On September 24th, 2020, St. Katharine of Siena School was honored as a National Blue Ribbon Exemplary High Performing School. The Blue Ribbon program, now in its 38th year, highlights the work of model school communities where students are supported, engaged, and challenged. The commendation will be an enduring visible symbol for the SKS community, with a National Blue Ribbon School flag and plaque gracing the entry, a reminder to all who enter that our school is a place of exemplary teaching and learning. This tremendous accomplishment was made possible, in large part through the efforts of two particular faculty members: Adria Crowley, kindergarten teacher, and David Heacock, 8th grade teacher. Beginning in September 2019, they facilitated our Blue Ribbon application process, documenting the strategies and practices that demonstrate our commitment to excellence.

The Blue Ribbon announcement arrived at the start of our 2020 school year — a perfectly timed acknowledgement of the strength of our community, as we had just spent months planning and preparing for the tremendous challenge of reopening school during a global pandemic. Teachers, students, parents, and the entire St. Katharine’s parish welcomed the news with tremendous pride, and we celebrated with a day off for students and faculty!

And the celebration continued, soon after, when the Connelly Foundation awarded SKS a generous $25,000 grant to further the school’s work. SKS is honored to be recognized by the Foundation, as an organization that demonstrates outstanding performance in meeting community needs. This award will be used to support a number of new initiatives, which are currently being researched by the school.

Our SKS Blue Ribbon pride is perfectly captured in the words of the Connelly Foundation trustees:

“Such recognition is truly a testament to your leadership, to the entire school community’s commitment to excellence, and to the deep values lived daily in faith, service, and fellowship. While a national recognition, it is the local lives that you so graciously develop each and every day for which we extend our sincere admiration.”

Even in this most incredible school year, SKS remains deeply committed to our mission of academic excellence, rigorous learning, and Catholic values of service and respect.



The Barcellona Family
The Benedetto Family
The Botzler Family
The Brennan Family
The Bruno Family
The Burns Family
The Chiazza Family
The Kolmer Family
The Kunda Family
The McAndrew Family
The McGurkin Family
The McLaughlin Family
The Morris Family
The Morris Family
The Colfer Family

The Cordoba Family
The Cox Family
The Daddesi Family
The Dalton Family
The Fugaro Family
The Grabuski Family
The Grimmig Family
The Groseclose Family
The Hellberg Family
The Hepp Family
The Hosmer Family
The Johnson Family
The Keeney Family
The Orr Family
The Peyton Family

The Regan Family
The Rogers Family
The Rupp Family
The Schuh Family
The Shevlin Family
The Smith Family
The Sylvester Family
The Tropea Family
The Weeks Family
The Whelan Family
The Wiley Family
The Young Family
The Zangerle Family

Join us in welcoming our new families! The 2020-21 school year has proved to be one like no other. It has forced our faculty, staff, and families to make adjustments to keep our school healthy, and it has also created the opportunity for growth, both on a personal level and as a school. This year, we welcomed forty-three new families – almost double the number of families that we welcomed in 2019 and 2018, respectively. This is a testament to SKS’s strong community and commitment to faith-based academic excellence, as well as the determination, hard work, and resilience of our faculty and staff to make in-person learning possible this school year. Thank you for choosing SKS!

The New Family Experience in 2020

SKS prides itself on its warm community and parent involvement. For existing families, the 2020-21 school year poses a sharp contrast to a normal year at SKS for reasons more profound than health checks, social distancing, and mask wearing. Gone are the days of school visits, in-person volunteer opportunities, and parent socials. But have these new dynamics had a detrimental effect on the new family experience? The short answer is no. SKS’s welcoming spirit has been felt through virtual platforms and new students have continued to thrive, both socially and academically. Here’s a glimpse at the new family experience in 2020:

The Johnson Family – Wes (Kindergarten) and Lee (Second Grade)

Why did you decide on SKS?
Why not shake things up in the middle of a pandemic? My husband, Kit, is an alumni of SKS, so it has always been in the back of our minds as a school that would likely be a good fit for our kids.

How was the transition for your second grader to a new elementary school?
The transition has been great. Our son has been so warmly welcomed by the kids in his class, and Mrs. DePetris is fantastic! She’s been extremely helpful and attentive at getting him settled and comfortable.

What have you liked the most so far?
This is the most welcoming, friendly community. The number of emails, phone calls and texts we received at the start of the year (and still now) to simply say hello, answer questions, make connections was amazing. The communication to and between staff, teachers and families is incredible, timely, consistent and positive. It feels like we’re part of a great team!

Has anything exceeded your expectations?
How easy it is to get the boys to wear the uniforms. Ha!

-Michelle Johnson

The Botzler Family – Jack (Kindergarten)

Why did you decide on SKS?
It’s hard to believe it was only a year ago (in completely different times!) when we were touring SKS and deciding if it would be a good fit for Jack and our family. The strong, welcoming community attracted us to SKS. The school’s focus on not only academics, but also on developing the whole person is very important to us. These areas have proven to be even more important during these current times, and we are so grateful every day for the SKS community!

How was the transition for your kindergartener?
Starting kindergarten at a new school during a pandemic, we were unsure of what to expect. It had been about six months since Jack had been in school! SKS did a terrific job of welcoming all of the children back to a school environment and making both the kids (and parents!) feel safe and comfortable. The strong focus on how to be a good friend fosters such a warm environment and helped make the transition so smooth. Jack is constantly saying, “My teachers are SO nice!” We are so grateful for his teachers, the staff, and for all of the new friendships he is forming that helped make the transition so smooth!

What have you liked the most so far?
Jack would say, “my teachers, my friends, and the soft pretzels.” We have been so happy for Jack to have the opportunity to attend school in person and are amazed at how much he has learned in such a short amount of time. The teachers and staff are constantly going above and beyond to help the students learn and give them a slice of normalcy during these current times.

Has anything exceeded your expectations?
SKS’s health and safety plan and commitment to keeping the kids in school has far exceeded my expectations. When we started in September, I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I have been constantly amazed at their ability to adapt to changing conditions. Also, their ability to adapt traditional events such as Halloween to make things still fun for the kids despite the circumstances has been great. Thank you SKS for helping to keep our kids safe and in school!

– Laura Botzler


A little more than 2,000 years ago in the little town of Bethlehem, a child was born. But, it was not like any other; it was our Savior and he was born into a troubled world. At that time, God’s chosen people were surrounded by their enemy, the Romans, restricted in their daily activities and taxed without concern for their well-being.

This year, we also find ourselves in a troubled world, surrounded by an enemy we cannot even see and we, too, are restricted in our daily activities, and our patience is taxed, our well-being challenged. Among the many restrictions were two long-standing, treasured traditions in our school: the annual Christmas concert and Christmas Tableau. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, these wonderful activities could not be presented live but had to be recorded and presented virtually. I hope you will enjoy them when they are made available through our parish website and OptionC.

But, not to be defeated, our school’s Home and School Board, led by a very imaginative and resourceful Jennifer Driscoll and her husband Adam, worked very hard with a handful of dedicated parents to prepare a Live Nativity with some hardy seventh graders and complete with live animals. Last weekend, a small but well-coordinated group of parishioners transformed our school’s playground into a five-stop Live Nativity presentation. Last Sunday, over 360 cars drove through to experience the Annunciation, the Holy Family’s arrival in Bethlehem, shepherds out in the fields, the birth of our Lord and the empty cross.

Of course, we all know it began with the Annunciation when the Angel Gabriel, accompanied by a sheep (yes, that’s a real live sheep!) told Mary that she would bear a son and would name him Jesus.

We all know that Joseph and Mary traveled to Bethlehem. There was no room in the Inn, so they went to the manger next door, which they shared with an alpaca. Meanwhile, shepherds were standing watch in the fields when they heard angels proclaim the birth of a Savior.

So they hastened to Bethlehem where they found Mary and Joseph with the infant Jesus settled into the manger, accompanied by an angel, a donkey and a baby goat that had befriended the Blessed Mother.

As those who visited the Live Nativity heard on the audio presentation that accompanied it, “While Christmas celebrates the birth of a Savior, the story finds its concluding significance in what the life of Jesus was meant to do. You see, Christmas celebrates the Savior born for us. What the Bible teaches is that this Savior brought salvation not only in His life, but through His death on a cross. Christmas remembers the birth of Jesus, yet the Bible reminds us that Jesus was born to die for us, saving us from our sin and raising us to new, eternal life so that at the name of Jesus, every knee would bow in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth. Jesus came, lived a perfect life and died on a cross to defeat sin and death in our life, and bring us eternal salvation. This is what Christmas is all about.”

In the name of everyone who visited the Live Nativity, I want to thank all those who prepared and presented it. This was, indeed, an inspirational event, a great way for all who came to be reminded why Jesus, the Son of God, came into our midst: to overcome sin and death and lead us all back to the Father!


– Monsignor Brouwers

Kristen Walheim

Tell us a little about where you were born and raised.
I was born and raised in Malvern, Pennsylvania on December 25, 1993. I have a Christmas Day birthday and I am turning 27.

Where did you go to school? What were your favorite activities there?
I went to St. Patrick School in Malvern for grade school, Villa Maria Academy High School and Catholic University. I played basketball for 4 years, 2 years as captain, and we went to the Landmark Conference. I graduated this December from Villanova with a Masters in Education, concentration in Teacher Leadership.

How many years have you been at SKS?
What is your favorite part of your day at SKS? This is my 3rd year at SKS teaching 4th grade. I teach all subjects. My favorite part of the day at SKS is talking with my coworkers before and after school. My favorite subject to teach is ELA. I especially love reading novels with my class!

What are COVID challenges in the classroom these days? What do you find rewarding?
The most challenging part of teaching during Covid has been online classes, Zoom, and computer issues, etc. The most rewarding part of teaching during COVID has been being a part of the SKS community. I am amazed at how supportive and committed all of our families and faculty are to ensuring that our students receive the education which they deserve. We are all so fortunate to be a part of such a uniquely strong community.

How has COVID affected your ability to teach from a positive and negative viewpoint?
COVID has definitely affected my teaching strategies. From the way my classroom is set up to the type of collaboration tools we are coping with. Positively, I am learning so much about technology and how to integrate technology into our curriculum. I think that all teachers have road bumps but none can be too severe to make us not feel lucky to be in school. I would be willing to change it all again if it meant that we are teaching here at SKS.

Where do you currently live? I currently live in Wayne.

Name something that your family does every year.
Every year our family spends tons of time following the Villanova basketball team. It will definitely be different this basketball season.


After I graduated in 2014, I attended Conestoga High School and now study at Miami University of Ohio. At Miami, I major in Marketing with a Co-Major in Arts Management as well as minors in Musical Theatre and Theatre Arts. I am also involved in the marching band and student theatre organization, Stage Left.

One experience at SKS that has stuck with me, both in my education and in daily life situations, was Speak Up! I was a part of the group in both my years at St. Katharine’s where I was able to be a facilitator and have meaningful discussions with a diverse group of people. Learning how to carry out respectful conversations and improve communication in almost any situation has been so helpful in many contexts and the skills will continue to be useful.

Another great memory was the live Stations of the Cross in 8th grade. It was so much fun to work on something as a whole class where everyone contributed and then share it with the SKS community. I was a narrator as well as part of the musicians, and I loved being able to interact with my faith in a unique way that also incorporated my passion for music.

School Year 2020-21: Solving and Sustaining for our Students

In this year of the COVID-19 pandemic, every school has its own story to tell. Like so many other Catholic schools, the SKS story reflects a firm grounding in faith and learning. Like other tales of school reopening, this story has its fair share of masks, tape measures, and hand sanitizer. But this story, in fact, unfolds in a way that is truly unique to SKS, that reflects the fearless determination and relentless creativity of this remarkable community.

After watching his teachers completely transform their teaching in the early months of the COVID-19 crisis, Mr. Tosti had seen in practice what he had always known to be true — the SKS faculty and staff members were capable of making magic for their students. So when the Archdiocese guidelines for fall 2020 school reopening arrived on his desk, before the 2019-20 school year had even wrapped up, Mr. Tosti swiftly jumped into action to assemble the SKS COVID-19 Task Force, a group that included Monsignor Brouwers, teachers, staff, and parents. Meeting at least weekly, the Task Force moved through June, July and August crafting the plan that would allow SKS to reopen and stay open for all students, beginning on September 9th.

The Task Force used the Archdiocesan guide as the plan template, together with recommendations from the CDC, CHOP, the American Academy of Pediatrics, Johns Hopkins University, and other top level sources. The planning was guided, also, by the expertise of two practicing physicians, Drs. Julie Hayes and Mike Duncan, both SKS parents and Task Force members. Using all of these inputs, the group redesigned the SKS model from the ground up, with facilities, policy, daily operations, staffing, all reshaped to safeguard the health and safety of the students, faculty, staff, and families.

As the summer progressed, the plans on paper quickly sprung to life, with the redesign of classrooms and campus spaces, teachers hard at work on Google Certification and other tech training, the drafting of countless daily protocols that would guide everyone safely through the school day. And, of course, this also included the seemingly endless unpacking of boxes, boxes, and more boxes, filled with the masks, thermometers, disinfectant, and all of the other essentials that have now become standard school supplies.

As we turn the pages of the SKS reopening story, one name does seem to appear on nearly every page — Suzanne Manion, fearless school nurse and Task Force member. When she arrived at SKS four years ago, Mrs. Manion brought with her twenty years of experience as a pediatric RN at CHOP. Her medical expertise, her meticulous attention to detail and her calm demeanor are precisely suited to the daily demands of running a school during a pandemic. Each day, Mrs. Manion oversees the health screenings, test results, and wellness protocols of the entire school community. But her role does not end there. She knows that the social and emotional well-being of the community require the same level of care and attention. Mrs. Manion makes daily visits to classrooms to thank students for following precautions, personally welcomes students back to school after quarantine, and makes countless phone calls to families to check in when students are at home.

Mrs. Manion is quick to assert that the SKS story does not have just a single main character, emphasizing that the heroism of the SKS story reflects the united effort of a group of people driving relentlessly and resiliently toward a shared goal. In her words, “Everyone is willing to do a job that’s not theirs…someone is always ready to wipe down a railing, refill the hand sanitizer, take a temperature.” She points to the committed and engaged leadership of Monsignor Brouwers and Mr. Tosti, the courage and dedication of the faculty, the adaptability of the students, and the resource support of the Home and School Board and the Board of Limited Jurisdiction.

The tale of the SKS 2020-21 school year is far from over. The Task Force members are already hard at work refining and adjusting in preparation for January and the post-holiday reopening. Given all we’ve seen, though, we can already predict the moral of this story — as Mrs. Manion says, “Our students are learning a tremendous amount from this experience. They’re really seeing up close that there are times in life when you truly have to work hard for something. There are times you have to pivot. They’re realizing that their future and their education are so important that the adults in their lives are moving heaven and Earth to make school happen.”