It has been one year since we introduced to you "Faith in Tomorrow," the strategic plan for our Catholic elementary schools in the Diocese of Buffalo. We are pleased to report on the significant progress that has been made over the course of the past 12 months following its implementation.
We continue to face myriad challenges in our schools: a declining Catholic and overall population in Western New York, fewer people identifying themselves as Catholic and an economy that has been slow to recover. Yet countless opportunities continue to present themselves with leadership at the school and diocesan levels working tirelessly to build and sustain Catholic schools as centers of faith formation and academic excellence for generations to come.
One of the most exciting outcomes of the first year of "Faith in Tomorrow" is the tremendous increase in re-enrollment at our Catholic elementary schools. As of May 1, 2012, 8,445 students were registered for the upcoming school year, compared with 5,576 students a year ago. This is strong evidence that our retention efforts are working, thanks to the hard work of advancement directors working in our schools in collaboration with the Department of Catholic Schools.
Our schools are effectively implementing the Seven Key Result Areas of "Faith in Tomorrow."
Catholic identity and academic excellence are at the forefront at Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary School in Harris Hill which has added religious instruction to its Pre-K program, Fifth-graders are gaining a greater understanding of the parts of the Mass and Seventh-grade students are sharing their knowledge of the rosary by creating a bulletin board in the school hallway for all to see.
"Catholic identity permeates Nativity of Mary School infusing our students with the qualities and values to be the heart of tomorrow's Catholic Church. Our Catholic faith is the basis of all our teachings and is celebrated in all we do."
Cherie Ansuini, principal, Nativity of Mary School
Two new "classrooms of the future" are now part of the daily routine at Southern Tier Catholic School in Olean. These global learning labs allow students to embrace technology and are designed to promote cooperative and group-based learning. Mobile whiteboards and multiple projection screens on each wall give every student a front row advantage. Media:scape tables let students project content directly from their laptops to overhead projectors with just a flip of a switch.
"The classroom of tomorrow is a learning-centered classroom that maximizes the students' ability to collaborate in small groups, research independently and share out to the entire class. The learning builds upon itself as it is shared both orally and visually."
Mykal Karl, principal, Southern Tier Catholic School
Health and wellness are a focal point at Our Lady of Black Rock School in Buffalo where six students joined the school's School Health Initiative Force Team (S.H.I.F.T.). The team was established to give students an understanding and appreciation for exercise, nutrition, overall mental and physical wellness through health education, physical education, physical activity programs, and family and community involvement.
"I joined S.H.I.F.T. to make our school better and make a difference. I enjoy that my opinion is respected. It is great that they ask the student's point-of-view."
Irene Nkera, seventh grade, Our Lady of Black Rock School
Seventh- and eighth grade students at SS. Peter & Paul School and St. Gregory the Great School in Williamsville spent 90 minutes after school, two days a week, taking the Dale Carnegie "Youth Character Development Program." Andrew Terranova, president of Dale Carnegie Training of WNY, taught the course which he said is the first full-time Dale Carnegie course geared toward seventh- and eighth-grade students. The training focused on what are known as the five drivers of personal and academic success: confidence, interpersonal skills, verbal communication skills, leadership and attitude.
"I liked the Dale Carnegie course for many reasons. It helped me to improve my leadership potential and my public speaking skills."
Charles Weimer, seventh grade, SS. Peter & Paul School
These are only a few examples of how our Catholic elementary schools have become actively engaged in the Seven Key Result areas of "Faith in Tomorrow": Catholic Identity; Academic Excellence; Health and Human Services; Organizational Structure and Leadership; Finances; Marketing and Communications and Facilities and Transportation. Thanks to strong leadership, committees that oversee the result areas are making sure that the strategies within each of the key result areas are being implemented, and those charged with oversight are held accountable.
Catholic school students in grades four through eight and teachers in the diocese will be the beneficiaries of a $20,000 Library of Congress Teaching with Primary Sources Program at Waynesburg University grant that will allow them to use primary sources in the classroom. A primary source is an artifact, document, recording or other source of information that was created at the time under study. It serves as an original source of information about the topic. This is a unique and exciting opportunity for our schools and our students. This funding comes at a most opportune time as we realign our diocesan curriculum to meet the Common Core Learning Standards.
In the coming academic year, some of our schools will be downloading their textbooks to iPads, another example of cutting-edge technology in the classroom. Many of our students, faculty and school families will continue to engage in community service projects at St. Luke's Mission of Mercy, The Response to Love Center, Loaves and Fishes, and many more organizations while our principals and faculty continue to pursue professional development. We fully expect our Catholic high schools to continue their unmatched academic achievements: more than $131 million dollars in college scholarships and a graduation rate of 99 percent.
This is a new beginning. Through the exhaustive efforts of the Diocesan Catholic School Advisory Council, "Faith in Tomorrow" has provided our Catholic elementary schools with a blueprint for success. One year into this strategic plan, the results demonstrate that we are meeting our goals. While much work remains, we are confident that when it comes to our Catholic elementary schools in the Diocese of Buffalo, there is good reason to have "Faith in Tomorrow."
Carol A. Kostyniak
Secretary for Catholic Education
Diocese of Buffalo
Dr. Paul Wietig
Catholic School Advisory Council
Dr. Rosemary J. Henry
Superintendent of Catholic Schools
Diocese of Buffalo
To learn more about Faith in Tomorrow, visit www.faithintomorrow.org