By Archbishop William E. Lori
Each year at this time, in dioceses throughout the United States, the Catholic Church takes a moment to reflect on the impressive legacy of our Catholic school system, and to promote Catholic school enrollment by sharing our schools’ success stories.
I am especially eager to do so this year on behalf of the Catholic schools of the Archdiocese of Baltimore as we prepare to celebrate Catholic Schools Week (see special supplement in this week’s Review), my first as Archbishop of Baltimore.
Since my arrival last May, I have had the pleasure of visiting several Catholic schools and have witnessed firsthand the excellence of our schools, the commitment of our teachers and administrators, and the sacrifices of our parents – all of which play a critically important role in the success of our schools and their students.
This success has been recently reinforced by the following updated statistics for the most recent school year for Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of Baltimore:
•?Graduation rate: 99 percent;
•?College entrance rate: 98 percent;
•?Scholarship awards: $234 million;
•?Average SAT score: 1580 (National public school average is 1447; Maryland public school average is 1467).
These tremendous results should be a reminder to us all that Catholic schools are a tremendous value and worth every investment we make in them as teachers and administrators, parents and grandparents, students, donors, and bishops and priests.
We are not resting on our laurels as we continue to implement the recommendations of the 2010 Blue Ribbon Committee on Catholic Schools’ Strategic Plan, which seeks to make our schools more excellent and more affordable for the families we serve.
You may recall that the plan’s recommendations focus on the four key areas of academics, Catholic identity, governance and stewardship. Among the radical changes called for was the creation of a new model of school governance. Thus, the Archdiocesan Collaborative School governance model (ACS) was created, allowing sponsoring parishes to focus on the spirituality and Catholic identity of schools and the Department of Education to oversee schools’ administrative and academic performance. Viewed as an innovative approach to 21st century challenges in Catholic school governance, the ACS model is being held up nationally as the governance model of the future for other Catholic school systems and is a source of great hope for us here in our archdiocese.
Another key focus of the plan is school leadership. To that end, the Principal Leadership Institute for Advanced Studies (PLIAS) was formed to strengthen principals’ skills in areas such as instructional leadership, finance and marketing and human resource management through a two-year program supported by our partners at Loyola University Maryland, Mount St. Mary’s University and Notre Dame of Maryland University. Eight principals and assistant principals comprised the first graduating class this past November and a second class is set to begin this spring.
These are just two of the more than 50 recommendations being implemented and which several departments in our central services offices gather regularly to evaluate. Overseen by our superintendent, Dr. Barbara McGraw Edmondson, and her team in the Department of Schools, and Monsignor Robert Hartnett, executive director of the Office of Research and Planning, implementation of the recommendations of the strategic plan remains a top priority.
We are also working to make our schools more affordable, which is why I was so pleased to announce the “Embracing our Mission – Shaping our Future” capital campaign with a goal of $50 million for Catholic schools. This goal includes $25 million for endowment and $5 million for emergency tuition support.
And, the program first begun in 1996 by Cardinal William H. Keeler, Partners in Excellence (PIE), continues to provide scholarships to low- and very-low income families who wish to send their children to a Catholic school in Baltimore City. With funds largely donated by our business partners in the Baltimore region, the PIE program awarded 659 scholarships for the current school year. It is hoped that more businesses will help us help these deserving children whose families seek to end the cycle of poverty by sending their children to a Catholic school.
For more information on becoming a supporter of PIE, visit pieschools.org.
Copyright (c) Jan. 24, 2013 CatholicReview.org