By K.J. WEBB
HEADMASTER ROGER CARTER: Cascia Hall Headmaster Roger Carter stands outside the school next to a statue of St. Augustine, the Teacher. In the background is the Monastery, left of the turret, and the 1926 classroom building to the right.
GTR Newspapers photo
Cascia Hall Preparatory School was founded in 1926 by the Province of Our Mother of Good Counsel, of the Order of Saint Augustine. It is rooted in the teachings of St. Augustine of Hippo and promotes the Augustinian values of Truth, Unity and Love. These values guide the Cascia community and prepare Cascia students for college and life.
The school is named after St. Rita of Cascia, an Augustinian nun who lived during the 15th century in a monastery in Cascia, Italy. Cascia Hall has been located at its 40-acre campus location at 2520 S. Yorktown Avenue since its founding and its first headmaster, Francis Driscoll, was a former president of Villanova College.
Cascia originally was all-male and had day and boarding students. This changed in 1986 when it became co-ed and created two divisions, Middle School and Upper School which expanded its student body to grades six through twelve. Current enrollment is 510, the Middle School has 181 students and Upper School has 329 students. The student teacher ratio is 9:1. Most students live in Tulsa, but many live in the surrounding suburbs and some commute from as far away as 40 miles. Half the students are Catholic, and the gender split is 53 percent male, 47 percent female. The largest minority representation is Native American, African-American and Hispanic.
When asked about Cascia’s educational philosophy, Headmaster Roger Carter says, “We focus on educating the whole person – spiritually, intellectually, emotionally, and physically. The liberal arts curriculum is structured in a logical sequence so as to best prepare the student for college and thereafter for a lifetime of learning.” Carter adds, “Cascia Hall teachers are encouraged to see themselves as not only imparting information and ideas but also as profoundly respecting their students. This respect is often expressed by the teacher’s patiently waiting for students to compare new information with their own inner dictates of truth.” The school’s approach to teaching and learning broadens understanding and enables students to embrace new ideas enthusiastically.
Classrooms are not the sole venue for student learning at Cascia. Learning takes place in social settings, on the athletic fields, during religious exercises and through community service. The myriad of learning environs fosters positive interpersonal relationships, community building, a sense of teamwork and a commitment to others. It also provides the students the opportunity to develop and realize their responsibilities as students as well as citizens.
Cascia is very strong in its college preparatory curriculum and 100 percent of the students matriculate on to college. According to Carter, a recent development that has enhanced the curriculum is the one-to-one Google technology program. This program implements Chromebook usage by each student to facilitate learning and collaboration. The program helps prepare students to learn and work in a technology-rich and global environment.
Cascia continues to innovate its curriculum and programs. Carter says, “Our immediate growth is geared toward (science, technology, engineering and mathematics). A robotics team and an incredibly successful science research team are developing along with future plans of new buildings and programs incorporated into our curriculum.”
A long-held tradition at Cascia is “Minimester” which takes place every January. For the past 40 years, during the month of January students have the chance to participate in unique professional, academic and spiritual electives as they develop as both learners and citizens. During “Minimester” all students continue to take their Advanced Placement and core classes. Freshmen and sophomores have the opportunity to choose from a variety of electives that interest them such as Introduction to Sports Psychology, and Poetry. The upperclassmen can choose a service project or do a professional internship that enables them to explore potential career interests.
In addition to academics, all students participate in volunteer activities in the Tulsa community. The school has six Caritas Partners – non-profit agencies that serve the greater Tulsa area. This year Cascia students are proud to partner with Community Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma, Catholic Charities, Reading Partners, Youth Services of Tulsa, and Global Gardens. The graduating class of 2016 completed over 9,600 Christian service hours for partner agencies.
When asked if there is a “typical” Cascia student, Carter says, “No. Each and every student is unique. It is one of the things that makes Cascia so special. We have many students whose parents sacrifice a great deal to send their children to Cascia. Our population is diverse with students from all ethnic, religious and socio-economic backgrounds and we place a high value on this.” In 2016-17, approximately $878,000 was given out in need-based financial aid to 108 students at an average of $8,100 per student. This represents 20 percent of student enrollment. Cascia Hall has increased its financial aid awards 80 percent since 2010.
Cascia has a long history in the Tulsa community which, Carter says, is another differentiating feature of the school. “The history of Cascia Hall distinguishes us from any other school in Oklahoma. You only have to look at the leaders – mayors (including Mayor G.T. Bynum), governors, ambassadors, legislators, judges and many of Tulsa’s “mover-and- shakers” – that we have produced to realize our impact on the community and beyond. We are proud of what our former students have accomplished, what our current students are achieving and what our future students will be able to achieve.”
A quick view of Cascia Class of 2016:
• 24 Oklahoma Academic Scholars
• 26.4 composite score average (national composite is 20.8, state composite is 20.4)
• United States Presidential Scholar Gracie Rule
• Over $9.8 million was offered in academic merit-based scholarships to the Class of 2016, which had 85 graduates.