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Two big losses

The announcement of the closing of St. Ann's School last week took a lot of people by surprise, and felt like a punch in the gut to many.

For a lot of parents, they're taking a look at their child who until recently was a St. Ann's student, wondering where they'll go next, wondering if they'll survive the shock of a move to another school.

I'm here to tell you that yes, your child will be OK.

In fact, I personally made a fairly abrupt change from a Catholic school to the public school system after fourth grade. After having attended grades K-4 at Our Lady of Victory school in Fergus Falls, there was a brand, spanking new concept in education called a middle school, and Fergus Falls Public Schools were giving it a go. Out of 20 students in my class at OLV -- 17 girls and three boys, oddly enough -- I was the only student to make the change to the public middle school to be part of the inaugural fifth-grade class there. It was a little scary going it alone, but I'm extremely glad I did.

I not only survived the transition, I thrived. The public school had a gifted-talented program that was odd but fun. I was learning French, having classes from an assortment of talented teachers, and my gosh, they had this box in the corner called a computer, which was unheard of in a classroom. Before long, I was playing "Oregon Trail" on it, dying of dysentery to my heart's delight. Soon I was programming that computer.

I made friends quickly and adapted to everything.

Kids are like that. They're much more pliable and adaptable than we give them credit for. The kids at St. Ann's -- they'll be fine, because St. Ann's prepared them to be great kids. They'll do great things, school or no school.

This is not to downplay the great loss this represents to staff there, the community and the church. But this is a time we need to look backward and appreciate all of the great memories and moments that were produced by St. Ann's School. And it's a time we need to have faith in the leaders of St. Ann's and realize it was probably a very difficult choice that wasn't made lightly. In the end, it may strengthen the church, and that's a good thing.

Another goodbye

Next week, you'll read a goodbye column from Sara Hacking, one of our star reporters. Sara's been here at the Pioneer Journal with me since I've been here -- well, almost. One of my first official actions as editor more than four years ago was to hire Sara, who had worked with me before at a previous paper as an intern.

It was there that one of my favorite moments in working with Sara happened. At the time, we had two people in the newsroom named Sara. In fact, they were both Sara H. -- the other was named Sarah Horner -- so that wasn't going to work to differentiate them. So I'd generally bark "Hey, Hacking" or "Hey, Horner" at them.

Apparently I wasn't the only one having a hard time separating the two. One day, a woman likely around 50 walked into the newsroom, where Sara Hacking, another male reporter or two, and I were working. The woman looked at Hacking and said, "Sara?" to which she politely replied, "Yes."

Then the woman ran over to her, scooped her up in her arms, and gave her a huge bear hug. A terrified Sara Hacking had no idea what was going on. Then the woman introduced herself as Sara's -- or Sarah's, as it were -- long-lost aunt. Hacking, always polite, told the aunt she was embracing the wrong Sarah, and she was really looking for Ms. Horner, who had stepped out for a minute.

Well, after four years here and a summer together at that other newspaper, I know I'm really going to miss Sara Hacking. I feel like she's really learned to do journalism the right way, and she has the ethics and integrity every reporter should aspire to. Everyone in this building is going to miss her dearly, too. Especially that huge laugh that comes out of such a small woman. We're all very happy for the great life Sara's going to have in the very near future, but she will be missed once she's gone. We wish her well. In a short time, we'll announce a new hire as a reporter, but Sara won't be replaced. Not her byline, and not her friendship. Aloha, Sara.