I would like to thank each of you for the support you have given to our Catholic school community. I would also like to thank you for being so welcoming in my first year as superintendent. I look forward to continuing our work together.
This first year had its fair share of challenges. We witnessed multiple, heart-wrenching storms impacting our neighbors to the east and west, devastating deaths in our community, the challenges that came with getting our pilot programs started, and the threatened loss of non-public school funding from the state. However, with great challenge comes great opportunity, and I am proud of the manner in which our Catholic school community responded.
During the 2018 legislative session, we faced the possibility of losing all state funding for non-public schools. Given the complexities of the situation, I believe we fared as well as we could have hoped for. Required services sustained a cut of approximately 10 percent, but the school lunch program supplement was fully funded. In addition, the TOPS program was fully funded. While TOPS does not affect Catholic schools, it significantly impacts our high school graduates. Lastly, the Louisiana Scholarship Program was fully funded.
During the 2017-18 academic year, we expanded current initiatives and started a number of new initiatives, including special needs programs, blended learning programs and a distinguished alumni ceremony. This year, we supported existing programs for exceptional learners at St. Michael Special School and Holy Rosary Academy and High School. In addition, we piloted an inclusion program at The St. Paul’s School, and strengthened the programs at St. Benilde and Our Lady of Divine Providence. I am blessed to be a part of this initiative, one that is so close to my heart, and I am proud that our schools are embracing students with developmental disabilities. During the 2018-19 school year, we will see approximately 10 specialized learning programs throughout the archdiocese.
‘Blended Learning’ model
Other initiatives such as Blended Learning will continue to expand to more schools. Blended learning is an instructional model that leverages the use of technology to meet the diverse learning needs of young scholars. This model proves to be beneficial for students as it provides a mixture of small-group instruction and personalized, differentiated, learning that helps teachers meet the individual needs of their students. In addition to our Seton Blended Learning School at St. Rita, New Orleans, I am excited to announce we will have at least 10 schools participating in our Blended Learning Pilot Program during the 2018-19 academic year.
This year, the Office of Catholic Schools successfully launched the first annual Distinguished Alumni Ceremony. We honored a wide array of Catholic school alumni from the greater New Orleans area and other parts of the country. We are extremely proud to have recognized outstanding Catholic school alumni whose contributions visibly attest to the efficacy of Catholic education in faith formation, character development and civic responsibility. At a beautiful ceremony, Archbishop Aymond and I recognized these outstanding individuals, and we thanked them for their dedication to our faith and to Catholic education. They are truly awesome examples for our current students.
Lastly, I am grateful for the generosity of the many donors throughout the year who contributed to our tuition assistance fund and helped grant more children the gift of a Catholic education. Your gifts made a profound difference! We awarded tuition assistance to over 300 Catholic school students and their families. I humbly ask that you continue to contribute generously to the Champions of Catholic Education tuition assistance fund so that more children may reap the benefits of Catholic education.
As we begin a new school year, our goal is to educate the hearts and minds of our students. Please join me in lifting our entire Catholic school community in prayer, that we may preach and live the Gospel teachings as we form the young church. Thank you for having faith in Catholic schools!