Administrators review a successful third quarter

There was much to celebrate, Mrs. Barthel says


Jade Zhao

The Black History Month assembly was one of the highlights of the third quarter.

Nicholas Rodecap, Co-Editor-in-Chief

The third quarter of the school year is a busy time: the all-new addition of J-term on top of Catholic Schools Week, Winterfest, an impressive Black History Month assembly, ShamrAuction have all taken place over the last nine weeks. 

As spring break looms, it is clear that this eventful school year full of action and excitement is heading into its final stretch. 

“I feel third quarter has been amazing,” Principal Mrs. Julie Barthel said. “Starting with J-term. We could not have been happier with the way that turned out, especially when you do something that large, that different, that innovative, (for) the first time. We’re really proud of students trying new things, (and) teachers, especially, working really hard to try new things. We continued, when we came back, to get emails from parents saying unbelievable stuff, like, ‘this changed my kid’s perspective on school,’ or, ‘now my son or daughter knows what they want to maybe study in college.” 

Additionally, Barthel noted the success of the internship opportunities made available to upperclassmen and the future relationships that will form as a result of J-term. “We’ve had several alumni reach out and say, ‘We would like to be a part of J-term next year. Why couldn’t we be a part of it?’ so I think that got us off on a great start,” she said.

Vice Principal for Academics Mr. Mark Matthews shared his thoughts on the academic side of third quarter, saying J-term went well and that students and educators alike transitioned “pretty easily into the third quarter, so I think it’s been very successful,” he said. 

Monitoring academic progress

On the flip side of the transition from J-term’s pilot year to the third quarter of this school year is Vice Principal of Academic Support Mr. Brett Blondi. Although class-specific numbers have not yet been released, Blondi noted students’ academic performance during the last nine weeks. “I know that we have not had as many urgent cases where we have to help students with different things so that we can get them up to (a) passing (grade), so that’s been better,” he said. 

Success rarely comes without challenges, however. “I’m always surprised how resilient students are in the face of adversity,” Matthews said. “Coming in and out of masks and quarantine — I think students are always surprisingly resilient.” 

Alongside J-term, the March 3 on-campus SAT school day was another new development during the third quarter, and Barthel noted the teachers’ flexibility during a voyage into uncharted territory. “I’m always so proud of our teachers,” she said. “They’re very resilient. When we get something like an SAT, that’s a huge deal. You shut down your whole school, and I think we had seven (of our juniors) absent. Our entire Junior Class was here, on time, iPads charged. Our counselors did a great job.” 

In particular, Barthel noted the significant role that counselor Mr. Martin Kirkwood played in facilitating the SAT school day. “It didn’t surprise me; I’m just always proud of the Cathedral teachers when they step up and do what they need to do for our students,” she said. 

Students of all academic backgrounds make up nearly 1100 members of the Irish family. During his first year on the Hill, Mr. Blondi has noticed the faculty’s willingness to help students. “The surprise (this year has been) the range of students and the (levels) of support we provide to meet students where they are. I’ve also been very surprised at how talented our teachers are, our staff, the faculty, and all the different departments that we have,” he said. 

Coming to Indianapolis from Benton Consolidated High School in Southern Illinois, Blondi said he has been impressed with how everyone works together. “So many people are very mission-driven. I’ve really enjoyed that aspect, but the surprise is really the faculty. They surprise me with their flexibility, their work ethic, their talents.” 

Blondi continued, saying that another impressive aspect of student life is the volume of activities that take place on campus. “There’s a place for everyone,” he said. “Students that have all these different interests and talents and abilities have opportunities for them to be able to showcase those things, so that’s been wonderful. Coming from a smaller public school, there aren’t as many opportunities for certain populations, but at Cathedral, we really tailor to a lot of interests that students may have,” Blondi said. 

Barthel touched upon the result of the student body’s innumerable talents, emphasizing the success of athletics in addition to the arts. “We’ve had some great athletic success, our show choir, our theater is getting ramped up for the spring musical, so I think it’s been a great start,” she said. In the four days following the interview with Barthel, the men’s basketball team won their first Sectional title since 2013, and the Irish Adrenaline Show Choir won Grand Champion of the Small Unisex Division in a competition at Lafayette Jefferson High School. 

With both the mask requirement and third quarter becoming things of the past, the focus will shift to the last 25 percent of the school year. 

“We kept (masks) on so we could keep people in school,” Barthel said. “That’s always our goal – we want to be face to face. Now we’re hyper-focused, getting ready for spring sports, clubs, (and) activities.” 

Barthel continued, detailing what is in store for seniors as graduation draws ever closer: A focus on ensuring they are aware of every scholarship opportunity and, on a student-by-student basis, what type of post-Cathedral education suits them best. “I think that’s most high schools’ (focus) in the spring,” she said. 

Scheduling AP exams at Brunette

Before seniors receive their diplomas, many will take one or multiple AP exams at Brunette Park. “(We’re) making sure we’re doing all we can to get kids ready for that,” Barthel continued. “That looked a little bit different during Covid. We felt like (Brunette) has been a good testing environment for our kids, and we’re lucky that we have another space where we can do that,” she said. 

Matthews offered advice for students preparing for AP exams, saying that review sessions are helpful. “Make sure that you’re familiar with the format for whatever exam you’re taking. Go to AP Classroom and do some of the sample questions, and don’t forget that there are great resources for just about every class online,” he said. 

Blondi said that academics should be a focal point for students enrolled in AP courses. “Prioritizing academics – at this point in time, the weather’s starting to turn, we’re starting to think about next steps, (but you) don’t want to get the cart ahead of the horse. We want to make sure that (students) are still prioritizing their current classes and communicating with their (teachers) on what they need to do to meet or exceed their expectations in that specific class,” he said.

Blondi added, “It’s been a great year. I’m always welcome to help any student that wants to come by Loretto, and if I can help in any way, I’d love to. With a school of almost 1200 kids, it’s tough to meet in person, meet (students), and I’d love to hear everybody’s story and get to know kids a little bit better. I’m always here to help.” 

Senioritis is inevitable, and while it is important for students in the Class of 2022 to keep up their grades, Matthews said that what goes on in the classroom is not the be-all, end-all of Semester 8 for the seniors. “I would say, don’t focus solely on academics, but you want your senior year to be memorable for every reason,” Matthews said. “Whether that’s spring sports or prom that you didn’t get to go to last year, AP exams or other classes. Take it day-by-day and remember that each day at Cathedral is a gift and is as valuable as every day of your freshman and sophomore year.” 

In the last nine weeks of the school year, there are many things to look forward to as the sun draws closer to the horizon. On the academic side of the spectrum, Blondi will be crunching lots of numbers. “What we’re working on is getting the information from the assessments that we’ve used throughout the year and how we can help students with that. We get the test scores from the SAT and NWEA (tests),” he said. 

Additionally, Blondi is tasked with making sure everyone stays up-to-date on assignments. “(Helping) students who may be getting behind in some of their classes, or if they have any other support that they may need to get that final push, to help prepare them for their next step. Whether it be sophomore, junior or senior year, (or in the seniors’ case), we can help going into college. What can we do, working with the school counselors, to help plan for next year and all of our current students – we’re going to be doing that.” 

Blondi also added that a crucial focal point is supporting incoming freshmen in the Class of 2026. “Just getting ready to support them on the last leg of this year and preparing for next year,” he said. 

While fourth quarter can be a catalyst for stress between finals and AP exams, it is also home to many of the traditions beloved by Cathedral students past and present. Barthel said, “All the traditions that we’ve had in the past, and lost a little bit because of Covid: the Irish 500, painting the wall, seniors coming on campus to take their senior pictures, and of course, Baccalaureate – we’re coming back to having Baccalaureate in the (Welch Activity Center), so we can have all the family members that we want (in attendance). (Having) graduation out at Brunette Park again, I think that’s been beautiful the last two years.” 

Over two years removed from the day the world seemed to stand still and Covid-19 became a day-to-day reality, Barthel said there is no cause for concern at the moment. “Definitely glad to see the numbers going down, but still also paying attention – I was just working with a student in public health and safety (from Purdue University) who is doing a project about the effects of Covid, and I think we’re still seeing that. I think we have a lot of kids with social-emotional and anxiety issues that are coming up related to Covid. 

“We still have to always be careful that, even though our numbers are going down, there are a lot of people that have been impacted with either losing family members or friends or losing jobs. Definitely, seniors going to college – athletes staying for fifth and sixth years are impacting their scholarship opportunities, so definitely glad that the numbers are going down. But I still think (we have to pay attention to) the effects (that might be impacting our students),” she said. 

“I’m very proud to be the principal here,” Barthel said. “I’m very proud of our students and our teachers. We just got our magna and summa cum laude lists, and we’re looking at those. To people, it’s just a list of names, but to educators that were in here looking at it, (they were) like, ‘Oh, that’s such a great kid. They’ve done so much for our school,’ so this is a time of transition for us (where) we get to know (students) for four years, and you do such great things. 

“We’re proud of you, and we want to send you off, but we’re sad to see some of our great seniors that will be leaving us. We know they’re going to do great things when they leave.”