Back to school: principals report for duty

The 2019-2020 school year brings fresh energy, an environment of faith, hope and love and a few new faces to our Catholic schools.
Welcome to our new principals at St. Anthony Madison, Holy Family Holly Springs, St. Elizabeth Claarksdale and St. Aloysius Vicksburg.
Anne Cowger – St. Anthony, Madison
St. Anthony school welcomes new principal Anne Cowger for the 2019-2020 school year. Cowger has taught at St. Anthony since its opening in 2009. She earned a bachelor of arts degree in elementary education and a master of education degree in curriculum and instruction including graduate level coursework in school administration and supervision from the University of New Orleans. During her 27 years of experience in education she taught in various schools in Louisiana and Mississippi. When asked her vision for St. Anthony, Cowger responded, “We want students to know the world in which they live and see the endless possibilities that it offers – seeing that they can do whatever they set their mind to, solving problems with fortitude and endurance.”

Tunia Sangster – Holy Family, Holly Springs
Holy Family School welcomes Tunia Sangster as their new principal this year. Sangster has worked within the Catholic school system in Memphis for over ten years, both in teaching and administration. She is currently working on her second master’s degree in educational leadership. Sangster’s vision for Holy Family is “to grow student enrollment by challenging them academically and to develop creative thinking processes that will enable our students to be forward thinkers and create an even stronger Holly Springs community.”
Sarah Cauthen – St. Elizabeth, Clarksdale
St. Elizabeth School welcomes Sarah Cauthen as principal for the 2019-2020 school year. Cauthen is a 2004 graduate of Millsaps College in elementary education. After teaching several years in the Clarksdale Municipal School District, Cauthen converted to Catholicism and began working for St. Elizabeth Church in 2016. She is delighted to be returning to the vibrant atmosphere of a school. Her vision for Saint Elizabeth School is “to make sure that St. Elizabeth continues to be the influence, the pillar that is in this community, creating leaders, creating a future in Clarksdale.”
Karla McHan – St. Aloysius, Vicksburg
As announced in 2018, Karla McHan would assume the role of principal of Vicksburg Catholic-St. Aloysius in the 2019-2020 school year. McHan has a bachelor of arts degree in secondary education from Mississippi College and a master’s degree in educational leadership from William Carey University. “I am a Catholic and I really love my faith and my church, and I have a great passion for education, so this was a really good way to combine those two,” McHan stated. She continues the great tradition of excellence in academics and service to the Vicksburg community.
The Diocese of Jackson wishes all of our new principals great success in the coming school year.

Catholic education shows importance of faith, hope and love

By Karla Luke
JACKSON – The following quote is often seen displayed in many of our schools across the diocese: “Let it be known to all who enter here that Jesus Christ is the reason for this school, the unseen but ever-present teacher in all its classes, the model of its faculty, and the inspiration for its students.”
Our Catholic Identity is the foundation of everything that happens in our Catholic schools. We strive to be schools who live the two great commandments: love God with our all our heart, soul and mind and love our neighbor as ourselves. We seek to accomplish this through daily prayer, mass, retreats and service to others. It is our goal to help our faculty and students grow in faith through these activities. Additionally, we provide units of study on various themes of Catholic faith for our faculty and staff. We believe that by providing faculty and staff with education and support about our Catholic faith that it will benefit our students by underscoring the importance of our baptismal duty to evangelize by word and action.
During the 2018-2019 school year, we studied the Beatitudes from the Gospel of Matthew. In our study, we explored the Beatitudes as an invitation to live as Christ did as a contradiction to the norms of society. As a basis for our study, we used the writings of Pope Francis, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and Blessings for Leaders: Leadership Wisdom from the Beatitudes by Dan Ebener. These foundation documents were the major source of information for our diocesan-wide study.
To successfully monitor how well we grow, internalize and practice our faith, two assessments were administered in the schools. During the 2018-2019 school year, the adult faculty and staff took the Information for Growth Survey for Adults (IFG) and the Assessment of Child/Youth Religious Education (ACRE) was given to students in grades five and eight. The results of these assessments directed us to a deeper study of the theological virtues: faith, hope, and love.
Each year we choose a theme on which to focus our attention on enlivening the faith for our students, faculties, and the school community-at-large. This year our theme “The Virtues are REAL,” will show the importance of faith, hope and love in our relationship with God and each other here on earth.
As we move forward in the essential responsibility of educating our students for this life and life in heaven with our Creator, we ask your continued prayers and support.

Data drives curriculum and instruction update

By Stephanie Brown
JACKSON – In the Fall of 2018, teachers from around the diocese met to revise the curriculum standards used by teachers in our schools. Teachers reviewed state and national standards as well as college and career readiness standards and expectations. After reviewing all of the information, clear and concise curriculum standards for English language arts, math, social studies and science were developed.
In addition to completing the revision and publication of our Diocesan Curriculum Standards, the Diocese of Jackson also implemented the use of the Effective Learning Environment Observation Tool (ELEOT). This is an observation tool used by administrators and lead teachers that focuses on student engagement in the classroom. The tool evaluates seven different “environments,” each of which have three or four indicators that support the environment. The use of this tool has allowed for principals to gain deeper insight into the instruction happening in the classroom each day and the results have allowed the Office of Education to frame professional development priorities for the next school year.
After reviewing our diocesan reports, it is clear that digital learning should be an area of focus for the coming school year. It was also decided that based on our ELEOT ratings, as well as survey results from teachers and students, that differentiated instruction is another area that provides opportunities for growth and improvement. To truly begin differentiation for all students, training on the use of student performance data to determine individual needs is needed for all teachers and principals. The Office of Education is currently working with the School Leadership Center of Greater New Orleans to schedule training on data driven instruction.

Surveys indicate increase in satisfaction

By Stephanie Brown
JACKSON – Starting in the Spring of 2018, the Diocese of Jackson’s Office of Catholic Education began conducting surveys among parents, teachers and students to gain better insight into the strengths of our schools and to identify areas for future development. While individual schools had conducted surveys in the past, this effort was done from the system level to both provide feedback to individual schools as well as identify system-wide trends that the Office of Catholic Education could begin to address.
In the Spring of 2018 general surveys were sent to teachers, students and parents to gather baseline statistics of how stakeholders believed our schools were performing across different areas of school life. In the Fall we began more targeted surveys of teachers and students to gain a better understanding of how teachers are teaching and students are learning in the classroom each day. Following a successful Catholic Schools Week, Catholic Identity Surveys were sent to parents to assess how our schools are fulfilling their missions as institution of faith-based learning.
In April of 2019, fifteen questions were selected from the 2018 parent survey and were resent. The revisited questions were looking for any improvements made in the areas focused on throughout the year. Questions were asked regarding student support services, overall school environment and students’ application and understanding of the content they are being taught.
While many indicators showed similar results to the 2018 surveys, two indicators demonstrated a 4% increase in parent satisfaction. These indicators were “My students sees a connection between what they are learning and real life;” as well as, “All of my child’s teachers meet his/her learning needs by individualizing instruction.” Both of these indicators were areas of focus of our classroom observation program in the 2018-2019 school year.