BCACS Mission Statement

Battle Creek Area Catholic Schools, in partnership with parents, community and the Catholic Church, provide students with an excellent education and solid faith formation. Students will know the Faith, share the Faith, and live the Faith.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

"It made me happy inside."

BCACS parents Graham Smith and Amy Young wanted their children, first-grader Ward and preschooler Rafferty, to understand the spirit of giving.

“We are very fortunate,” Ms. Young said. “It is important that we show our kids that many others are not and since we are able, we can help.”

Last year, the family sold items they weren’t using and donated the profits to Haven’s Gap which helps homeless children gain access to tutoring and recreation. This year, Ms. Young wanted to use the same method, but with a different beneficiary – St. Joseph Elementary School.

“There is no other place we would want our children to go to school in Battle Creek,” Ms. Young said. “It is a wonderful place with amazing, loving, and hardworking teachers and staff. Our project is just a tiny thank you from us.”

Ward and Rafferty picked which of their toys to sell.

“The kids were very excited to donate to their school,” Ms. Young said. “I think it gave them a stronger connection to where their money was going and got them very motivated to go through their things.”

Ward and Rafferty presented the money to their classes, each having raised $162.87.

Their teachers were genuinely surprised.

“To be so little and to want to donate so much was very generous,” preschool teacher Kelly. Francisco said. “[Rafferty] was so loving and showed the true meaning of what Christmas is all about. She let her light shine.”

[l. to r.] St. Joseph Principal Sara Myers, preschool teacher Kelly Francisco, and Rafferty Smith.

[l. to r.] First-grade teacher Devin Dubois and Ward Smith

First-grade teacher Devin Dubois was familiar with the family’s charity work, having had Ward in her kindergarten class last year.

“When they chose to give the funds from their toy donation to our class this year, I felt humbled,” Ms. Dubois said. “I think it is great that Ward's family has instilled the importance of giving back and it's so amazing to see this type of charity at such a young age.”

Their classmates were impressed.

“They were all very surprised that [Rafferty] was willing to sacrifice her toys,” Ms. Francisco said. “I think they were very proud of her and inspired by her as well.”

“The class was excited that Ward had decided to give the amount of money to our class to use for something,” Ms. Dubois said. “They were also thankful.”

Ms. Francisco hasn’t decided what to do with Rafferty’s gift yet. She is discussing options with her students, wanting it to be “fun and academic”.

Ms. Dubois class decided to buy new math manipulatives and library books.

“I can't wait to incorporate all our new items into the classroom,” Ms. Dubois said. “This truly couldn't have been done without Ward's family's support for our school and classroom.”

And how did these grade-school benefactors feel about their gifts?

“I was little embarrassed from all the attention but really happy we did it,” Ward said.

“It made me happy inside,” Rafferty said.

And it made all of us at BCACS happy, too!

Thursday, December 14, 2017

SCRIP goes digital

Tuition. Who doesn’t want to reduce it?

SCRIP or School Cost Reduction Incentive Program has been helping families do just that without the fuss of fundraising. Families purchase gift cards from the school for places they frequent as customers. While they enjoyed face value of their money, SCRIP takes a percentage of each card. Half goes against the family’s tuition bill and half remains with the school. It is a win-win.

Now families can order SCRIP without the trip to the St. Joseph Parish Center. In fact, they can order SCRIP in their pajamas, in their car, even in line at Target.

It starts with going to www.ShopWithScrip.com. SCRIP Coordinator Joy Finnila recommends creating an account on a computer as opposed to a smartphone. Don’t worry; the cool smartphone-part is coming!

Click “Get Started” and then “Join a SCRIP Program”. Our BCACS Enrollment Code is: 4884793F457.

Once you have an account, you can easily sort through all 813 local and national vendors. When you select a vendor, you get a choice. There is the “Physical Gift Card” that goes in your wallet or a “ScripNow eCard”, which you can access through a phone or computer.

Certain vendors allow you to reload an existing card, provided it was purchased through SCRIP and registered to your account.

When you register a card, you can give it a name. Helen Guzzo, longtime BCACS parent and frequent SCRIP user, designated a Meijer card for each member of her family. It’s a great way to give gas money to teenage drivers.

Reloads take 24 hours to become available after purchase. Some vendors have a “ReloadNow” option, which gives instant access after purchase.

When you finish selecting your cards, you have two options to pay. The “check” option sends the order to Ms. Finnila. Much like traditional SCRIP, you show up at the SCRIP office, drop off your check and pick up your cards.

The “PrestoPay” option sends payment from your checking account, enabling “ReloadNow” to be truly NOW. “PrestoPay” takes a couple of days to set up and requires your bank account and routing number. There is a 15-cent fee per transaction, but you can buy as many cards as you like per transaction.

You can also create a SCRIP wallet for your smartphone. Type www.myscripwallet.com in your phone’s browser, log in, and click “add to home screen”. An icon will appear, which opens your digital SCRIP wallet.

Making SCRIP more accessible makes tuition more affordable. It doesn’t just help one family, but the whole BCACS family.

“The power of SCRIP is in the marginal use,” Mrs. Guzzo said. “The more people who use it, the bigger the impact for our schools.”

That power isn’t limited to school families.

Mrs. Guzzo is a big advocate of “Tuition Angels” – people outside the school who buy SCRIP and designate the rebate for a school family. Mrs. Guzzo is grateful for her family’s “Tuition Angels”.

“My Angels were supporters of the schools and supporters of my children,” Mrs. Guzzo said.

Now that her youngest daughter is set to graduate, Mrs. Guzzo has become an “Angel” for the BCACS band program.

“It’s truly the app that keeps me being a regular user,” Mrs. Guzzo said. “I’m doing social good just by spending my regular money.”

Want to learn more? Contact Joy Finnila at 269-963-3034 or jfinnila@bcacs.org.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

It’s a difficult track, but one Coach Minier won’t run alone

St. Philip track coach Jeff Minier built his championship program around a simple philosophy.

“Track is a team sport, not an individual sport.”

Recent health issues have shown Coach Minier he’s a member of the BCACS family, not just a BCACS coach.

Coach Minier began suffering tremors last March. A barrage of doctors ran a barrage of tests, but they had no answers. Meanwhile, the 2017 track season was underway. Since this team included his own children (Tim, Class of 2017, and Gabby, Class of 2020), Coach Minier decided to let everyone know.

“I told them, ‘I don’t know what’s going on, but by God, we are here to run track, and we’re not here to worry about this stuff,’” Coach Minier said.

The St. Philip Track Team after winning their fourth west division championship in 2017.
The assistant coaches and team captains took on more responsibility and St. Philip earned their fourth division, third league, and first regional championships. The tremors, however, continued. The Minier family couldn’t help but worry. 

Coach Minier decided to go to the Mayo Clinic over Thanksgiving Break. As his appointment approached, his BCACS family mobilized.

The high school said a Rosary at the Grotto, each class leading a decade for Coach Minier’s health.

“Jeff has done so much for our kids,” St. Philip Principal Vicky Groat said. “He’s always pushing them to be better, not just as athletes but as young men and women.”

St. Philip High School students saying the Rosary at the Grotto for the Minier Family.
“I found it very humbling that anyone would think that highly of me to want to do something,” Coach Minier said. “I will take all the help I can get.”

A group of moms from the Class of 2017 contacted Penna Michele, longtime BCACS teacher, to make a prayer quilt from track t-shirts.

“Penna is amazing,” Jeanine Winkler, one of the moms, said. “She put aside another project she was doing in order to do that.”

The elementary and middle school had an out-of-dress-code fundraiser to give the Miniers some spending money while at the Mayo Clinic. The money arrived with the quilt.

“That really threw [my wife and me] backward,” Coach Minier said. “We were dumbfounded that they would do anything. I don’t really have anything to do with the elementary and middle school.”

Mrs. Doyle’s first-grade class sent an additional gift while the Miniers were at Mayo.

“We made him a Rosary book letting him know that we're thinking of him and offering him and his family up in prayer,” Mrs. Doyle said. “I had [the Minier] children here at school, and I think the world of him and Christy.”

The Rosary book was waiting when the Miniers returned.

“I don’t know who [the first-graders] are, and they probably don’t know who I am, but they took time out of their day to do something,” Coach Minier said. “That brought me back to the fact that I’m not just a coach at the high school and my kids aren’t just at a high school.”

“Once you come through our doors, even if you are only there for a year, you are part of the family,” Mrs. Groat said. “We wrap our arms around each other.”

The power of prayer has produced good news. The doctors have diagnosed Coach Minier with a functional movement disorder, a condition that responds well to physical therapy.

It’s a difficult track, but one he won’t run alone.

Mr. Minier (center) with the "dream team" from the Class of 2017. These young men had been running the relay together since their St. Joseph Middle School days when Coach Minier put the team together.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

St. Philip's homegrown paleontologists

St. Philip High School students Ellie Stewart, Maggie Hill and Abby Hill were working on a physics project last spring. They spotted two large bones in a bin near their workstation. There was an inscription, “Billy found 1955 Ark.” They asked their science teacher Stephanie Halbert a question.

“What are these?”

The bones predated Ms. Halbert’s time at St. Philip, so she posed a question back.

“Do you want to find out?”

They did.

The students named the bones “J.A.M.E.S.”, using the first initial of each investigative team member: Maggie, Abby, Ellie, then-senior Joshua Klavinski, and Stephanie Halbert. They thought the bones might be from an elephant.

Ms. Halbert contacted Laura Abraczinskas, Michigan State University Museum Vertebrate Collections Manager. The museum had elephant bones on display. On April 14th, J.A.M.E.S. and his team went to East Lansing.

“Ellie went into the elephant exhibit and compared our bones, and they were obviously different,” Maggie said.

Ellie comparing J.A.M.E.S. to African Elephant skeleton at MSU
Ms. Abraczinskas referred the team to the University of Michigan, which had mammoth remains. Ms. Halbert sent pictures to mammoth specialist Dr. Adam Rountrey, Research Museum Collections Manager at U of M’s Museum of Paleontology. Dr. Rountrey thought it might be from a cow, but Ms. Halbert, having grown up on a dairy farm, disagreed.

Summer came and went. The team reassembled in September, this time as an official science club. One of the new members, Miklo Hernandez-Mendez, discovered the bones fit together.

“I saw there was a connection,” Miklo said. “One was in, and one was sticking out.”

Miklo fits J.A.M.E.S. back together.
The team sent new pictures to Dr. Rountrey, who wanted to see the bones for himself.

On October 21st, the science club took J.A.M.E.S. to U of M, where it proved bigger than the mammoth bones.

Dr. Rountrey wondered if it could be from the tail of a glyptodont, an ancestor of an armadillo, or a ground sloth. He took 3D scans of J.A.M.E.S., which are now part of the University of Michigan Online Repository of Fossils. He sent the scans to Dr. H. Greg McDonald, an expert on sloths.

St. Philip Science Club members examing J.A.M.E.S. with Dr. Rountrey [l.]
“The coolest part was seeing Dr. Rountrey excited about it,” Ellie said.

A few weeks later, Dr. McDonald confirmed that J.A.M.E.S. is from a Harlan’s Ground Sloth, easily over 11,000 years old.

“This has been one of the most interesting identifications with which I have been involved,” Dr. Rountrey said. “It's the kind of ‘attic discovery’ kids dream of finding.”

The answer led to another question. Where was J.A.M.E.S. found?

If the bones are from Arkansas, it would be the first evidence of ground sloths in that state. If the bones are from Michigan, it would be the first evidence of ground sloths in the Great Lakes region.

Regardless of where he hails from, J.A.M.E.S. will now call Ann Arbor home.

“We do not have a sacrum from any ground sloth, so it would be an important addition to the collection,” Dr. Rountrey said.

The team will deliver J.A.M.E.S. to U of M in a formal ceremony this winter. The exhibit will include a plaque naming St. Philip High School as the donor.

“It started with one thing, and we got to see it evolve into something much bigger,” Maggie said. “It’s nice to know other people will see [these bones] and know St. Philip did this.”

St. Philip's homegrown paleontologists at U of M's Museum of Paleontology. Front row (from left to right): Miklo Hernandez-Mendez, Abby Hill, Lauren McIntyre. Back row (from left to right): Ms. Stephanie Halbert, Faith Scriber, Ellie Stewart, Jon Sonneborn, Maggie Hill, Stacie Sadowski.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Having fun makes MATHCOUNTS

Can you solve this math problem?

The sum of the digits of a two-digit integer is 12. The integer is equal to 15 times its units digit. What is the integer?

Need help?

Ask any of St. Joseph Middle School’s MATHCOUNTS club members. You’ll find them in math teacher Molly Williamson’s room after school on Fridays.

Mrs. Williamson introduced MATHCOUNTS this year, having participated in the program while teaching at St. Augustine in Kalamazoo. Founded by the National Society of Professional Engineers, the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics and the CAN Foundation, MATHCOUNTS is only for middle school students.

“There are a lot of kids in middle school who love math, and I really wanted to capture that,” Mrs. Williamson said. “I wanted them to have an extra-curricular place where they could play with math and have fun with it.”

The club took off, with over 20% of the middle school participating.

“They love it,” Mrs. Williamson said. “They just keep coming back.”

[l. to r.] Gigi Pontoni, Therese Campos, Gregory Garfield, Chris Adam, Nathan Pawlowicz
 Each week, Mrs. Williamson gives them a series of questions – some easy, some hard, some “really over the top, like college level.” The students try to noodle them out on their own, then again with the answers provided.

“Sometimes if you get an answer you can work backward,” Mrs. Williamson said. “There’s learning there.”

On MATHCOUNTS days, students gather after school to tackle the problems as a group, taking turns illustrating their solutions.

“I am not the sage on the stage,” Mrs. Williamson told club members. “I am not here to teach you. You are here to learn from each other.”

“People have really different methods,” eighth-grader Therese Campos said. “It’s cool to see the different ways that I could have solved it.”

Since MATHCOUNTS is middle-school wide, the teaching comes from all grade levels.

“It is interesting because [the older students] do math that I haven’t learned yet,” sixth-grader Adam Thome said. “It’s fun to watch them explain the answers they get.”

That doesn’t mean the eighth-graders have all the answers.

“It is surprising sometimes that the younger kids understand it better,” seventh-grader Gregory Garfield said.

[l. to r.] Jeremy Gallaway and Gregory Garfield
Having fun with math is translating into having courage in the classroom. Mrs. Williamson has noticed a drop in students skipping difficult problems and a rise in students sharing their solutions.

And the students have noticed a difference, too.

“I decided to do MATHCOUNTS because I thought it would help me in math class,” seventh-grader Merlina Montesino said. “And it did. I really like it.”

Although MATHCOUNTS could just be a club, Mrs. Williamson included the competition piece.

“I think the kids are event-oriented,” Mrs. Williamson said. “[The competition] gives their hard work a culminating event.”

In January, there will be a mini-competition to determine the ten students advancing to the regional competition in February. The top four of those ten will compete in the team portion.

“It will be cool to see who goes,” eighth-grader Alexis McCullin said. “We’re all good at different types of problems.”

The competition, however, is not the focus.

“This year my goal is just exposure,” Mrs. Williamson said. “Let them see other kids who also love math and realize they are a piece of something very big and very great.”

And for those still puzzling out the math problem, the answer is 75.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Saints with the intention to trick

St. Joseph Elementary and Preschool has a longstanding and very cute Halloween tradition – the annual costume parade. At the end of this year’s parade, a new tradition began.

Fr. Chris Ankley sent a letter to parents, sharing the Catholic roots of All Hallows Eve and the various traditions it inspired over the centuries. He extended an invitation for the children to dress as saints – saints with the intention to trick and receive a treat.

Who were they to trick? Fr. Chris and Fr. José Haro.

“They have to give us two clues about their mystery saint,” Fr. Chris wrote. “If we can’t deduce who they are, they get a prize. All the traditional Halloween activities of St. Joseph School will remain the same. If a child so chooses they do not have to dress as a saint. They should be aware, however, that the contest is only for those who dress as a saint.”

St. Joseph School Principal Sara Myers hung a large signup sheet by the office, pleased to have ten students willing to participate.

“We are a Catholic school, and we are always looking at ways we can add to our Catholic identity,” Mrs. Myers said.

Parents, students, and staff gathered in the cafeteria after the Halloween parade to see if Fr. Chris and Fr. José could name all ten saints. They got eight out of ten right.

Can you guess these Saints? [l. to r.] Mary Sui as Mother Theresa, Jennitzy Talavera as Saint Kateri Tekakwitha, Adriana Olsen as Saint Kateri Tekakwitha, Emma Rose Smith as Saint Philomena, Aaron Barraza Reyes as St. Aaron, Addisyn Lowe as St. Catherine of Sienna, Carson Brown as St Joseph, Jerome Bastian as Saint Emile Martyr, and Juan Mejia Lugo as John Paul II.

Who stumped our priests? Emma Rose Smith, who was St. Philomena, and Jerome Bastian, who was St. Émile.

Fr. Chris chuckled over his losses.

“The clues [Emma] gave me were, 'I'm a female saint and like babies’," Fr. Chris said.

As far as St. Émile, Fr. Chris could only deduce he was a martyr.

“[Jerome] had a very clever costume,” Fr. Chris said. “He had a ring of fire around his feet and a palm branch, which meant he was a martyr.”

The winners received a rosary. All the participants received a small crucifix and a sizable candy bar – so sizeable Mrs. Myers reported hearing a collective gasp. After that, the room was far from quiet.

“The students really loved when they were able to stump the priests,” Mrs. Myers said. “The kids were screaming and cheering.”

Fr. Chris is already looking forward to next year.

“Hopefully we will get more kids,” Fr. Chris said. “We gave out some really big candy bars. One of the teachers said the parents were already talking about it.”

The parents weren’t the only ones talking.

“I’m anticipating that we are going to have a longer list next year,” Mrs. Myers said. “At the end of the day, I heard kindergartners walking down the hall saying, ‘I’m going to be a saint next year!’”

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Staff Spotlight: St. Philip High School Principal Vicky Groat

St. Philip High School Principal Vicky Groat has a no-nonsense demeanor, but her heart bleeds St. Philip red.

Vicky Groat giving blood at the last NHS blood drive.

“She really loves the school,” Mary Rabbitt, longtime St. Philip High School administrative assistant, said. “She will do anything to make sure it’s vibrant.”

Mrs. Groat graduated from St. Philip in 1985, the youngest child of celebrated St. Philip volleyball coach and teacher Shelia Guerra. She played on three of her mother’s nine state championship volleyball teams, before adding another ten state titles as a coach herself.

Vicky Groat has coached the Lady Tigers to ten state championships.
Although her mother saw her as an educator, Mrs. Groat had other plans. She earned a business degree from Central Michigan University. After staying home with her young son, Mrs. Groat took a job managing a kitchen cabinet shop.

When her mother died in 2006, Mrs. Groat left her job to grieve and think.

“I know my mom didn’t want me to do this,” Mrs. Groat said. “She thought I needed to get in the school. She always thought I should have gone into education. She thought I should be with the kids.”

St. Philip needed a student services director. Mrs. Groat applied for and got the job. Two years later, Terry Newton retired as St. Philip’s athletic director. Mrs. Groat applied for and got that job. Her son, her work, and her community were now under one familiar roof.

Vicky Groat and her son Blake at his St. Philip graduation.
Principal Tim May’s sudden death in 2014 plunged the school into grief and uncertainty. Mrs. Groat told Fr. John Fleckenstein, “Whatever you need me to do, I will do it.” He asked her to be interim principal.

Katie Reed, St. Joseph Elementary and Middle School assistant principal, was St. Philip’s social studies teacher at the time.

“She was a huge source of strength during a difficult time,” Ms. Reed said. “To have our own person – a home person – take the reins and get us through meant a lot.”

Mrs. Rabbitt, who has worked with 15 principals during her tenure, was impressed with Mrs. Groat’s approach.

“She has good instincts,” Mrs. Rabbitt said. “She will let kids know she is disappointed in something they did, but she also lets them know, ‘Okay, we’re done. Let’s move on.’”

"Vicky truly cares about the students and their success,” Fr. Fleckenstein said. “She demonstrates that she wants each graduate to walk out with a solid high school degree, with faith as it's foundation."

“She gets it,” Ms. Reed said. “She knows we are a family. It’s not just a school. It’s a family. You can tell, at the end of the day, every decision she makes comes from the heart.”

Although asked to consider the position permanently, Mrs. Groat declined. Being principal would mean earning her masters in administrative education while running a school, an athletic department, and a team. However, as the principal search stretched into its second year, Mrs. Groat changed her mind.


“Because it’s St. Phil,” Mrs. Groat said. “This place has a hold on you. My mom taught here for almost 30 years, I graduated from here – it’s a special place, and I want to be a part of it. It’s my family. There is no other place I would rather be.”

In other words, her mother was right.