The adage goes, "Don't judge a book by its cover." The moral behind the adage is that what you see on the outside may be quite different from what you see when you look further. The same is true of our Catholic schools.
The recent revitalization process has helped all of us to look beyond the "cover" - the bricks and mortar that make up a school building, even its location. The challenge that has been met has been to work with what's inside: programs, Catholic identity, meeting students' needs, preparing our dedicated teachers for 21st century learning. These are items that are not readily apparent when looking at a Catholic school, but are essential to doing what Catholic schools do best: provide the best value-laden education that is available.
A parent survey, taken in November and December 2013, revealed that parents are eager for new and upgraded programs. Almost 2,200 parents and other interested parties indicated that they want updated facilities, enhanced programs, especially in science and technology, and rigorous, faith-based learning. They also want Catholic education to be available and affordable. Together, these present a real challenge to the Diocese of Buffalo, a challenge we welcome as we address the desires and concerns of parents for their children.
Beginning this spring, three long-term projects will be introduced in order to change and improve the Catholic schools of the Diocese of Buffalo. Over a three-year period, a program called STREAM will be introduced. STREAM consists of Science, Technology, Religion, Engineering, Arts and Math.
The goal of STREAM is to prepare 21st century students for a 21st century world. Students will be engaged, from an early age, in studying robotics, architecture, space exploration, technical design and other topics wrapped around a values-based foundation. Watch for billboards and other media messages that will lay out plans for a newly-enhanced curriculum for our schools.
The second project will be to increase the participation of our laypeople in the governance of our schools. This spring will find us building school boards that will be formed by the pastors of our community schools. Persons who are interested and invested in our Catholic schools will be asked to be more involved in planning for their future, ensuring the presence of rigorous programs and promoting the Catholic identity of our schools. In partnership with pastors and principals, they will be a help and a support.
The third project has already begun. In November 2013, the Buffalo Diocesan Federation of Home-School Associations was formed, and an executive board selected. It is our hope that this group will provide a strong voice in Catholic education, coordinate parent-education programs, and help to bring resources for parents to use in their own Catholic schools.
These initiatives will change what happens inside our schools. They aren't earth-shattering, but they will build upon the success for which Catholic schools have always been known. Our dedicated administrators and teachers are being provided professional updating and training, and continue to make the quality of their service a priority.
We invite everyone to stick with us. Catholic schools will continue to have the highest graduation rate in Western New York, we will continue to produce students who have a moral grounding, and we will continue to challenge young people to be all that they were meant by their Creator to be. We're dedicated to a process of continual improvement, and we think you will be pleased with the upgrades and improvements that are happening in our schools.
As the Revitalization plan goes on, we invite everyone to take another look: our Catholic schools have been strengthened, re-energized and brought up to date for a new generation of youngsters.
Sister Carol is the superintendent of Catholic schools.