Bishop Johnston addresses recent KC Star commentary on St. John LaLande School

Recent commentary by Melinda Henneberger published by the Kansas City Star has been very unfair to St. John LaLande Catholic School, and in particular its pastor and principal (July 30, 2023 [16A], April 9, 2024 [A1] and April 19, 2024). Her commentary represents the perspective of only a few and does not speak for the hundreds of parents who choose to send their children to St. John LaLande Catholic School every day.

Despite the fact that school leadership has followed state law and diocesan policy and tirelessly supported students, staff and families, the biased commentary has generated undeserved and unnecessary conflict that is disruptive and unfair to the many individuals and families who love and support the school.

I know this has been disheartening for many and I want everyone to know I am proud of the St. John LaLande community and the beautiful acts of faith, hope and service that take place there each day.

Catholic Education is a ministry which hinges on a partnership between the parish school and parents.  Parents must have freedom to share their hopes, concerns, and complaints with leadership.  Schools often must prudently refrain from publicly discussing such matters out of respect for legitimate privacy and to safeguard the trust of other parents.

A positive, faith-based school environment doesn’t just materialize out of thin air – it is nourished and developed by devoted clergy, administrators and teachers who are committed to guiding their students on a path to become holy, wholesome, generous members of society. It is supported by parents who want the best for their children and commit to partner with the school in their child’s education and faith formation. Finally, it is supported in prayer and treasure by the members of the broader parish.

There is much to be proud of there. St. John LaLande School is one of the fastest growing Catholic schools in our diocese. There are 168 families who make sacrifices to provide their children with a faith-based education and are grateful for St. John LaLande School. Over the last four years, enrollment has increased by 20%, with several grade levels having a waiting list of families who want to enroll their child in the school. Children participate at Mass multiple times each week, boast excellent academic scores, give back to their community through acts of service, and are enriched by the dedicated teachers and administrators who guide them in their academic studies, faith formation and growth in virtue.

Like any school with hundreds of students, behavioral issues can and will arise. Every Catholic school in our diocese, including St. John LaLande, is well-equipped and staff are well trained to address any incident of aggression or intimidation.

At St. John LaLande School alone, staff, students and parents have participated in workshops and implemented programs for nurturing students’ social and emotional well-being. This includes workshops for parents on how to nourish their children’s mental health; the Patient Pirate program for early elementary students that teaches them strategies for self-awareness and impulse control; training for teachers in executive function skills and their relation to ADHD; implementation of the Friendzy social emotional learning friendship program for students in grades K-8 and strengths-based team building for teachers and staff. A part-time counselor is also on staff to provide support to students.

Let us keep in mind and put into practice our Lord’s teaching to forgive and pray for those who offend us. Please know of my grateful prayers for St. John LaLande Parish and School, its pastor and leadership, and the faithful parishioners and school families as we each day pray for the conversion of those who cause harm in word and deed.


Sincerely yours in Christ,

Most Reverend James V. Johnston, Jr., JCL, DD
Bishop of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph


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