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Photo by Bob Mattingly: New St. Mary’s School principal Bob Brookbank brings years of education experience.

Patience is key for new St. Mary’s School principal

The new principal at St. Mary’s School, 211 Fourth St., Aurora, said he is excited to have the opportunity to lead St. Mary’s, and has a three-pronged primary goal.

“We want to provide an atmosphere that is spiritually, emotionally and educationally based,” said Bob Brookbank, whose teaching career spans 38 years. That included stops at Greendale Middle School, East Central High School, Milan Jr/Sr. School, Lawrenceburg High School, and, most recently, teaching seventh and eighth grade science at St. Mary’s last school year.

Brookbank, 61, said he’s fortunate to be part of a school that has had success in the past, and, as his first goal, wants to make sure St. Mary’s continues to be successful in the tradition of former principal Jim Tush. The school currently has 70 students, but one of Brookbank’s goals is to increase the student body.

“The educational framework is in place. We have a great staff,” he said. “As principal, what I have to do is get the word to Dearborn County … (that) St. Mary’s is a great place to send your children for education and emotional development.” That, he said, is his second challenge this year.

Part of St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception parish, the school provides a Catholic education for kindergarten through eighth grade with nine full-time staff plus additional teachers for computers and library.

“I would not have this job if it wasn’t for a great support staff to assist me,” said Brookbank. Administrative assistant Ann Hutchingson has been instrumental in helping for a smooth opening of the school, he said. He also enjoys the opportunity to strictly teach, as there is little discipline needed and great parental support.

Although he has a lot to learn, he hasn’t felt at all overwhelmed, he added. If needed, he reaches out to LHS Principal Bill Snyder for advice.
A 1979 graduate of Hanover College, Brookbank earned his masters in secondary education from Ball State University. Brookbank and his wife, Angela (Stoll) Brookbank, have three adult children and one grandchild.

Asked what most fits him for the principalship at St. Mary’s, he replied, “Patience. I have, number one, to try not to rush into this situation.” He can’t make decisions without “patiently making sure I do everything by law and by the archdiocese” guidelines, he said. “I’m wearing two hats.”

So when parents pose a question, he replies he will get back to them tomorrow, to let him check first.

“Any decisions I make at this point, patience is key,” he said.

Since 1850s
St. Mary’s Parish has operated a school since the mid-1850s, when the church, located at the foot of Market Street, also served as the school. After the parish relocated to Fourth Street, a school building was built using the bricks of the old church, and it was staffed first by Sisters of Providence from St. Mary of the Woods, beginning in 1866, then by Franciscan Sisters of Oldenburg from 1880 until the last sister retired in 1999.

The current school building was constructed in 1959.

Every school chooses different avenues, different projects, to make children aware that problems in communities can be solved by working together, said Brookbank. This school year, St. Mary students are collecting plastic grocery bags from which they will make blankets for homeless people.

“I am excited to have the opportunity to lead St. Mary’s School. The students are fantastic! The staff and parishioners will be my pillar of strength. Unity will ensure that we will overcome all obstacles,” said Brookbank.

St. Mary’s has financial aid programs in place to assist families, he noted. The school can be reached at 812-926-1558.

The Dearborn County Register & Journal Press

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