"CATHOLIC SCHOOLS RAISE THE STANDARDS"
SECRETARY SAYS AT OPENING MEDIA CONFERENCE
PITTSBURGH – Highlighting the values and academic excellence that Catholic schools bring to Southwestern Pennsylvania, Dr. Robert Paserba, Secretary for Catholic Education and Evangelization, enumerated several examples reflecting the 2012-2013 theme, “Catholic Schools Raise the Standards” at his annual news conference opening the school year.
Though the official enrollment has not yet been determined, approximately 21,000 students will be enrolled in 81 pre-kindergarten through grade 8 elementary and 11 Catholic high schools in the diocese. The breakdown is approximately 3,000 pre-kindergarten students, about 14,000 kindergarten through eighth grade students and about 4,000 students in grades 9-12. The average tuition for the first child Catholic student in elementary school is about $3,450; at the high school level, it is about $8,950.
Some of the highlights include:
- In May, 2012, 68 Catholic elementary schools were recognized by Junior Achievement for involving 100 percent of their students in JA programs. The Cardinal Donald Wuerl Scholarship program established by Junior Achievement in 2005 continues to assist eighth graders continue with their education at diocesan high schools. During the past eight years, 216 eighth graders have received scholarships of $3,000 each bringing the total provided by JA to $648,000. Furthermore, the 2012-2013 academic year marks the beginning of the Bishop David A. Zubik Scholarship program, which is designed to support students attending Catholic high schools and who participate in the JA program at their respective high schools.
- The 2012-2013 academic year marks 12 consecutive years of implementation of the Catholic/Jewish Educational Enrichment Program (C/JEEP), which involves the participation of Rabbis of Pittsburgh area synagogues at our Catholic high schools. The C/JEEP project is intended to present information and develop dialogue between students and each Rabbi who visits an assigned school on a once or twice a month basis. The annual orientation session with Rabbis, our principals, faculty and our central office leadership team was August 17, 2012.
Important Developments and Initiatives of the 2012-2013 academic year:
- One of the salient initiatives is the 16 listening sessions held. The listening sessions involved the Catholic Schools office with a team from Notre Dame based Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE). The sessions focused on organization and operation of our Catholic schools for the future to ensure long term viability. Another important outcome of the 2011-2012 implementation was the formation of two “Consortium of Parishes Model” schools, including East Catholic School in Forest Hills and Mon Yough Catholic in Whitehall. Six parishes are supporting the East Catholic School along with the addition of students from Word of God in Swissvale and Good Shepherd in Braddock who are now enrolled at East Catholic. In total, there are 363 students attending East Catholic in grades kindergarten through eighth. Eight parishes are now supporting Mon Yough Catholic with the addition of students from Saint Joseph Regional in Port Vue. Mon Yough Catholic began the academic year with a total of 331 students in grades preschool through eighth.
- Another important initiative is the establishment of the Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic High School (CWNCHS) in Cranberry which is expected to open in Fall 2014 with the expectation that as many as 1,000 students will be enrolled
As of this date:
- Site-preparation is well underway on the 71-acre parcel, which is located on Rt. 228 in Cranberry Township;
- The firm Astorino Architects and Engineers has designed the state of the art facility;
- The curriculum framework has been completed;
- The funding and financing are in-place for the project and are being finalized.
One important note regarding the curriculum framework is the formation of the Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic High School Education Planning Commission, representing a cross-section of professional educators and Catholic leaders who are finalizing all aspects of the education program. Work on the commission will be completed in late Fall 2012. The school will have a Science, Technology, Engineering, Math (STEM) certification program as well as technical education, inclusiveness programs for students with special needs, performing and fine arts, advanced placement options, electronic portfolio and project-based graduation requirements, and most important, the faith dimension grounded in the five characteristics of the Marianist tradition.
- In 1990, Pittsburgh was the first Catholic diocese in the nation to have all of its schools accredited by Middle States. As we begin the 2012-2013 school year, the Middle States Association continues to recognize all of our elementary and secondary schools as fully accredited.
Expansion of facilities at several schools: At the elementary level:
- Saint Alphonsus School, Wexford, completely upgraded its computer lab with 32 new IMacs. All classrooms have smartboards for the 2012-2013 school year. The cafeteria has been refurbished with new ceiling tiles and the partitions removed.
- Saint Philip School, Crafton, has a number of academic accomplishments: A Carson Awardee for academic achievement and service to the community; two teams of eighth graders took top honors in the grades six through nine division at AIU sponsored Science Bowl; 27 students qualified for President’s Fitness Awards that measured strength, endurance, speed, agility, and flexibility. Students took first and second places at the Crafton Library Battle of Books and moved on to the AIU Children’s Choice Awards and took third place.
- St. Rosalia Academy, Pittsburgh marks 100 years as a Catholic school.
- HolyChild School, Bridgeville, installed a fiber optic cable cord enabling online courses and video conferencing. Eighth graders received IPads used for Algebra and Science.
- St. Theresa of Avila, Perrysville, upgraded the science lab with new furniture, a mobile IPad lab and 20 new IPads.
A few examples at the secondary school level include:
- NorthCatholic High School, Troy Hill, had 14 students nominated as “Outstanding Young Citizens” by the Pittsburgh Tribune Review on the basis of academic excellence and community service, one became a Gold Medalist.
- QuigleyCatholic High Schoolhosted a forensic tournament for the 21stconsecutive year and the National Forensic League Congress qualifying tournament.
- Seton LaSalle and Serra Catholic High Schools issued Google Chromebooks to their students for exclusive use during the school year. Digital textbooks, online courses, Google Docs and email, along with amazing collaboration tools will enhance their already challenging and enriching curriculums.
Orientation for principals was held the week of August 13, and for 35 new teachers on August 14, with in-service days held throughout August for teachers, administrators and principals.
Opening day for most schools was Thursday, August 23 and the school year will end for students on June 6, 2013.
Between opening day and the final class on June 6, 2013 several important events and projects will take place, Paserba noted. “First, during the week of January 27-February 2, 2013, our schools celebrate Catholic Schools Week. Our theme throughout this year is ‘Catholic Schools Raise the Standards’ our schools celebrate more than 180 consecutive years of quality education in the Diocese of Pittsburgh in the year 2012-2013.”
“Regarding faith formation and Catholic identity,” Paserba added, “All of the Catholic schools in the Diocese of Pittsburgh share a set of common goals which they strive to fulfill. Of foremost importance is Faith Formation/Catholic identity. Our Catholic schools integrate faith into every aspect of life and culture, producing graduates who continually strive for human and Christian perfection. It is this focus on faith formation, spiritual values, moral and ethical development, and a strong sense of helping others that defines who we are,” Paserba said.
Academic excellence is readily apparent in the performance of our students in standardized tests. In the spring of 2012, approximately 14,000 students in grades kindergarten through eighth in our Catholic elementary schools took the Terra Nova Achievement Tests, and approximately 2,000 ninth and tenth grade students in our Catholic high schools took the Iowa Test of Educational Development in October 2011.
In citing just a few examples, the results show that from grades kindergarten through eighth in Reading, our students exceeded the national norms. For example, students in the fourth grade scored at the 7.0 level (6.5 in 2011) which is 2.3 years above the norm; in grade seven at the 11.7 level (11.7 in 2011) which is 4.0 years above the norm. In grades nine and ten, our students performed at grades 13.0 plus and 13.0 plus.
Similarly, in Mathematics, our average diocesan test scores in comparison to the national norms were greatly exceeded by our students. For instance, students in grade six scored at the 9.2 level (9.0 in 2011) which is 2.5 years above the norm; in grade eight at the 11.3 level (11.2 in 2011) which is 2.6 years above the norm. In grades nine and ten, our students performed at grades 12.8 and 13.0 plus, respectively.
“A measure of our Catholic high school graduates’ success might be found in the fact that more than 98 percent of them went on to post-secondary education following the year 2011 graduation. We expect similar results when final figures for the 2012 class are compiled,” Paserba said.
Catholic schools have fully integrated an Academic Support Model to provide interventions to students with mild to moderate disabilities, including students with specific learning disabilities, attention deficit disorder, and students with a slower pace of learning. Currently, all of our Catholic schools are involved with this formalized approach to meeting the diverse learning needs of students in regular education classrooms. In addition, 103 special needs children are educated in an inclusive model directed by St. Anthony School Programs at four elementary schools and two high schools. It also includes a program focusing on vocational training and career services for 18-21 year-old students at Duquesne University, University of Pittsburgh and Carlow University.
Regarding financial support, Paserba commented on the diocese’s school financing policy that requires 60 percent of total school cost to be funded from tuition yield, 25 percent from parish subsidy, and 15 percent from fund raising and development and other sources, including diocesan subsidy. This program has been in operation for the past 15 years and has created a level of financial support for each of our schools that can be budgeted for on an annual basis. “Every parish in the diocese provides financial support for our schools each year. We are grateful for the continued support for our schools that comes from our parishes, the diocese, the larger community and many benefactors,” Paserba added.
Schools also receive continuing training in fundraising and development through the diocesan development office, and support through the Bishop’s Education Fund. In the 18 years that this fund has existed, it has awarded over $10.2 million to nearly 38,000 elementary and secondary students in every part of the diocese. This year, tuition assistance grants from the fund will total over $680,000. A collection for this fund was taken up at all parishes at weekend Masses of September 8 and 9, 2012, allowing every person in the diocese a chance to contribute.
There are also direct diocesan grants to elementary schools throughout the diocese which will help schools with about $3.3 million in the current school year. This money comes from parishes throughout the diocese without schools.
“While the diocese makes a major effort to support schools, we are especially proud of the help that various segments of the community are providing,” Paserba continued.
“These donors show an increasing awareness that Catholic schools represent a community asset,” he noted.
Among the examples of growing community support which Paserba cited were:
- The Extra Mile Education Foundation provides significant support to two Pittsburgh area urban Catholic schools – St. Benedict the Moor in the Hill District and Sister Thea Bowman Catholic Academy in Wilkinsburg. Since its formation in 1990, the Extra Mile Education Foundation will have given over $34 million to the schools through the 2012-2013 school year. This year the schools will have a total enrollment of about 500 pre-kindergarten through eighth grade students, most of them non-Catholic, African-Americans.
- At East Catholic School in Forest Hills, Northside Catholic School in Brighton Heights and Saint Bartholomew, Penn Hills, the Board of the Extra Mile Education Foundation is also providing tuition assistance to approximately 130 students.
- In another section of Allegheny County, committed individuals formed the North Side Friends and Neighbors Education Fund to financially assist Cardinal Wright Regional Elementary School, now the newly merged school Northside Catholic located at 3854 Brighton Road. During the past 14 years, the fund has provided more than $1 million to support Catholic education in the North Side. The North Side Friends and Neighbors group, co-chaired by Ambassador Dan Rooney of the Pittsburgh Steelers and Mr. Kevin McClatchy will host its fifteenth annual fund raising gala on Thursday, October 25, 2012 at Heinz Field. The members to be inducted into the North Side Hall of Fame will be Kevin Colbert, General Manager, Pittsburgh Steelers and Jerry Bergman, distinguished retired National Football League referee.
- The Crossroads Foundation continues to assist graduates from the two Extra Mile Education Foundation schools along with students from the former Good Shepherd School and the Northside Catholic School to pursue a Catholic secondary education. Students who apply for Crossroads are required to attend these schools for at least four years and are awarded scholarships to assist them academically and/or financially in Catholic secondary schools. They receive extensive support services as well, including mentoring and counseling.
- Another important partner that helps us to support families at 18 of our elementary schools is the George and Mary Kremer Foundation. Currently, each of the selected schools has been given $9,500 for this school year to be used for tuition assistance for needy families so that their children can attend Catholic schools. Through the 2012-2013 school year, the Foundation will have provided approximately $2.1 million dollars to our families.
- In May 2001 the PA General Assembly passed the Educational Improvement Tax Credit program. This law enables businesses to receive a tax credit, or reduction in actual taxes paid, if they designate this money to an organization such as our Scholastic Opportunity Scholarship (SOS) program. The response to this program in Pittsburgh and all of Pennsylvania has been gratifying. Because so many members of the Pennsylvania business community recognize the value of our schools, the Diocese of Pittsburgh was able to attain about $30 million in tax credit funds from businesses for approximately 62,000 students during the past ten school years, about $2.9 million of which was awarded for 2012-2013. All of this has been distributed to students with financial need in grants ranging from $100-$2,500 per student.
This year, the PA General Assembly has increased the amount in the EITC 1.0 program to $100 million and it has established a new program, the EITC 2.0 program with a limit of $50 million. The EITC 2.0 program will be available to eligible families residing in the geographic area of the lowest 15 percent of the failing schools in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Tuition assistance will be provided to these students who choose to go to another public school or to a nonpublic school, with up to $8,500 for regular education students and up to $15,000 for special education students.
Another important initiative Paserba noted, in the area of administration, was the Department of Catholic Schools’ undertaking in the year 2000, “to follow the mandates of Pennsylvania’s Act 48 of 1999 – continuing professional education of teachers and administrators.” The Act involves teaching, administrative and superintendent certificates. As a result of this Act, the Department for Catholic Schools became an Approved Provider for the Pennsylvania Department of Education.
“Our application to continue to be an Approved Provider was tentatively approved by PDE for the period July 1, 2012 through June 30, 2015. Our approximately 1600 professionally certificated educators in the Diocese of Pittsburgh have completed their eleventh full year of in-service activities associated with this Act and all of them have not only attained the mandated hours and credits but have far exceeded them,” Paserba said.
Also, regarding our teaching staff, the eight Catholic high schools whose teachers are represented by the Federation of Pittsburgh Diocesan Teachers have a contract that extends through August 31, 2013. In addition, the 31 elementary schools whose teachers are represented by the Federation of Pittsburgh Diocesan Teachers have a contract in place that extends through August 31, 2014. St. Anthony School Programs, whose teachers are also represented by the Federation, has a contract that extends through August 31, 2014.
Paserba concluded his remarks with a reference to a central element of Catholic schools. “The centerpiece of our work is faith, and it is supported by 184 consecutive years of quality education, working to educate not only the mind, but the heart and soul as well.”
“Excellent academics are important; instilling values is vital. But without faith, there is no reason for Catholic schools. And by every account, parents are choosing our schools because they teach strong moral values in a disciplined environment – clearly a recipe for helping all children in our schools achieve their highest potential. They become contributing members of their communities, implementing the values of caring, of service, of the dignity of human life they learned at home and in our classrooms. As with our schools themselves, our graduates become a source of hope for the world. And weare extremely grateful to our bishop, Bishop David Zubik, who provides tremendous leadership and great support for our Catholic schools.”