The Catholic Commentator  

Aimee Wiles joyfully glided through the hallways at Redemptorist St. Gerard School in Baton Rouge, eagerly seizing every opportunity to spend time with a student, much to the delight of both.  

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Redemptorist St. Gerard School principal Aimee Wiles takes time daily to interact with the students. Wiles feels at home at the north Baton Rouge school and said “This is the place I want to be.”  Photo by Richard Meek | The Catholic Commentator 

 

Wiles’ exuberance and her sense of peace were apparent.  

“I’m happy, I’m much more relaxed and I don’t plan on going anywhere,” said Wiles, who is in her first year at Redemptorist.  

For a school that has been through four principals in a little more than 15 months and three in 10 months, Wiles’ commitment to the north Baton Rouge school is welcome, a fact she understands.  

“If you want a school to have longetivity, the parents and the students need to feel like they are wanted, that it’s stable to be here,” she said, adding that one of her goals is to get to know every student and help them feel comfortable. “That stability and caring atmosphere does matter to students and to staff.”  

Wiles is no stranger to an inner city school environment, having previously taught at the now shuttered Redemptorist High School and spending the past school year as founding principal at Cristo Rey Baton Rouge Franciscan High School, which, ironically, is her new neighbor. She also taught at a Cristo Rey school in Chicago, but it was her time as an administrator at a public school in west Chicago, which was compromised of all African-American students, that she called the most enjoyable of her career.  

“We did a lot of things to turn the school around,” she said. “It was fabulous.”  

Wiles admitted her first goal, and perhaps most important at this point, is to gain the trust of parents and provide an environment of learning and safety. One of her initial tasks was to rid the classrooms, closets and other areas of clutter.  

The floors were waxed and replaced where needed, many areas received a much-needed fresh coat of paint, leaks in the ceiling and windows were repaired ,and a faulty air conditioning system is now in working order. 

A grant from the Diocese of Baton Rouge helped defray some of the costs and the school picked up the tab for the rest.  

“I want an environment that is inviting to the kids, and I always think, ‘Would I want my kid to come here,'” she said. “If it’s not presentable enough for my kid to come here, then it’s not presentable for anyone.” 

Educationally, Wiles made the decision to institute block scheduling for the middle school. Block scheduling is unique in that students have four 90-minute classes daily, rather than the standard 45- to 50-minute structure.  

According to Wiles, students will attend math and reading classes daily, where she said students appeared to be weaker, with social sciences and social studies being taught every other day. The fourth class is an elective of the student’s choosing, whether it’s physical education, art, library, etc. 

“It brings a lot of structure and we felt like it was needed,” Wiles said. “So far it’s working great. You get much more done, especially in science where you can do an entire experiment in a class and you are not rushing.”  

Along with providing the students with their best opportunities to succeed, Wiles is equally as emphatic in her commitment to the teachers and administrators. She called the staff “fabulous” and said they “work so hard and what they do with some of the kids is amazing.”  

“That’s the other thing,” she quickly added. “You want people around your children that like children, that want to be there, that want (the students) to succeed. We have these amazing teachers that go above and beyond all of the time.”  

Despite the turmoil of the past year, Wiles said all but two teachers have returned for the new school year and admitted part of her job is to make them feel like family. Having previously served in an inner city environment, she can relate to teaching in a school with little resources and a smaller payday.  

“But you love what you do,” she said. “They are excited and I think they want the stability, someone who is going to be here, someone who is going to work with them. The school is their passion.”  

Redemptorist opened the school year with 230 students going through the turnstiles, a 15 percent increase from a year ago. Wiles is hoping that number will continue to trend upward, as she remains committed to becoming a fixture in north Baton Rouge.  “I get the struggle, I get why people want a safe school, a faith-based environment,” said Wiles, who was raised by a single mother who worked two jobs so Wiles and her brother could attend a Catholic school. “And a lot of people are willing to make that happen. I was given that opportunity and I want to provide that opportunity for others.  

“Every child deserves a good education, and this is the place I want to be.”