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9/24/2013 3:19:00 PM
Holy Family, Southeast Portland
Holy Family School photos
The married team of Kate Finn and Rick Weiss teaches music at Holy Family.
Holy Family School photos
The married team of Kate Finn and Rick Weiss teaches music at Holy Family.

Loretta Wiltgen
Loretta Wiltgen
New principal grateful
“I’m just grateful to be here,” says Holy Family Catholic School’s new principal, Loretta Wiltgen, as she meets the rush of students passing her new office on the first day of school. As often as she stops to lean down and introduce herself to a child, she is herself stopped by more than a few parents, offering her encouragement and gratitude of their own. The optimism of the morning is palpable.

The building, like the community, has undergone many changes since spring: new floors, doors, and paint for classrooms and the school gym building plus safety and security upgrades like the school’s new intercom and security doors.

“Ours is a culture of continuous improvement, after all,” Wiltgen likes to say.

The concept of the magis – “the more” in Latin, referring to St. Ignatius’s rhetorical exercise asking “what more can I do for [God”] – is another motto Holy Family faculty and staff have already begun to associate with their new principal.

Wiltgen is former president of the tuition-free St. Andrew Nativity School in Northeast Portland. She's devoted to Catholic education and has a fierce work ethic.

“We’re so happy to have you here,” reads a parent’s comment on the school’s Facebook page, reflecting a sentiment that is already widespread.

“Don’t expect to hear recorders,” says music teacher Rick Weiss, explaining the non-traditional music classes that he and wife Kate Finn bring to the school's new music program. “We’ve got nothing against the recorders, personally. But the kids seem to like the drums and guitar amps better.”

A quick look around Weiss and Finn’s basement classroom reveals two small built-in stages, two drum kits, and a host of keyboards, amps, and guitars. On this morning, students are being herded into groups of singers and musicians who are about to perform a first-take of the current pop-hit “Radioactive” by Imagine Dragons. Like nearly all the songs these students will learn this year, "Radioactive" was selected from a survey of students’ favorite songs. It’s all part of a curriculum that Weiss and Finn have been developing for the past 10 years. Lessons will culminate in students recording an album of their cover-performances.

“I like to joke that we’re part of a generation of music teachers who saw (the 2003 Richard Linklater/Jack Black film) School of Rock and thought, ‘Wow – I want that to be my job!’ Weiss explains.”

Calling on experience writing and directing musical theater, Weiss and Finn are excited to bring their previously itinerant music workshop class to a permanent home.

“We’re so blessed to have Rick and Kate here at Holy Family,” says Loretta Wiltgen, the new principal. “We’ve got so many exciting new things happening at Holy Family this year, but their Music program is one of my personal favorites.”


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