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Catholic Academy of West Buffalo welcomes Bishop Fisher


The first day of school came at the end of the week for most Buffalo schools. Catholic Academy of West Buffalo students had only one day of class before taking the weekend off. The unique schedule allowed Bishop Michael W. Fisher to greet the kids on their first day back.

Bishop Michael W. Fisher meets some students at Catholic Academy of West Buffalo on Sept. 8. (Photo by Nicole Dzimira)

Along with Dr. Tim Uhl, superintendent of schools for the Diocese of Buffalo, and Father Sean Paul Fleming, director of the Office of Worship, Bishop Fisher visited the students in every grade to wish them good luck on the new school year on Sept. 8.

The first lesson every student learns at Catholic Academy of West Buffalo is “Be kind.”

Catholic Academy of West Buffalo began operations 35 years ago with St. Joseph Cathedral, Annunciation, St. Anthony of Padua, Blessed Sacrament, Holy Angels, Holy Cross, Immaculate Conception, St. Louis, St. Michael, Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and Our Lady of Loretto as sponsoring parishes. The school merged with Our Lady of Black Rock in 2021. The school serves a diverse population that now includes students from Myanmar, Vietnam, Sudan and Mali. 

“Probably 80 percent of our kids are ethnic,” said Principal Sister Gail Glenn, SSJ, adding that 40 languages and dialects are spoken on campus. “That’s the beauty of our school that you’ll see, and it’s always been that way.”

The diversity helps the students be comfortable with the different people and different cultures they will encounter as adults. Throughout the school “Love your neighbor” is heard as often as “Love God above all else.”

Along with the basics of English/language arts, math, reading, science, technology, music and physical education, the pre-K–8 school offers after school programs such as Art Club, Science Club and Handbell Choir. Parents are invited once a month to meet with teachers to understand what their children are learning, so they can help at home.

“There is a misconception that Catholic schools didn’t provide all the things that public school systems do,” Sister Gail said. “And in the time that I have been here, we have never deleted a special. The only time we have is if we couldn’t find a teacher for one, but we keep all those specials in line so their kids are going to get all those things from pre-K 4 up and that’s not always the case in a public school system.”

Parents seem to like the small class size. Last year, the graduating class consisted of 24 students who earned $125,000 in high school scholarships.

“I think for a lot of the parents, the small class size is really very, very appealing to them. The discipline, but instilled with love. The safety environment is a huge factor for families,” said Ellen Sullivan-Garcia, director of development.

Sister Gail will meet the families and children when they become interested in attending the school.

“What you hear most of all is they want class sizes that are small. They want them to get all the academics and they want them to get the extra,” she said.

As a safety feature, there are only two doorways, both monitored by cameras.

Father Ronald Sajdak has taken on the role of school chaplain this year, tending to the spiritual needs of the students and staff.

“I look forward to not only my job as chaplain, but also getting to know the families better and supporting the staff as much as I can, and working with the board of trustees as well, making sure that we have the materials that we need and bolster this ministry,” he said. “I know some of the families that send their kids here. I’ve had a ministry to the African immigrants since 1995. So, some of the families I know very well. The multicultural environment gives me a lot of energy, and I look forward to that.”

Listen to Michael Mroziak’s report.


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