By Maureen Smith
JACKSON – While students were playing this summer, administrators and construction crews were hard at work getting buildings, programs and themselves ready for a new school year.
The diocesan Office of Catholic Education added Margaret Anzelmo in July as the coordinator of academic excellence. She left her job as assistant principal at Jackson St. Richard to take on the task fulltime.
Last spring, teachers from across the diocese met in subject area teams to continue the process of writing and revising the diocesan curriculum. The 2015-2016 school year will be the second year for the math curriculum and the first year for science, language arts, and religion in grades 6-12.
Teachers and administrators are learning the new curriculum for each subject area and aligning lessons, activities, and technology applications to the standards. Instructional leaders within each school, under Anzelmo’s direction, will guide teachers through the process of implementing the standards and fine-tuning instruction.
Four schools have new principals, Madison St. Anthony, Jackson St. Richard, Vicksburg St. Aloysius and Madison St. Joseph.
Jim Bell is leading Madison St. Anthony School this year. He arrived mid-June to work with Julie Bordelon, interim principal to ensure a smooth transition. Bordelon, a 20-year Catholic school educator from St. Patrick, Meridian stepped in last year as interim while a committee searched for a permanent administrator. “We thank Ms. Bordelon for her service to Catholic schools,” commented Catherine Cook, superintendent.
Cathy Wilson, a graduate of Vicksburg Catholic Schools, is principal at Jackson St. Richard this year. Former principal Lisa Geimer ended her tenure as principal at the end of the last school year. “Mrs. Geimer faithfully served St. Richard as a teacher, assistant principal, and principal for many years, and we thank her for her dedication and leadership”, said Cook.
Vicksburg St. Aloysius’ new principal Dr. Buddy Strickland is busy planning for the upcoming year. Strickland replaces interim principal Jules Michel, who served as principal at three high schools in the diocese. “I can’t say enough about his commitment to Catholic education and his willingness to serve when called,” said Cook.
Cook will lead Madison St. Joseph for the 2015/16 academic year after principal Keith Barnes left. Barnes was part of the St. Joseph community for more than 20 years as a coach, teacher, assistant principal and principal. “Keith did a lot to bring the entire school community together. I think that is one of his great legacies, he was able to unite parents, students, alumni and faculty with a singular vision,” said Terry Casserino, journalism teacher at St. Joseph. Cassarino credits Barnes with helping the school achieve a number one ranking on Niche.com, a school ranking site. “We have a lot to build on, thanks to Keith (Barnes), and we can build on this foundation and beyond,” he added.
“During the time Mr. Barnes was not teaching/coaching prior to his return to St. Joseph as assistant principal, he served on the Diocesan School Advisory Council”, stated Cook, “so his service to Catholic schools went beyond St. Joe, and we thank him for his service to the Diocese.” Here is a look at what was happening at some schools during summer vacation.
Greenville St. Joseph
and Our Lady of Lourdes
- Our Lady of Lourdes will to the St. Joseph campus after construction is complete.
- Groundbreaking for the merger was set to happen July 24.
- St. Joseph will add rigor to the math curriculum to allow students to take algebra earlier.
- Additionally, math teachers received training to implement Southern Regional Educational Board Math, a course of study designed to strengthen algebra and geometry skills in preparation for college.
Madison St. Joseph
- Crews revamped existing space in the administration building to add an 80-seat chapel capable of hosting each class for liturgies.
- Teachers are participating in a three-day training to roll out a science, technology, religion, engineering and math program.
- Every teacher will get a MacBook computer and training. Additionally, 48 Macbooks have been ordered for student use in classrooms.technology infrastructure has been upgraded to move to the student one-to-one laptops scheduled for implementation in January 2016.
- Preschool teachers attended early childhood education conferences in New Orleans and Dallas. Several elementary teachers attended a conservation in education workshop. The high school librarian attended the 2015 Mayborn Literary Nonfiction Conference in Dallas.
- High School teachers attended AP certification classes in chemistry, English, government and calculus.
- The school will also add SREB math like Greenville St. Joseph.
- Teachers attended workshops including a Civil War workshop, “Wired Differently” workshop, the Secondary Science Olympiad Summer Institute and an institute on teaching reading at Columbia University.
- New dropped ceilings and insulation were installed in the elementary classrooms and the cafeteria to improve noise, appearance and energy efficiency.
Madison St. Anthony
- New website launched.
- Teachers and staff participated in the Whole Schools Initiative training.
- St. Anthony will be the first school in the state to offer Wilson Fundations, a supplemental phonics, spelling, and writing program to pre-K4 – second grade students.
- First through sixth grade students will have access to iPad mini tablets. Kindergarten will have two touch screen smart boards and Pre-K4 will be getting two flat panel TV monitors.
- The Via Creativa Program will have seven new offerings: BRICKS4KIDZ, chess, computer explorers, Skyhawk soccer, tech club, Challenge Island and drama.
Meridian St. Patrick
- Reworked entrance added a covered driveway to the new building dedicated earlier this year. Administrators and teachers moved into the new offices and classrooms.
- The library was renovated.
- The school installed a science and engineering lab and new playground equipment.
Southaven Sacred Heart
- Upgraded IT network, adding fiber optic connections, wireless networking throughout the school and an Internet connection five times faster than the current speed.
- The school will add several cultural awareness days that showcase diversity of the Sacred Heart community.
Jackson St. Richard
- Document cameras, a projection system to increase student engagement, are being added to classrooms.
- Teachers are receiving IPads for their use with student classroom Ipad carts.
- Teachers participated in a variety of professional development including the Whole Schools Institute, Handwriting Without Teachers, and STREAM-Science, Technology, Religion, Engineering, Art, and Math.
Clarksdale St. Elizabeth
- Added a shaded area to campus thanks to a donation.
- Opened the library four days a week in summer to support the summer reading program.
- Hosted art and music camps.