A new school year brings eagerness and anticipation! The dual mission of Catholic schools, faith development and a rigorous academic program, is strengthened by the commitment of a broad community of learners as plans unfold for the 2013-2014 school year.
A number of initiatives that took root in the 2012-2013 school year continue to provide opportunities that serve as change agents for students, for teachers and for our Catholic schools.
Teachers, seeking to better serve a diverse population of learners, enjoy the second year of partnership with Georgian Court University, Lakewood. Engaging in Special Needs Workshops, they come to understand more fully how students learn and to discover new instructional strategies to support that learning. The hands-on workshops examine how to modify assignments, to differentiate instruction, and to meet the learning needs of exceptional students, including academically advanced learners and students with disabilities.
Through the Catholic Athletes for Christ program, begun in 2012, Catholic identity is promoted in all high school athletics. Athletes attend weekly meetings, pray before each practice and game, take part in frequent Mass celebrations and retreats and enhance their knowledge through panel discussions and exposure to guest speakers. This program continues to expand in guiding athletes to live the gift of our faith.
Realizing the importance of marketing our schools and building on presentations from the 2012 Partners in Mission presentations, pastors, principals, school board chairs and marketing representatives will enjoy the perspective of Father Joseph Corpora of Notre Dame University on Sept. 26. Father Corpora’s address will be on the “Recruitment of Latino Children and Families to Catholic Schools.” The U.S. Census tells us that in the year 2000, 13 percent of the New Jersey population was Hispanic. In the year 2010, it had grown to 18 percent. The numbers continue to grow. Demographics are changing and our schools and families benefit in welcoming new neighbors.
The Catholic Alumni Partnership Program continues to serve as a basis to renew friendships with graduates and to invite them to invest in the ongoing success of their elementary schools. Letters have been sent to connect with over 75 percent of elementary school alumni to update them on the many initiatives and success stories of their alma mater. The seeds are being planted.
The Commission for Sustainability of Catholic Schools has concluded its recommendations. Upon Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M.’s, review and approval, the recommendations will begin to be implemented in areas of Catholic Identity, Governance, Academics, Finance, Marketing and Advancement. Schools with the challenge of increasing enrollment are being mentored to employ an array of strategies to realize success.
Having assessed the needs of our schools, the Department of Catholic Schools and elementary and secondary principals have chosen to utilize a new accrediting agency to guide schools as they form their future. The Middle States Association has served schools in the Diocese of Trenton as schools became initially accredited. As continued growth and viability is sought, our schools will be accredited by the North Central Associations Commission on Accreditation and School Improvement, an accreditation division of AdvancED.
NCACASI provides nationally-recognized accreditation, the purpose of which is continuous school improvement focused on increasing student performance. In earning accreditation, schools will meet NCACASl’s high standards, be evaluated by a team of professionals from outside the school and implement a continuous process of school improvement.
NCACASI accreditation assures parents that the school is meeting nationally accepted standards for quality and successful professional practice. Working with NCACASI/ AdvancED, the Department of Catholic Schools and elementary and secondary administrators are committed to ensure stability, viability, quality and growth in our schools.
The accreditation process assists by identifying issues and developing strategic plans for improvement; incorporating a standard-driven and student-centered approach with an emphasis on student performance; providing professional development and leadership opportunities; and, ensuring community involvement at all levels. NCACASI is one of three divisions of AdvancED, which has accredited over 32,000 institutions in more than 70 countries and has served over 20 million students.
Dr. Mark Elgart, president/CEO of AdvancED, the parent organization of NCACASI, stated “NCACASI accreditation is a rigorous process that focuses the entire school on the primary goal of creating lifelong learners.”
We salute our 35 elementary schools and eight high schools as they engage in this process and demonstrate a commitment to continuous improvement.
The school year unfolds with the engagement, the shared vitality, the renewed energy of committed pastors, principals, faculty and staff, boards of delegated responsibilities/limited jurisdiction, local, regional and diocesan PTAs, parents and the broader community. Each plays a significant part informing a vision to create a proud future for our Catholic schools. We continue to be blessed.