A message from Joann Tier: Catholic Schools Week 2018 is time to celebrate

JoAnn Tier | Superintendent of Catholic Schools

January 28 through February 3 marks a time of celebration nationwide. Each year during Catholic Schools Week, school doors open wide inviting the public to be a part of the Catholic school experience. Visitors can observe an environment centered in faith with intriguing programs and activities that engage the learner and promote discovery and adventure in learning. The atmosphere reflects the celebratory mood as a festive climate is created. The contributions that are realized because of Catholic education are accentuated and recognized.

During CSW, school communities focus on the value that Catholic education provides to students and families and salute the many contributions to our Church, our schools, our nation and our global society.

All-around Great Value

According to the National Catholic Educational Association, 1,878,824 students enrolled in Catholic schools nationwide in the 2016-2017 school year. Based on the national average public school per pupil cost of $11,066, Catholic schools provide $20 billion in savings each year for the nation. In the Diocese of Trenton, 16,182 students choose Catholic schools and save taxpayers in excess of $184 million annually.

The schools are academically competitive demonstrated by students’ scores that exceed the 75 percent national average. In 2017, 1,684 graduating seniors were awarded over $227 million in scholarships and grants. Eight Catholic schools have attained recognition as Blue Ribbon Schools of Excellence – St. Ann School, Lawrenceville, St. Paul School in Princeton, St. Leo the Great School, Lincroft, St. Gregory the Great Academy, Hamilton Square, Holy Cross School in Rumson, Our Lady of Good Counsel School, Moorestown, St. Peter School, Point Pleasant Beach, and Christian Brothers Academy, Lincroft. Students in these schools score in the top 15 percent of all schools in the nation in English, Language Arts and Math.

Realizing the importance of continual growth in learning, administrators, faculty and staff assess the delivery of instruction and consider student involvement as a pivotal part of authentic learning. Charlotte Danielson’s evaluation instrument, Enhancing Professional Practice – The Framework for Teaching, serves to guide teachers’ instructional improvement and professional growth. Student engagement is assessed, underscoring the role of the student in the learning process. The teacher understands the need for engaged and active student involvement for a deeper understanding of the subject matter. Faculty and staff are trained in the interpretation and use of data. They collect, analyze and apply findings to evaluate student learning, instruction and programs.

Our Catholic schools truly exemplify the theme for Catholic Schools Week 2018….“Catholic Schools Learn. Serve. Lead. Succeed.”

Students exhibit learning as they delve into cutting-edge academics. Schools have a plethora of technological devices for student use. Laptops, Chromebooks, iPads, Mac Books, SMART Boards and 3D printers enhance learning. Curriculum guidelines, based on research and national and state standards, accentuate the reason for the school’s existence as the tenets of the Catholic faith are infused in all areas of the curriculum. Students receive a challenging, high-quality academic experience that contributes to forming their future.

Service is a hallmark in Catholic schools and it is practiced throughout the school year. Students see the face of God in the disenfranchised, recognize their dignity as creations of God, and extend a hand to lighten their burden. At the high school level, students readily provide service as part of the expectations for graduation.

Leadership may be seen as a natural by-product of the educational environment. Benchmarks, expectations and the belief in the potential of each student help students to realize, demonstrate and contribute their talents in the world.

Success is evidenced as a disciplined work ethic results in an array of choices for students to demonstrate their gifts. Catholic school graduates rise to the top in countless occupations including the medical field, the sciences, the arts, finance, engineering, technology, and education.

Strengthening Our Schools

And the work to provide for the future of Catholic schools continues. Five years after the Commission for the Sustainability of Catholic Elementary Schools was established by Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., the charge was given by Bishop to review the recommendations and to re-affirm, delete or expand the guidance for elementary schools. Pastors, principals, teachers, business managers, board members and parishioners are reviewing the key areas of Catholic identity, governance, academics, finances, marketing, development and at-risk schools. With thought-filled discussions, recommendations to best support Catholic schools are nearing completion for Bishop’s review and consideration.

School communities will incorporate the recommendations as they continue to work relentlessly to provide an exceptional faith-based, academic environment for students. It is the vision and the sacrifice of many that contribute to the viability of the schools. The commitment is exceptional yet requires expansion and continued investment.

With the New Jersey demographic prediction of a 3-5 percent decrease in the school age population through 2020, this support and investment in students must be augmented so that the gift of Catholic schools continues.

It takes the investment and support of a community for a vibrant and sustainable learning environment to provide students the resources to create, to discover, to explore and to invent tomorrow.

To be sure, it is the faith-life, the values, the ethics, and the service to others that will contribute to our global society. It is the commitment and investment of the parish and school communities that will provide the faith-based, academic environment for our students to contribute to the future of our church and nation.

During Catholic Schools Week and throughout the year, be sure to visit a Catholic school. Experience that intangible spirit and energy that pervades the school environment. Observe students, alive with faith, enjoying the learning experience as they explore, discover and expand their potential. See their animated faces, hear their voices, and appreciate the blessings that flow from a Catholic school education.

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