National Catholic Schools Week kicks off a weeklong celebration beginning Jan. 28 and will focus on a single theme – Catholic Schools: Learn. Serve. Lead. Succeed.
The annual event is celebrated in every diocese in the United States with a Mass, open houses and activities that focus on the value and successes of Catholic education. In the Diocese of Orange, educators understand the culture in which students live and have diligently worked to foster in students the key principles highlighted in this year’s theme.
“Catholic education is a game changer for many families, especially those for whom values are essential in the formation of their children. Catholic schools reinforce the core values of Christian behavior, promoting the principles of ethics and integrity,” said Hank Evers, Orange Catholic Foundation’s director of Development and Communications. His role allows him to help raise funding for Catholic schools and tuition assistance for families in need. He is also a Diocesan Consultative School Board member and former chair of the Catholic Schools Management program at St. Edward the Confessor Parish School. “Catholic classrooms focus on the ‘biggest’ subjects – confidence, kindness and faith. Our schools develop young men and women of character who become a greater value to our community.”
The Diocese of Orange Catholic Schools encompasses 41 accredited elementary and secondary schools that serve about 15,000 students. All schools are accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) and the Western Catholic Education Association (WCEA). Diocesan schools have been recognized eight times with the prestigious National Blue Ribbon Honor and consistently score well above the national average in standardized testing. The National Blue Ribbon Schools program recognizes public and private elementary, middle and high schools based on academic excellence. It is the highest United States Department of Education distinction.
In the last few years, every school in the diocese provided individualized technology for every student, making them a leader in the nation’s Catholic schools in the availability and use of instructional technology. Makerspaces, 3-D printers and STREAM philosophy (Science, Technology, Religion, Engineering, Art and Math) activities are becoming increasingly a part of the curriculum that encourages creativity, problem solving and critical thinking skills. The National Association of Catholic Schools recognized the Diocese for forward-looking leadership and programs. The high schools are known for their robust athletic programs and many of the schools excel in fine arts.
“Catholic schools provide strong academics in smaller class settings,” said Jacqueline Kennedy, enrollment coordinator for the Diocese. “Our classrooms are fitted with up-to-date technology that include a one-to-one technology program and a digital library. Most importantly, Catholic schools provide students with a loving, nurturing environment centered on the love of God. Our students feel like they are a part of a family when they come on campus. They know their teachers care about them and their success.”
The Catholic school system is designed in such a way that it allows the individual schools in the system to operate more efficiently and as a result, offer more to students.
“We require teachers to continue their professional growth through professional development opportunities. This includes both academic and religious. One of the big differences from public schools is that our teachers aren’t tenured. Teachers are here because they want to be here and are effective educators year after year,” said Kennedy. “Another major difference is the presence of the pastor and clergy. Our schools are full of religious life. It’s not uncommon to see a nun in the hallways, a priest playing volleyball with the students at recess, or a brother running the robotics club. Faith and morality are not something our schools shy away from teaching. We know that parents are the first educators and we work collaboratively to educate the next generation.”
National Catholic Schools Week began in 1974 and begins on the last Sunday in January. This year, the celebration begins on Jan. 28 and ends Feb. 3. It is a collaborative project of the National Catholic Educational Association and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops for the nearly 2 million students enrolled in the 6,525 Catholic schools around the country.
In the Diocese of Orange, Catholic schools will open their doors during the week for prospective students and their parents to tour and ask questions. For more information on events and individual schools, visit occatholicschoolsweek.com