Diocese’s first married principals guiding Galesburg, Monmouth Catholic schools
Randy and Kathryn Frakes weren’t afraid of letting a little school pride show on a recent August morning. The principal of Immaculate Conception School in Monmouth, he wore an ICS blue shirt bearing the team mascot, a Trojan. As the new principal of Costa Catholic Academy in Galesburg, she was dressed appropriately enough in Costa red spirit wear.
That — and 18 miles of road — are all that separate them, however.
Thought to be the first married principals of Catholic schools in the Diocese of Peoria, they talked to The Catholic Post about giving their students every opportunity to grow in faith as they grow in wisdom. They also discussed how important it is to support one another and safeguard their time as a family.
“I totally supported her, whatever she wanted to do,” said Randy, who is beginning his seventh year as principal at Immaculate Conception School. “I knew what she was getting into as far as time. It can be a lot some days.”
“It’s not 8 to 3,” Katie added knowingly.
“It’s not just coming in and worrying about curriculum. It’s about fundraising, fellowship, the church. It’s a lot of different things, which are great,” Randy explained. “It can be overwhelming at times, but we’ve had a lot of discussions about how we kind of get through that.”
“Every night we do a check-in to see what the next day looks like, and on Sunday we do a weekly ‘you’ve got this, I’ve got this’ — a little family meeting,” Katie said. “Our kids are in sixth and seventh grade and so they’re really stepping up to the plate and helping out. They’re in on it, too.”
Their daughters, Joanna and Lexi, both attend Immaculate Conception School. Joanna is in seventh grade and plays basketball, while Lexi, sixth grade, runs cross country. There will be more sports down the road.
With four schedules to coordinate, Google Calendar comes in handy. But just taking time to talk is most important, the couple said.
While they continue to attend Mass as a family, the Frakeses now alternate between parishes in Galesburg and Monmouth. That way they can be present to students and school families in both communities.
NEVER LOOKED BACK
Galesburg is familiar territory for Randy, who was born and raised there. His grandmother went to St. Patrick and Corpus Christi, and his mother graduated from Costa.
He was not raised Catholic, though. He would be received into the church after he married Katie on July 30, 2005, so they could practice the faith as a family.
Randy started off in communications at Carl Sandburg College and after two years transferred to Western Illinois University to finish his degree. It was while he was working at the YMCA in Macomb, running flag football camps and officiating youth sports, that he became interested in physical education and health “and never looked back.”
A lifelong Catholic, Katie grew up in Bradley. “I was always an education major,” she said.
She met Randy in Macomb while both were attending WIU and working at a local day camp.
They earned bachelor’s degrees in education and taught for a year in Beardstown. They studied for their master’s degrees at Olivet Nazarene University while teaching in Rantoul public schools. His master’s degree is in educational administration and her area of focus was as a reading specialist.
Prior to going to Immaculate Conception as principal in 2015, Randy was the assistant principal and athletic director at West Central High School in Biggsville.
THE RIGHT TIME
Katie stayed at home with their daughters until they started school. When they went to Immaculate Conception so did she, working as a reading specialist, resource teacher for a variety of subjects, and helping students who needed assistance with English as a Second Language. She would study that online through Olivet Nazarene.
She also taught fifth grade and pre-kindergarten, and last year was an evaluation specialist at the Knox-Warren Special Education Cooperative.
She was passionate about being a school leader, however. So Katie returned to Western Illinois University two years ago for the Weekend Warrior program, which took her to Macomb every other weekend. She graduated with a master’s degree in educational leadership this spring.
“I wasn’t planning on using it right away,” she said. “It was just in our family that was the perfect time to get it.”
Then the opening at Costa Catholic Academy came along. The Galesburg school has been faced with some challenges in terms of leadership and needed a stabilizing force in the principal’s office.
She acknowledges this will be a transition year.
“I feel strongly about Catholic education. I could be a public school administrator, but I love being able to share my faith with the students,” Katie explained. “And I love being able to pray freely and share the gifts that God has clearly given me.”
What does the future hold?
Randy is looking forward to building on the success Immaculate Conception had last year by keeping the students in school, all day, every day, even during the pandemic.
“We want our kids in school and not only celebrate their faith and learn about their faith, but to continue their education,” he said.
And there’s one more thing.
“I’m looking forward to her success,” he said, looking at Katie. “I will try to help when needed. She knows I’m there.”