When Quincy Notre Dame High School students start school in a couple of weeks, it will be the start of a bittersweet year for their principal.
Ray Heilmann has spent the past 38 years at QND, the last 16 as principal. He has announced he will retire at the end of the upcoming school year.
Heilmann came to the school in 1973 as an English teacher and coach. He became the first principal there who is not a Catholic priest or nun. Still, "The charism, the background, and the traditions at QND are the same", according to Heilmann.
Heilmann and his colleagues in parochial education have gone through the same financial struggles as public schools. The financial gap between the cost of a QND student's education for one year and the price of tuition is $500-600. More than 30 percent of the school's students receive financial aid. Yet due to the nation's struggling economy, QND's board of directors chose to freeze tuition costs for the past two years. That's where fundraisers such as the Annual Fund come into play. That campaign exceeded its goal this year, raising more than $400,000.
Quincy Notre Dame has a longstanding and, Heilmann believes, healthy rivalry with Quincy High School on the athletic field. Yet, "There really is no place outside of Quincy where there is a stronger collaborative effort between the two systems, public and private". That includes busing, drivers education, vocational and technical education, special education, homebound instruction and more.
"We are the envy of the state of Illinois."
Hear more from Ray Heilmann, including his goals for his last year as QND principal, and his plans for retirement, on KHQA's public affairs program, "The Link", with Carol Sowers. It airs Sunday mornings at 6:30 p.m. on KHQA.