Founded by Bishop Frederic Baraga in 1856, Bishop Baraga Catholic School has been providing the Cheboygan, MI area with quality Catholic education for more than 150 years.
In 1856, Bishop Frederic Baraga hired the school's first teacher, Mr. Nicholas Murray. Bishop Baraga's diary entry notes, “Arrived in 'Cheboigan'; the teacher is very good and satisfied. For $30 I bought the schoolhouse, for which previously I had to pay $15 annual rent.”
By 1860, a new schoolhouse had been built and 23 students were enrolled. In 1876, Fr. John VanGennip became pastor at St. Mary's Parish, and in 1881, erected a school building using his own funds. In the fall of that year, the new school, named St. Mary's, opened with 150 students under the direction of the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
In 1884, tragedy struck. A bolt of lightning struck the schoolhouse and it was destroyed by fire. Seemingly undaunted, the pastor and parishioners erected a new school. For more 110 years, that building housed the Bishop Baraga Catholic School until the construction of our new facility in 2005.
For many parents, a school's academic strengths are perhaps the most important quality they look for when selecting a school for their child. At Bishop Baraga, we focus on offering a challenging educational curriculum with high academic standards and an emphasis on fundamentals.
In order to maintain our high quality of education, we continually strive to meet the following goals:
To provide qualified teachers and an environment conducive to learning
To meet or exceed state standards with regard to teacher qualifications, days or hours of instruction and curriculum
To keep parents continually updated on student progress, as well as issuing appropriately timed progress reports and report cards.
To regularly review and update curriculum for continuing excellence in instruction
To provide small class sizes that allow enriched student-teacher interactions
In addition to standard subjects, our curriculum also includes:
Art and Music
Skill-Based Physical Education
Automated Research Library
Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) Testing
In addition to our focus on academic excellence, Bishop Baraga is committed to help with the spiritual development of our students. While parents are the first and foremost educators of their children, as a Catholic school, we strive to reinforce the Christian faith that is an integral part of our students' lives.
Religious education is a key element in our school's curriculum. While we teach the Roman Catholic Faith, we welcome students of all faiths. All students, however, are expected to participate in religion classes and liturgical functions.
We provide instruction and opportunities for growth and practice of Catholic, Christian faith in a number of ways:
We promote a positive community atmosphere. Bullying, harassment or disrespect is not tolerated.
We practice daily prayer in the classrooms.
We offer fully integrated religious education at all grade levels.
We provide sacramental preparation.
We involve every class in some level of community service and global outreach.
Students in grades kindergarten through 7th grade attend mass in the school chapel twice a week on Thursday and Friday mornings at 8:30 a.m. and on other special days. We also welcome parents, grandparents, family members, and parishioners to attend mass in the school chapel. 3rd to 7th graders actively participate in these masses through the readings and prayers of petition, being greeters and presenting the gifts at the altar.
Why Catholic School?
By Annemarie Scobey-Polacheck
“Why do you send your boys to a Catholic school?” my sons’ pediatrician asked, looking at the St. Monica school sweatshirts and uniform pants my two boys had strewn over the floor of the examining room. It was the boys’ yearly check-up, and they sat expectantly in their Hot Wheels underwear as their doctor walked in.
“You live in one of the top school districts in the state,” the doctor continued, taking out an instrument and peering into 4-year-old Liam’s ear. “You’re paying for those schools with your taxes. You should be taking advantage of them.” He tapped Liam on the knee with a tiny hammer and Liam’s eyes widened as his leg shot up in reflex.
One of the reasons I like my sons’ pediatrician is that he’s not afraid to challenge me. Whether he’s trying to convince me to buy more organic produce or switch the boys from regular milk to soy milk, the doctor has an opinion on everything, and I always leave his office with something to think about.
As the doctor finished with Liam and moved onto 7-year-old Jacob, I explained to him that while my husband and I have great respect for the public schools in our area, we want our boys to learn about their faith on a daily basis.
“But you can teach them that at home,” the doctor said. “Save your tuition money.”
I don’t know how other people’s homes function, but to match St. Monica’s 45 minutes of daily religious instruction would be a stretch in our household, where some days we don’t have an extra 45 seconds to find a matching pair of socks.
But even more than the daily religion classes, there are a thousand tiny things that happen over the course of a year at a Catholic school, things I would simply have to give up if we chose public education over Catholic.
If we chose a public school, I could maybe commit to pray more with my boys at home, but I still would not be able to give them the prayer experience of 20 children and a teacher gathered in a circle, reading from a children’s Bible. And our prayers together wouldn’t be nearly as age appropriate. I wouldn’t know where to begin looking for all the cute hand-motion prayers and Jesus songs they’ve been taught over the past few years. I doubt that I would find the energy to have the boys make their own Advent wreaths or draw Stations of the Cross booklets for Lent.
A couple of weeks ago, I was packing Jacob’s lunch in the morning, and I asked him if they pray before lunch at school.
“Of course,” Jacob said, looking at me as if I had asked him if they use pencils in second grade. Not wanting to be outdone, Liam pointed out that the kindergarteners pray before snack, since they don’t stay for lunch.
If we chose a public school, we’d need to give up the Wednesday morning all-school masses, where some days, the same boys Jacob plays football with at recess are that morning’s readers. Where his babysitter might be one of the eighth graders bringing up the gifts. Where kids from his school bus are singing in the choir. If we chose a public school, we’d give up the one homily per week that’s aimed at our children, homilies that include such things as what Jesus says about how to treat your friends or how to act toward your brother or sister.
A public school could possibly mean teachers who have bigger budgets for classroom supplies, but it would also mean passing up the opportunity to have Christian values blended into all subjects. Hitting would be against the school rules, but the Golden Rule could not be brought into the discussion. Liam’s kindergarten teacher couldn’t call her science lessons “Learning About God’s Wonderful World” and Jacob wouldn’t be writing Bible verses for handwriting practice. As my boys grow, they could not discuss serious social studies topics such as war, poverty, racism, and terrorism within the context of how we are called to respond as Christians.
The thousand reasons that add up to a rationale to pay both property taxes and Catholic school tuition are as small as a whispered prayer before a test and as large as the bronze crucifix hanging on the outside wall of the school, near the playground. The reasons are as varied as the different languages, cultures and backgrounds of the Saints our boys learn about in school. The thousand reasons for choosing a Catholic school are imperfect, as imperfect as the people of God who make up the school. Some of our reasons are not reasons at all, but rather questions. Questions about faith and life and God that my husband and I have not figured out yet. Questions a Catholic school cannot answer, but only honor.
And in thinking about all this, I have come to the conclusion that my sons’ Catholic school tuition is indeed a property tax. Ultimately, my boys are property of God. It’s a tax I’ll gladly pay.
About the Author
Annemarie Scobey-Polacheck and her husband, Bill, send their boys to St. Monica School in Whitefish Bay, WI.
She is the author of the book "Discovering Motherhood".
Come join us! While Bishop Baraga has a strong focus on academics, we also recognize the importance of offering our children new and interesting opportunities to grow. Our many clubs and extracurricular activities provide our students with opportunities to develop new skills, meet new people, and round out their educational experience.
For more detailed information, select a club or activity from the list.
Students currently enrolled in Bishop Baraga can participate in after-school programs, paying only the fees required by the specific club. Student groups that are not enrolled at Bishop Baraga but that are interested in using our facilities, such as student athletic groups, will be charged a one-time $25 activity fee for each club.
Construction of a new school allowed us to increase the size of our classrooms while also providing facilities to help support our academic goals, such as a new library, computer room and chapel. If you would like to visit the school or learn more about our facilities, please call the school office and set up a tour.
The heart of every good school is found in its classrooms. The activities that teachers and students work hard at every day are the key to our school's success. If you want to learn more about what your children are doing in the classroom, please take a look at our list of Classroom Connections by clicking the button below.
Obviously, your child's teacher provides one of the most direct influences on his or her education. We pride ourselves in the quality of our teachers, all of whom hold degrees and are certified. Our teachers also participate in ongoing professional development. Below is a brief profile of each faculty and staff member.