese related to the fire in Benwood that damaged St. John Church and its rectory and which also caused significant damage to the utility infrastructure that served SS. James & John School. In addition to the fire damage, the poor condition of the school building’s exterior components including the roof, parapets and masonry factored into the decision to not reopen SS. James & John School at the Benwood facility.

According to Bryan Minor, spokesman for the diocese, SS. James & John will remain intact as a school serving students in preschool through eighth grades and reopen next year in Moundsville, but with one change.

“In order to better reflect our students who enrolled from parishes in Benwood, McMechen (W.Va.), Moundsville, Glen Dale (W.Va.) and neighboring communities, the school is being renamed All Saints Catholic School, which will operate as a diocesan school rather than a parish school,” Minor said.  It will be the first primary school in the diocese to function with direct supervision from the diocesan Catholic Schools Office.

All Saints will support families from St. John Parish in Benwood, St. James Parish in McMechen, St. Francis Xavier Parish in Moundsville, St. Jude Parish in Glen Dale, St. Martin of Tours Parish in Cameron, W.Va., and St. Joseph Settlement Parish in Proctor, W.Va.  It is anticipated that clergy from those parishes will have a pastoral presence at All Saints.

At its Moundsville location, All Saints will receive significant investment from the diocese for its physical plant; advanced educational technologies, teacher training and support; as well as a special scholarship offer to all current SS. James & John families who register for the 2015-16 school year at All Saints.  Until June 30, families from SS. James & John who register at All Saints will receive a $500 tuition grant for their first child enrolled, $400 tuition grant for a second child enrolled and a $300 tuition grant for a third child enrolled.

Such a tuition grant schedule is consistent with the multi-child tuition plan already in place. It is anticipated that this tuition grant program can be extended into a possible second year.

According to the diocesan Superintendent of Catholic Schools, Dr. Vincent de Paul Schmidt, students and parents from the Benwood school will see their familiar staff members at All Saints, wear their same school uniforms, sport the same school colors and also retain their athletic team name, the “Saints.”  Schmidt is also finalizing plans for transportation services next academic year for students from the Benwood area, which began last month after the fire at St. John’s.

“Because SS. James & John School has been so strong in so many ways, we will continue to offer the same quality academic program and continue to enhance the academic rigor, family atmosphere, Catholic identity and service learning opportunities that exemplify a Catholic school.”

“We are also dedicated to the continued success of our students from Benwood and McMechen,” Schmidt added.  “They have been through so much.”

One of the current issues the diocese and school will resolve relates to school leadership, as Marilyn McWhorter, principal of SS. James & John, is retiring at the end of this academic year after four years of service.

“I told Father Bekeh when he hired me in 2011 that I was a temporary solution for him, and that I had already retired once and wasn’t looking for a long-term position,” McWhorter said.

“Even before the fire last month, actually 16 months ago, I informed our pastor and the superintendent of my decision to retire at the end of the 2015 school year.  I am not leaving because of the fire or because it’s becoming a diocesan school,” she added.  “Everyone in our school community knew that I would retire this year.”

“I admit that I will miss the students the most,” McWhorter added.  “They are the reason I came to SS. James & John in the first place, and I will miss them, their families and our wonderful teachers very much.”

The designated pastor of SS. James & John, Rev. Bekeh Utietiang, praised McWhorter for her service to the school.  “Marilyn came to us during a period of great uncertainty, and she is an outstanding professional,” he said.  “She has been an exceptional leader when we’ve needed her the most.”

Schmidt indicated that he has been conducting a search for a new principal for several months, and the search process is expected to conclude soon.  The successful candidate will advance to the bishop for approval.

“Because of the diocese’s involvement and significant investment of capital and operating support, All Saints will be poised for dramatic growth, and the Marshall County community will reap the benefits of this quality Catholic school,” Schmidt said. “Being principal of All Saints will be a fantastic opportunity for an educational leader who wants to build an innovative and dynamic Catholic school that already sits firmly on a solid foundation.”