St. Pius X gains support for being Northland's only private high school
By Kevin Kelly
Catholic Key Associate Editor
KANSAS CITY - There are limits to what Greg Plumb will do for St. Pius X. High School. But not many.
Kevin Kelly/Key photo
Scruffily bearded Greg Plumb, pictured at the Feb. 3 groundbreaking for the school's new Student Activity Center, has vowed not to shave it off until St. Pius X High School has reached the $2 million mark in its
Plumb, the highly respected chairman of the Department of Sociology and professor of criminal justice at Park University who is sporting a brand-new crop of facial stubble, has promised not to shave until the school reaches the $2 million mark in pledges for its $3.5 million drive to build a Student Activity Center.
Even though the campaign is now at the $1.7 million mark, Plumb's beard won't reach Grizzly Adams/Santa Claus proportions.
"I won't quite go that far," Plumb said. "I'll keep it trimmed."
Plumb, a member of St. Therese Parish in Parkville and now on his second tour of duty on the St. Pius school board, doesn't have a direct connection to the school. Neither he nor his wife are alumni, nor did any of his children attend St. Pius X.
But St. Pius X is the only non-public high school in the vast Northland suburbs of Clay and Platte counties, and for that reason alone, deserves to be supported as the community asset it is, he said.
"I've never had a beard before," Plumb told The Catholic Key just before ground was broken Feb. 3 to launch construction of the Student Activity Center.
"People ask me why I'm growing a beard, and I tell them that we need to raise money for St. Pius," Plumb said.
Even though he will keep the beard trim, Plumb has also promised to shave his head if someone arranges a $400,000 gift to the campaign.
"It can be one $400,000 check. It can be four $100,000 checks. It can be eight checks for $50,000, as long as it totals $400,000," Plumb said.
"I think it is that important that we have a private, Catholic school in the Northland," he said, noting the school's history of serving the Northland and the importance to the entire community that a private high school offers.
That theme was picked up during the ground breaking ceremony by John Dillingham, one of the Northland's most respected business leaders who serves as honorary co-chair, along with Anita Gorman, another highly respected leader, of the Pius campaign. Neither Dillingham nor Gorman are Catholic.
The importance of St. Pius X reaches far beyond the Catholic community, and deserves support beyond the Catholic community, Dillingham told the crowd that assembled on a picture-perfect February afternoon.
"Since 1956 (when the school was founded), you all have done everything in house" without asking for the community's help, Dillingham said. "But the (Catholic) family can't do it all. We needed to reach out."
Dillingham noted that when executives of a company consider the Northland as a location, they are impressed that the area can offer a Catholic high school as well as top-notch public schools.
"You have a great message. Why keep it to yourself?" Dillingham said.
Dillingham also said that someone once remarked to him that St. Pius X High School was the Rockhurst High School of the Northland.
"No," Dillingham said. "We are the St. Pius of the Northland. Why go south of the river when we have everything you need north of the river?"
Even though the campaign is barely at its halfway point, construction could commence thanks to an innovative financing plan devised by campaign chairman Ed Place, director of finance for Hallmark Cards, and Dave Malanowski, director of finance for the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph.
Based on the strength of the pledges already received, the projections for the school's growth, and the financial condition of both the school and the sponsoring diocese, Place and Malanowski put together a package of tax-exempt Educational Facilities Revenue Bonds, issued through the Missouri Health and Educational Facilities Authority, that were quickly sold on the nation's financial market.
Place told The Catholic Key that the bond sale will allow construction to proceed on the entire $3.5 million project.
"This project was difficult to break up and do piecemeal," Place said. "We wanted to do the whole project at once."
Place said the bonds will be paid from interest earned from the school's growing endowment fund, plus revenues from the increase in enrollment that the project - which also includes renovation of the school's north wing - will allow.
He noted that some of the nation's leading financial institutions were quick to buy the school's bonds, which demonstrates the strength of the school's financial condition.
"It's a testament to the Pius community that we can raise $1.7 million and still go ahead toward our $3.5 million goal," Place said.
Diocesan school superintendent Judy Warren said the Pius campaign also reflects the strength of Catholic secondary education in the diocese.
She noted that the 2000-01 "Gift of Faith" campaign, coupled with each of the four diocesan high schools' own campaigns, has already reaped benefits. Archbishop O'Hara High School in Kansas City has renovated classrooms and its commons area. Bishop LeBlond High School in St. Joseph has completed classroom expansions, a new gymnasium and the school's first track and football stadium. St. Mary High School in Independence has purchased land near Missouri Highway 291 for a new Catholic high school to serve the eastern side of the metropolitan area.
"I am so proud of this (Pius) community's efforts - parents, board, students and the community at large - in bringing about this expansion," Warren said. "The excellence at St. Pius X High School will be there for future generations."