Tag: archdiocese (page 1 of 2)

Summertime, Children and Reading

By Steven Virgadamo, Bursari.com Executive Vice President

 

The current school year is winding down quickly. I get most excited about summertime as it is a good time to establish an amazing connection….summertime, children and reading should be like peas and carrots….things that go well together. Reading for young scholars can always open up galaxies of possibilities, but, reading in those lazy days of summer invites play, the unexpected and encourages an unbridled imagination. Every book is a possibility.

 

Ensuring free time to read and imagine is perhaps the best of summertime opportunities: a wonderful companion to any program, camp or class.

 

But not all great summertime reading should be done by a child in isolation. Sometimes there is nothing better than reading together. Sharing a story with your child means sharing language, life, and perspective. Characters’ decisions, good ones and bad, morph into complex conversations outside the pages. Funny moments become inside jokes, and travels to exotic lands an inexpensive possibility.

 

I wish you all parents and young scholars a summer filled with opportunities to make family memories as well as lots and lots of books.

Not On My Watch

“Not on my watch” is the mantra of the  new Catholic School Principals mentored under Steven Virgadamo.

Test scores and enrollment will not decline, nor will the Catholic identity be curtailed in Catholic schools across the Archdiocese of New York, assure the 21 new elementary school principals as they embark on building up the Church through the schools and pupils entrusted to their care…”

According to Virgadamo, the homework has been done to adequately prepare for the inevitable generational shift in leadership that has become a reality.  Nearly seven years ago, with the help of benefactors, the Curran Catholic School Leadership Academy was established. Virgadamo, the executive director, describes the academy as the equivalent of a naval war college for school leaders.

Fifty years ago, a sense of mission and identity in Catholic schools was taken for granted because the teachers came from the same religious community, Virgadamo noted. Thirty years ago, as the number of religious in the schools diminished, a new generation of lay school leaders emerged who were mentored and formed by members of the religious community who staffed the school. Today, programs such as the Curran Catholic School Leadership Academy are needed, he said, to prepare school leaders to create the same kind of unified school culture that ultimately becomes the charisma of the school.

More than 200 individuals from across the country applied for the 21  Catholic school principal positions in the archdiocese for this year, Virgadamo noted. Many cited the opportunity to be part of the team history will remember as those who rewrote the script of Catholic schools from a declining system to one which is growing and flourishing, he added.”

Sisters of Our Lady Immaculate

Sisters of Our Lady Immaculate

Note: This post is from msgrfoy.com

Sister St. Henry Moloney was the sister of Fr. Oliver Moloney.  She spent many years in Missionary work and spoke perfect Spanish. She helped found of the Sisters of Our Lady Immaculate.  My friend Fr. Oliver Moloney and I visited her at their Marian Residence Retirement Home in Cambridge Ontario when we were driving to the first Call to Holiness Conference in the USA in 1990s.

Well Begun, Half Done: 10 Benefits of Catholic Education

Well Begun, Half Done: 10 Benefits of Catholic Education

Disability, Education, and Faith

“Each of us, sooner or later, is called to face — at times painfully — frailty and illness, both our own and those of others,” said Pope Francis on June 12th, when he gave a homily celebrating Mass for the Year of Mercy jubilee of the sick and persons with disabilities.

 

Celebrating love and solidarity over focus on physical perfection and hiding away those who do not fit a standard or idea as a way to make the world a better place, His Holiness also said “The world does not become better because only apparently ‘perfect’ — not to mention fake — people live there, but when human solidarity, mutual acceptance and respect increase.”

 

Assisted at the altar by several alter servers with Down Syndrome, the Mass took place in St. Peter’s Square, and showcased several other people with disabilities including a reading of Scripture written in Braille, and Pope Francis made clear that while limitations are part of being human, we don’t always understand that. We have this idea that “sick or disabled persons cannot be happy, since they cannot live the lifestyle held up by the culture of pleasure and entertainment.”

 

“In an age when care for one’s body has become an obsession and a big business, anything imperfect has to be hidden away, since it threatens the happiness and serenity of the privileged few and endangers the dominant model,” the pope said. “In some cases, we are even told that it is better to eliminate them as soon as possible, because they become an unacceptable economic burden in time of crisis.”

 

He goes on to talk about that those attitudes hindering the real meaning of life, which “has to do with accepting suffering and limitations,” and that those, the sick and weak, cast aside by society, are exactly the ones that Jesus loved most. Love is the only real path to being happy. “How many disabled and suffering persons open their hearts to life again as soon as they realize they are loved! How much love can well up in a heart simply with a smile!”

 

“Each one of us has a different way of understanding things. One understands one way and another in a different manner, but we can all know God.”

 

This is something I believe we must focus on in education as well. There are any number of issues facing children in health, access, and ability. But to truly teach a great and faith-based education, one must put accessibility and diversity at the forefront.
“Differences are a richness because I have something and you have something else and by putting the two together we have something more beautiful, something greater,” the pope said. Diversity is not something to fear, but is “the path to improvement, to be more beautiful and richer.”

Catholic School Leaders Leaving it all on the Field of Play

Much has transpired since we opened this school year. Some great days, some challenging days and we have even witnessed some days of minor miracles. And yet for most Catholic school leaders, especially those who have already given everything they have, these last few months or weeks of school can seem like an eternity. No matter how hard you try to pace yourself, a Catholic school leader who is dedicated to giving teachers, students and parents their all, sometimes doesn’t have much left when May and June roll around. Every Catholic school leader needs to approach the end of the year in a way that works best for him or her. But then again, every Catholic school leader needs to remind themselves in May/June to not “spike the ball on the 5 yard line”. Every Catholic school leader will feel better about summer vacation if they know that they have left it all on the field as they cross the finish line of another academic year.

The following strategies are important all year round but even more important to help Catholic school leaders be more effective and focused on myriad professional demands during the last lap of the academic year:

Find Time for Yourself

Doing something that allows you to get away from education-related stuff is important. It’s great to have this hobby as a regular part of your life to keep your stress levels down over the course of the year. This hobby doesn’t have to be a solo activity. It could be something that you do with your spouse, friends, children, or whomever you want. The idea is devoting time to something (other than be a school administrator and minister) that makes you happy.

Partner with Another Catholic School Leader

It’s always good to have someone whom you can count on to be there for you when things get stressful. It’s even better if this someone is also a Catholic school leader, because he or she will have a better understanding of what you’re dealing with at the moment.. He or she can walk you through problems that would have been easy to deal with in September, but seem to be impossible by May. The other side of finding a teammate is being a teammate in return. As much as you receive, you’ll need to give as well. This might sound like more of the stress that’s been leading you to burnout, but helping others can actually make you feel great. It can also help you understand other problems that you deal with at school. Having a partner with whom you can share stressful situations helps prevent you from “crashing and burning.”.

Journal

Writing on a regular basis is a wonderful way to keep the fire burning throughout the school year. This can be in a private journal or on a blog for the world to see. Writing helps get ideas out of the head and safely memorialized. I often require new school leaders to journal in their first year of service and have even encouraged some to do so with a spouse as serving as a Catholic school leader is a family commitment. The writing process can be very powerful for people dealing with high levels of stress. Writing can sometimes provide a different perspective.

Laugh

As the Jimmy Buffet song says, “if we couldn’t laugh, we would all go insane.” Find the things that make you laugh and do them. The Mayo Clinic lists many of the positives of laughter when it comes to stress. The short-term benefit of laughter can “stimulate many organs, activate and relieve your stress response, and soothe tension.” The long-term impact of laughter can “improve your immune system, relieve pain, increase personal satisfaction, and improve your mood.”

Transforming the Culture of Catholic Schools

Dioceses and Archdiocese throughout the United States are attempting to re-engineer or re-imagine Catholic education especially as it relates to providing urban education. Much of the focus has been on restructuring – you often hear words like regionalization of schools. Some dioceses have begun to cross pollinate sharing ideas and sometimes the result is a thought process that says re-engineering Catholic schools is a cookbook, a recipe or a step by step process. Structure is important, but the real key to success is transforming the culture – changing the way we do things. So the key ingredient to re-imagining Catholic schools is re-culturing.  Re-culturing involves constant attention and focus of the key executive leaders as it takes time and energy. This is perhaps why those who staff the Catholic education offices across the country and those who serve as school leaders in a Catholic school building  need to lead with purpose, an intensity, enthusiasm, hope, a missionary zeal and always be growth minded.

 

Common Core in Catholic Schools: The Big Debate

There has been a lot of talk in secular and nonsecular schools, both public and private, about the Common Core learning standards set in public schools. Private schools are not obligated to use the Common Core standards, while public schools do not have the option. Initially, about half of the 195 diocese in the United States adopted Common Core at the initial roll-out, but we are seeing more and more Catholic Schools opt-out of Common Core practices as time goes on. Why?

There are letters upon letters online and in publications about Common Core and how it relates to the Catholic faith, but education centers around so much more than English and math. It is up to the families, the parents, and the communities as well as the schools in the church to raise children in the faith. Faith based curriculum can live alongside many methods of teaching math and English in schools. While there are many positive things to be said about Common Core Curriculum, there are also many detractors. Can Catholic schools work standardized curriculum into a well rounded Catholic identity?

It is no secret here that Catholic schools have performed exceptionally in academic success, with statistically astounding rates of graduation (students from Catholic schools are twice as likely to graduate college with a Bachelor’s degree when compared to children who graduate public high school) and that, comparatively, virtually no students drop out of Catholic School compare with the rates of public and non-Catholic private schools. Does Common Core improve or detract from these impressive stats?

Common Core often uses more creative, artistic/hands-on, and spatial parts of the brain to teach concepts that standard math textbooks often did not. It is immersive and rigorous, enforcing more critical thinking and allowing for less “guessing” work. It is more collaborative and encourages discussing problems to solutions to work them out. It is also specially designed for advancing equity amongst children from all backgrounds, being held to the same methods, taught the same way, regardless of city, state, affluence, or previous knowledge, and allows teachers to serve students more equally, with less room for favoritism or inequality in teacher. The consistency allows for flexibility in moving schools, and later entering college with the security of having the same baseline information wealth as your peers. It can also be a feather in the cap of an already well-performing school who can now perform just as well, but now has hard, statistical data of success.

Detractors for Common Core (particularly in Catholic education) are concerned that focus on keeping up pressure on math and English scores in Common Core will push faith to the wayside in classes. There is concern that a constant focus on taking tests and “test prep” throughout the year does not educate children, merely sends them through an endless cycle of “absorb and regurgitate” and does not leave lasting educational foundations. There has also been a lot of discussion in secular and nonsecular schools alike, that the age at which Common Core starts for children is too young when compared with the complexity of the problem-solving, leading more children to feel overwhelmed and under-equipped for the work and phobic about those subjects later on in life.

There is also the factor of losing students to public, private, and charter schools, which has been a concern in Catholic education for quite some time. Do you avoid Common Core curriculum in order to potentially attract the parents and students who are unhappy with Common Core Standards in public schools, or do you use Common Core for the exact opposite reason, proving the tuition bills are worth it, and that your school is competitive with any other school academically?

Many Catholic schools are opting in for partial Common Core participation, with a focus on end of the year tests to make sure that children are meeting the standards, with few to no tests in between and much less focus in the classroom curriculum on the standards themselves. Because private schools are not beholden to the Common Core standards, they are able to pick and choose more freely in the amount of Common Core being taught, in order to not leave any stone unturned.

In this 2013 letter printed in the Washington Post, 132 Catholic professors wrote a letter which was sent individually to each bishop in the United States, beseeching them to help course-correct education in Catholic schools and universities across the country. From the letter: “In fact, we are convinced that Common Core is so deeply flawed that it should not be adopted by Catholic schools which have yet to approve it, and that those schools which have already endorsed it should seek an orderly withdrawal now.” “We find persuasive the critiques of educational experts (such as James Milgram, professor emeritus of mathematics at Stanford University, and Sandra Stotsky, professor emerita of education at the University of Arkansas) who have studied Common Core, and who judge it to be a step backwards. We endorse their judgment that this “reform” is really a radical shift in emphasis, goals, and expectations for K-12 education, with the result that Common Core-educated children will not be prepared to do authentic college work. Even supporters of Common Core admit that it is geared to prepare children only for community-college-level studies.”

In March 2014 Bishop David Zubek sent a letter assuring parents and educators that the Diocese of Pittsburg is not using the Common Core State Standards in any of it’s schools. “The Common Core is a set of minimum standards, intended to help public schools with their effort to prepare students for higher education and the workforce,” wrote Bishop Zubik. “Schools in the Diocese of Pittsburgh have always set higher standards, and we continue to challenge students to exceed those standards.”

Kathleen Porter-Magee, Superintendent of Partnership Schools, a group of six urban Catholic Schools residing in Harlem and the South Bronx in NY has decided that the dangers of opting out as a school greatly outweigh the arguments against Common Core. Her schools choose to utilize the curriculum to it’s fullest, ensuring that they standards they hold for the students are kept high and regularly achieved. She speaks about the John Hopkins study on race biasing the expectations teachers have of student’s academic achievement. She believes that the benefit of bias-free benchmark testing, and that many of complaints against frequent testing are really masking the root of the issue: the problem lies in poor implementation decisions from school faculty.

In the end, it is up to the schools, the faculty and leaders, and the Diocese to determine the best fit for their schools. Catholic schools have the privilege to make that choice rather than by mandate. I believe that a school soundly based in faith, with a focus on academic achievement alongside spiritual growth will raise children to be devout and whole in mind, body, and spirit, regardless of the implementation of Common Core State Standards.

Rev. Bechina to Give Vatican Lecture at University of Notre Dame

Reverend Friedrich Bechina, F.S.O. is the undersecretary of the Vatican’s Pontifical Congregation for Catholic Education. It has had many names and forms in the past, with the “Congregatio pro universitate studii romani” being founded in 1588 by Pope Sixtus V. In it’s current form, The Congregation for Catholic Education is the Pontifical congregation of the Roman Curia responsible for: universities, faculties, institutes and higher schools of study, either ecclesial or non-ecclesiastical dependent on ecclesial persons; and schools and educational institutes depending on ecclesiastical authorities.

Rev. Bechina will being giving the 2016 Keeley Vatican Lecture titled “The Holy See’s Higher Education Policy from St. John Paul II to Pope Francis” at the University of Notre Dame on April 6th. Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C, president of the University will begin by introducing him. “I have been working for the Congregation for Catholic Education for more than 12 years. Next to the daily work in the office, I have gotten to know the world of higher education and universities through a hundred “business trips” and many contacts. Now I am jointly responsible for the management and the organization of the internal work and the contacts with more than 2500 Catholic institutions of higher education.” Said Rev. Bechina.

Friedrich Bechina is a native of Vienna in Austria. He has served as an officer in the Austrian army, and studied economics, philosophy, and theology first in Vienna, following that with an education at the Gregorian Pontifical University in Rome, where he earned a doctorate in 1997 for his doctoral thesis “The Church as the Family of God.”, for which had received much acclaim and awards. He also received the sacrament of ordination in the same year. He served in the Austrian Archdiocese of Feldkirch for many years before being appointed to the Congregation for Catholic Education and was then later appointed undersecretary. He is a former elected member of the Bologna Process Follow Up Group (BFUG, 2008/2009) and is currently elected member of the Bureau of the Steering Committee for Higher Education and Research (CDESR) at the Council of Europe.

The University of Notre Dame has said that he will not be the only visitor, but will also give the community and the school the opportunity to interact with other distinguished representatives from the Holy See and from significant dioceses in Europe. They are clearly thrilled to have his involvement and visit to the Notre Dame campus.

To get an idea for his speaking, you can view Father Bechina interviewed by students for the campus news program at Cabrini College about human trafficking:

Using Tuition Aid to Increase Catholic School Enrollment

Most Archdiocese in America have tuition assistance, and a quick Google search of your state or city can yield quick results as to the process of applying, amount of assistance in grants and/or scholarships, and the schools that the tuition assistance applies to, if there are any restrictions.

Some archdiocese do something unique for the specifics needs of the community they are a part of, for example, the New York Archdiocese has an Inner-City Scholarship Fund, which exists to aid families with financial needs in securing the kind of quality education rooted in values that they are seeking for their children.

From the Inner-City Scholarship fund website: “Nearly 70% of the students enrolled in designated elementary and secondary inner-city Catholic schools in Manhattan, the Bronx and Staten Island come from homes living at or below the federal poverty line. The average scholarship recipient’s family income is approximately $24,000 per year. Over 50% of inner-city Catholic school students come from single-parent households.”

With this fund, Catholic schools partner with the donors of the program to help these families and their children reach a better education, and -by extension- a more promising future. In an area where a third of students in inner city schools do not graduate at all, and other obstacles face inner city children daily, an overwhelmingly large number of Catholic seniors graduate. A whopping 98%. And, further, 96% of those graduates go on to pursue some form of higher education at universities countrywide, which is an awe-inspiring number.

In order to combat the declining trend in Catholic school enrollment as shown by the National Catholic Educational Association’s report, some schools in various states are looking towards scholarships as opportunities to actually reverse that trend and grow enrollment. Florida and Nebraska have both seen growth with initiatives. There are needs based and merit based scholarships, grants for minorities, and more states and Archdiocese are looking to branch out and think outside of the box.

The Archdiocese of Omaha has a particularly interesting program called “Welcome Tuition Grants.” These grants are offered only to families who transfer from secular private, public, and home schools into the Catholic schools within the Archdiocese. “We think Catholic education has plenty of great things to offer families,” said Patrick Slattery, superintendent of the Archdiocese of Omaha. “But we do have capacity to educate more.” Slattery said he borrowed the idea from Allentown, Pennsylvania, where Catholic school enrollment had steadily declined for 15 years, indicative of a nationwide trend. The Allentown diocese reversed the decline in 2012, however, by offering tuition discounts, not based on merit, but on new students enrolling in their schools, leading to 426 new enrollments. Omaha began piloting this program for the first year in the 2015-2016 school year, so it is fairly new, but within just a small three week window after it was announced, they saw 43 new students transferred to a Catholic school. “We are offering tuition grants to invite families to experience the excellent education opportunities and the Catholic school environment that is welcoming, demanding and Christ-centered,” said Slattery.

This kind of outside-of-the-box thinking should continue. Scholarships and grants to families with fiscal needs, exceptional children, minorities, and transfers are all great ways to both bring your schools in line with wishes of Pope Francis who has spoken many times about the need to make a Catholic education more available to all children, and to also help to keep the Catholic schools in our communities alive, healthy, and full.

What do you think of these initiatives? Do you have ideas or your own? Tweet at @SVirgadamo!