Catholic schools: Great gift to Church, society Print E-mail
Around the Diocese
Written by Michael Lancaster, Superintendent of Catholic Schools   
Thursday, Aug. 26, 2010 -- 12:00 AM

One of the greatest gifts my parents gave me as a child was a Catholic school education. They recognized that a Catholic education would provide me with a foundation in faith, discipline, and knowledge that would serve me well not just through college, but for a lifetime.

Annual Catholic Appeal logoAs I look back today, much of who I am is the result of my education and formation in Catholic schools. It was through the example of wonderful and faithful teachers that I learned the importance of service, justice, faithfulness, academic rigor, and self-discipline.

These are lessons that are being taught every day in our Catholic schools as knowledgeable, caring, and dedicated teachers prepare our students to be faithful and active members of the Church and contributing members of society. Truly, Catholic schools are a great gift to our parishes, communities, Church, and society.

This gift of a Catholic school education is made possible through the dedication and generosity of parishioners, pastors, teachers, and parents across the diocese.

Providing resources and support

Running a school is a complex and difficult task that requires great effort and outside support. The Office of Catholic Schools (OCS) exists to provide this support and serves over 40 pastors, 50 administrators, 600 teachers, and 7,500 students in the 44 Catholic elementary schools and two high schools throughout the diocese.

Our mission is to assist pastors, principals, education commissions, teachers, and parents as they work to ensure that our schools provide the best possible Catholic education to our students.

One major way we accomplish this is by providing resources and support that individual schools cannot provide on their own. This includes researching best practice, informing schools on issues of policy and law, negotiating contracts, and advocating at both the state and local levels to ensure that our students receive services from federal programs as well as local services such as busing.

We also help schools through the school improvement and accreditation process. This process reviews everything from a school’s curriculum and learning climate to its finances and physical plant to ensure that the school is providing the best education.

Mentoring teachers

In addition, the OCS provides direct support to teachers and principals. Every year we offer a course in which veteran teachers learn to mentor beginning teachers.

Whenever a new teacher is hired, a trained mentor is assigned to help the teacher learn the complexities and nuances of the profession and improve their skills as a teacher so that students learn to their full potential.

The OCS coordinates ongoing meetings and support seminars for mentors and new teachers. We meet with all new teachers throughout the diocese twice a year to monitor their progress, answer questions, provide them with resources, and help them explore new ideas and ways of teaching both faith and academics.

Each year the office writes a grant which provides funds directly to the individual schools to support the mentoring program. At the end of their first year, new teachers are offered a class in which they can learn how to create their professional development plan, which is a state requirement for all new teachers.

Student data management

Training teachers, parents, and principals how to use new technology for student data management is also a service provided to our schools.

Electronic student information systems allow all student records, including grades, to be kept electronically. Parents may also view assignments, grades, report cards, and classroom messages over the internet.

The office provides continuous technical support and training for schools using the recommended SIS system. This helps schools simplify record keeping, improve communication with parents, and collect meaningful data to improve instruction.

Evaluating curriculum

Curriculum is another key area where we assist schools. This year we have begun a review of the current academic standards.

We are working with principals and teachers to evaluate our current standards in light of new national standards and the 21st century learning skills identified as being critical to students’ success in higher education and the workplace of the 21st century.

Planning process

In May, we completed a major 18-month planning process during which we considered Catholic schools throughout the diocese and asked critical questions regarding their future. The process involved hundreds of people and resulted in a strategic plan to ensure the vitality and excellence of our Catholic schools.

Now we enter the much more important stage of implementing the plan. One of the first means of doing this is by providing enrollment management workshops for teams in each cluster. There will be a series of three, sequential workshops, one each in October, November, and January.

In addition, we are in the final stages of creating a survey for schools and clusters to use to determine the reasons why people do and do not enroll their children in Catholic schools.

Your contributions to the Annual Catholic Appeal (ACA) help us to continue this vital work that helps to set our youth on the path to a bright future as faithful and active members of our Church and contributing citizens of our nation.

We extend our sincere gratitude to all whose time, talent, and treasure make a difference in the lives of our children. Your contributions to the ACA helps ensure that we are able to continue caring, teaching, and forming each child so that they realize their God-given dignity and potential.

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