FLUSHING — He didn’t bring an apple for the teacher, but Deacon Kevin McCormack brought lots of excitement when he visited St. Michael Catholic Academy on the first day of school on Sept. 7.
St. Michael’s, located in Flushing, was Deacon McCormack’s first stop in a two-week tour of Catholic academies in the Diocese of Brooklyn. He plans to visit two schools a day for the first few weeks of the school year. The former principal of Xaverian High School in Bay Ridge was named superintendent in May and started his job in July.
Accompanied by Principal Philip Heide and Father Vincentius Do, pastor at St. Michael’s Church, Deacon McCormack, 61, visited several classrooms to introduce himself to the students.
He enjoyed easy banter with the kids, asking them to call him “Deacon Mac,” inquiring what they liked best about their school, and encouraging them to talk about what they did on their summer vacations.
At one point, he joked that he was so old, “I’m in the 58th grade!”
The new superintendent was impressed by what he saw.
“People wonder if we’re at the end of an era,” Deacon McCormack told The Tablet. “Absolutely not. We’re just beginning. And what we see here at St. Michael’s is an example of that.”
“We have kids who are really thriving,” he added. “Everybody is represented here. … And this is just one example of our schools.”
According to Deacon McCormack, diocesan schools are in solid shape. Schools in the diocese saw a 2.4% increase in enrollment between the 2021 and 2022 school years, and 21 schools are experiencing enrollment growth by an average of 20% from pre-pandemic levels.
Overall, the diocese expects that the enrollment for the current school year will match last year’s numbers, Deacon McCormack said.
St. Michael’s students were excited on their first day of school.
“I like St. Michael’s because it’s a Catholic school. You can learn about Jesus and the Bible and lots of stuff,” said fourth grader Vivian Lin. “I’m most excited about new friends. My friends play with me all the time and sometimes talk in class, but not always.”
Michael Minuche, a sixth grader, studies Mandarin at St. Michael’s, which is the only Catholic elementary school in New York state that offers a dual English-Mandarin program.
“I’m not too good. But I practice,” he admitted. “It’s cool because around the world, there are different languages. People speak differently, and you can speak to them somewhat.”
After his visit to St. Michael’s Catholic Academy, Deacon McCormack was off to St. Andrew Avellino Catholic Academy in Flushing, where he met with Principal Debora Hanna and Father Gregory McIlhenney, administrator of St. Andrew Avellino Church.
His tour of the building included stops in several classrooms, where the superintendent regaled the students with stories of his days working at White Castle and taught them the 1960s-era word “groovy.”
The students, including eighth grader Lira Cervantes, enjoyed meeting him.
“I see this as actually really nice because you wouldn’t expect that from someone who is looking over all these different schools,” said Lira, who described her school as a second home. “And I’m actually really happy that he could come to ours because, as I said before, it’s home here. And I hope that this was a very welcoming environment to him.”
Lira, who has been attending St. Andrew Avellino since pre-K, is excited about beginning her final year. She has been accepted into the Science Regents Program and hopes to go to The Mary Louis Academy next year.
Matthew Albanese, a third grader, said seeing Deacon McCormack “made me feel comfortable in school.”
Matthew admitted that before the school day began on Wednesday, he was a little nervous.
“But now I’m not nervous at all,” he added. “I’m hoping for a good school year and a couple of good grades.”