By Stephanie Brown
JACKSON – In the world of education, a teacher or professor’s curriculum serves as the road map for what will be taught in the classroom throughout the year. Curriculum standards outline goals for the year and dictate what a student should know and be able to do by the time they leave one grade to move onto the next. In recent years the topic of curriculum standards has gotten more attention with the emergence of Common Core, College and Career Readiness Standards, Next Generation National Science Standards, and several other sets of state and national standards. As the curriculum debate has grown, Catholic schools have been faced with a challenge. These schools need to both utilize standards that will academically prepare students for the future and more importantly develop a roadmap that is infused with Catholic identity, ensuring that Catholic schools are teaching the whole child by cultivating his or her academic, spiritual, emotional and physical growth.
Curriculum review is an ongoing process. And, when state and national standards are revised is prompts the Diocese to take an even closer look and consider if changes are necessary. In following the updates to the state curriculum standards, the Office of Education determined that it was time to revise and enhance the standards currently used in the Diocese of Jackson Catholic schools.
The evaluation of the current curriculum started at the local level last September. Administrators and teachers spent a professional development work day focusing on vertical alignment. A curriculum that is vertically aligned ensures that students are fully prepared to move from one grade to the next. It eliminates gaps or holes in the content covered, and eliminates any redundancies that may waste time unnecessarily repeating skills and topics covered during the previous year. While many skills require a certain amount of practice and maintenance from year to year, diocesan leadership wanted to ensure that the standards and skills continue to build on one another and dive deeper into critical thinking rather than simply implementing rote repetition.
Following this work day, all the information from each school was collected and reviewed. In February, educators from around the diocese came together to closely evaluate several state and national standards, data from students’ performance over the past three years and feedback from the professional development day in September.
Working in groups based on grade level and subjects, teachers made decisions regarding what to implement for students at each grade level. Teachers were given the freedom to look at the standards currently available and determine which standards they felt were both developmentally appropriate and rigorous enough to ensure students’ academic success.
Once an initial draft of curriculum standards was created for each grade and subject, the committees dove deeper into the standards seeking natural connections between the newly written standards and Catholic identity. The committees began identifying concrete ways to integrate Church teachings, scripture and overall spiritual development into other subjects.
The next meeting of the curriculum committees is scheduled for mid-September. The agenda for this meeting includes revisions of the first drafts, continued vertical planning and alignments and an even deeper focus on the integration of Catholic identity. The goal of this process is to provide Catholic school teachers, students and parents with a clear roadmap of learning that not only meets the academic standards of our public-school counterparts but exceeds the rigor of those programs. This roadmap is further enhanced with guidelines for the spiritual and emotional development of students.
Following our curriculum meetings in September, smaller committees will be used to “polish” the standards and begin crafting the final drafts to be used in the 2019-2020 school year. Many teachers have already begun the integration of these standards, and administrators look forward to a seamless transition from the current standards to the enhanced curriculum standards now under construction.
To help aid in this transition and improve the overall experience for our teachers and students, the Office of Education is looking into a variety of professional development opportunities. These events will help teachers fully understand the curriculum and discover fun and new ways to use them in their classrooms.
One initiative in the works is an inaugural STREAM (Science Technology Religion Engineering Art and Mathematics) Academy planned for teachers from across the diocese starting in the summer of 2019 and extending throughout the school year.
(Stephanie Brown is the coordinator for school improvement for the Office of Education.)
By Catherine Cook
JACKSON – Classes are underway in all schools across the Diocese of Jackson. In this edition of Mississippi Catholic, readers can find updates on school accreditation, character education through athletics, how Catholic identity is being enhanced in every school, improvements being made to curriculum, news on school expansions and new administrators.
In addition to new faces, new administrators and new construction, the Office of Catholic Education has begun a system-wide accreditation process to have all 13 Catholic schools accredited by AdvancED, the accrediting agency formed by the merger of the PreK-12 school division of Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) and North Central Association (NCA) Commissions on Accreditation and School Improvement in 2006 and later including the Northwest Accreditation Commission (NWAC) making it the largest association of educational professionals in the world. The Diocese of Jackson joins 52 (arch)dioceses and Catholic school systems from across the U.S. already accredited this way..
Stephanie Brown, coordinator of school improvement, is leading this process. Brown worked with the Office of Catholic Education last year on a part-time basis assisting with the ongoing curriculum review and initiating the AdvancED process and began in a full-time capacity in July. She comes to the education office from Madison St. Anthony School where she served as a teacher, the coordinator of religious education, and the assistant principal.
The diocese has a significant history with AdvancED through its affiliation with SACS. Many schools were accredited by SACS during the mid 1970s and 80’s. Natchez Cathedral, Madison St. Joseph and Vicksburg Catholic were accredited by SACS in 1975, Holly Springs Holy Family in 1978, Greenville St. Joseph in 1980, Columbus Annunciation in 1984, Southaven Sacred Heart and Jackson St. Richard in 2004, and Madison St. Anthony in 2012. The four remaining schools that have not been affiliated with AdvancED will be accredited through this system-wide process.
This accreditation process uses a set of rigorous research-based standards to examine individual schools, as well as, the diocese as a system to determine how well the schools and the diocese are meeting the needs of students. Continuous improvement is at the core of this process. All efforts in the accreditation review are directed toward examining data – surveys, achievement scores, classroom observation data, etc. for ongoing improvement of student outcomes. The standards are grouped within three domains: leadership capacity, learning capacity and resources capacity. Additionally, AdvancED partnered with the National Educational Association to incorporate the Catholic School Standards so that we can be assured that the uniqueness of Catholic education is recognized and supported.
The system-wide process began for Catholic schools here last spring with surveys sent to students, parents, and staff at each school.
The results of the surveys indicate that the parent ratings were slightly higher than the AdvancED network average, the middle/high school student ratings were slightly lower than the network average with staff and elementary student ratings slightly lower in some areas and slightly higher in other areas. While this is a cursory view of the diocese a deep dive into the data is available at each school location as reports provide ratings for each of the 53 questions within the five areas of focus. One report presents the five highest scoring items and the five lowest scoring items for each of the stakeholder groups. This data assists the diocese and each school in determining areas that need improvement and areas of strength on which to build. Principals and pastors have received a report of the survey results specific to their school. Once individual schools have determined their areas of focus for improvement we determine how the diocese can support those areas..
Another diocesan-wide effort is Play Like a Champion (PLAC) coordinated by Amy Lipovetsky who came to the diocese from Florida where she served as a district level athletic director. She and her family moved here in 2016, and she serves as youth director at Madison St. Francis of Assisi Parish and coaches middle school volleyball at Madison St. Joseph School. Lipovetsky works with all schools and parishes in our diocese that have athletic programs. Play Like a Champion Today: Character Education through Sports is rooted in Catholic teachings and traditions. The program places emphasis on coaching as a ministry and the role of sports in moral and spiritual development. PLAC provides resources for coaches, parents, and students including prayers and reflections, as well as, information bullying and hazing, handling failure and success and first aid, to name a few. Find out more at www.playlikeachampion.org.
(Catherine Cook is the superintendent of Catholic education for the diocese.)
Click here to see the insert of Catholic School Week, January 28 – February 3, 2018.
JACKSON – Students and their families meet their teachers and tour the school during Sister Thea Bowman’s back to school afternoon Sunday, August 6. Sister Thea Bowman, situated near Jackson State University, offers music, Spanish and technology as supplements to its excellent curriculum.(Photo by Melissa Smalley)
GREENVILLE – Friends reunite in the halls on the first day of class for St. Joseph school in Greenville. The unit school has new principals for both the elementary and high schools this fall.(Photo by Missi Blackstock)
NATCHEZ – At left, at Cathedral School, Beth Foster’s kindergarten class started their day with the Pledge of Allegiance on Monday, August 7. Cathedral Unit School offers pre-k through 12th grade education and welcomes a new administrator and high school principal this year. (Photo by Cara Serio)
MADISON – first day at St. Anthony School. (Photos by Kristian Beatty)
MADISON – The seventh grade meets for the first time at St. Joseph School on Monday, August 7. Students from all Jackson-area Catholic elementary schools in addition to students who transfer from private and public schools, started their middle and high school journey as Bruins with a day of tours, orientation and lessons in the fight song. (Photo by Tricia Harris)
Forming our Future
By Catherine Cook
This year our celebration of Catholics Schools Week marks 170 years of continuous Catholic education in Mississippi. No other school – public or private – in our state can make that claim. Six of our Catholic schools/centers trace their beginnings to the 1800s and have continued throughout the educational history of our state.
Each year Catholic schools across the United States set aside the week that begins with the last Sunday in January as Catholic Schools Week. It is a time to reflect upon and celebrate what each school provides to its students, families, parishes, cities, states, and the nation.
January 29th – February 4th, the Catholic schools in the Diocese of Jackson join the national celebration with activities that highlight and thank the many persons who contribute in large and small ways to make our schools what the 2017 Catholic Schools Week theme proclaims: Catholic Schools – Communities of Faith, Knowledge, and Service.
This theme speaks to the heart of what our schools strive to be – communities that at their core are rooted in the love of God that is lived out in service to others – educational communities in which students learn academic lessons and life lessons. This is what sets our Catholic schools apart from other educational institutions across the state. It is why throughout the 170 year history of Catholic schools in Mississippi families have made sacrifices to provide a Catholic education to their children. This Community of Faith, Knowledge, and Service is why teachers and administrators commit themselves to carrying forth the tradition of a quality education marked by faith and service – an institution begun and sustained for much of our Catholic school history by women and men religious.
I encourage you to take a few minutes to read the comments from students, parents, faculty, administration, and alumni included in the Catholic Schools Week insert. There is little I can add to what they say about their experiences in the Catholic schools in our diocese. I ask that you take the opportunity during Catholic Schools Week to visit the Catholic school in your area and see first-hand what Catholic education in the 21st century is about.
Consider taking a friend and or neighbor to help share with community stakeholders what a Catholic school provides to students, families, and the community. Vibrant Catholic schools enhance the faith life of their parishes and the social-economic-cultural life of their civic communities. You don’t have to be a parent to be invested in your local Catholic school as it has an impact on your parish and your local community. Catholic schools always welcome persons who wish to support their mission with time, talent, and/or treasure.
Finally, this is a time to say “thank you” to the many Catholic school stakeholders – employees, volunteers, patrons, alumni, and friends. “Thank you” to pastors and parishioners – your support is essential to the life of our Catholic schools. “Thank you” to faculty, staff, and administration for your commitment to the education and formation of students – your dedication continues the legacy left by the religious sisters and brothers on whose shoulders we stand.
“Thank you” to volunteers – your service in endless ways and groups, such as, advisory councils, committees, parent associations, booster clubs, fund-raising events, etc. is vital to operation of our schools. And, “thank you” to parents for choosing to place your children in our Catholic schools. We exist to partner with you to provide a community that teaches, leads, and develops your children into persons of faith, knowledge, and service. Congratulations to each Catholic school in our Diocese on your celebration of Catholic Schools Week 2017! We are proud of your efforts and accomplishments.
(Catherine Cook is the Superintendent of Schools for the Diocese of Jackson.)
By Mary Margaret Halford
VICKSBURG – It was nearly 4 a.m. on a frosty February morning in 1977 when Father Alfred Camp got the call that St. Aloysius High School was burning.
The then-principal immediately got up, dressed, and headed straight for the school. “I was driving down Clay Street, and I saw all those fire trucks and police cars, and thought to myself, ‘well, I guess we’ve got a fire,’” Camp said.
“It was heartbreaking, the smoke and the flames bellowing from the rooftop,” said Jimmy Salmon, who was teaching at the time of the fire. “We weren’t just primarily concerned with finishing that school year, but about the future of St. Aloysius High School.”
As firefighters worked to contain the blaze on the other end of the building, Father Camp approached Salmon and said they needed to get Sister Matthew’s typewriters out, they’d be needing them for school that week.
“I looked at him and said ‘Father, the school is still burning,’ and he got that little smirk he gets when you try to tell him something,” Salmon said. “I wasn’t going to tell him no, so I turned and followed him into the school.”
After the fire was finally extinguished, Father Camp organized groups of people – teachers, parents, and students alike – to rummage through the debris and salvage desks, books, or anything they could and move it to the gym.
“In all that confusion, Father Camp had the presence of mind to turn this gym into a school,” Salmon said. “He said it was important to get the message to the community that a little fire would not shut the doors of St. Aloysius. And more importantly, to let parents and students know they wouldn’t have to search for a new school, we weren’t going anywhere.”
On Thursday, he returned to that very same gym, this time filled with hundreds of current and former students and teachers who were there to celebrate the naming of the St. Al school building after Father Camp.
“This is a great day, that we’re finally recognizing the individual that I believe saved St. Aloysius,” Salmon told the crowd after a Mass in the gym.
In the days and weeks following the fire, Father Camp was told raising money for a new school wasn’t feasible, that the elementary school could still operate but the high school should not.
“I can remember Father Camp laughing, saying St. Aloysius would not close its doors on his watch,” Salmon said. “I truly believe that if it were not for Father Camp, we would not be sitting here today, we would not have a school.”
Though the fire was a defining moment in his tenure at St. Al, other former teachers and students spoke of Camp’s inspiration as an educator.
Father Camp was a disciplinarian, especially for those students wandering the halls during class time, according to Lisa Reid.
Camp always had a specific question for those nomad students, “Where’s your box?” Where were they supposed to be?
When Reid met with Camp to choose classes for her senior year, her heart was set on study hall, a break from an otherwise tough schedule.
“But Father Camp said ‘that’s not available to you.’ I was crushed,” she said.
He then laid out two options – physics or journalism. Reid chose journalism, the field she wound up getting a degree in before working for years in newspapers and as an English and journalism teacher at St. Al.
“Even though I thought study hall was my box, you knew it was not,” Reid said to Father Camp at the dedication. “Through the years, though you kept asking where our boxes were, I think you had a pretty good idea of the answer. I’m sure I speak for thousands of students whose lives you touched when I say we’re deeply grateful for your wisdom and guidance in helping us find our way.”
During morning prayer the day of the dedication, current principal, Buddy Strickland, told the students to look in front, behind, to the left and to the right of each other.
“What you’re seeing is Father Camp’s legacy,” Strickland told them.
“I didn’t expect all this, I appreciate it so much,” Camp told the crowd gathered to honor him for his years in Vicksburg. “My dad’s name was Aloysius Joseph Camp…I guess that meant I was destined to be at St. Aloysius a long time. I think my dad would say ‘good job’.”
(Mary Margaret Halford is a member of Vicksburg St. Paul Parish.)
BROOKHAVEN St. Francis Parish, LifeTeen reconciliation service, Wednesday, Dec. 18, at 6 p.m.
– Christmas caroling at the nursing home followed by Advent party and las posadas, Sunday, Dec. 18.
GRENADA St. Peter Parish, confirmation retreat for young men and women, Saturday, Feb. 18, 2017, at the parish.
– Middle school retreat for seventh -eighth graders, Feb 19, 2017, at the parish.
MERIDIAN St. Patrick Parish, Catholic Youth of Meridian, sixth-12th graders, Christmas party, caroling and dinner and gift exchange, Saturday, Dec. 17, at 4 p.m. in the Family Life Center. To reserve a bus seat call or text Adrian, 601-917-4566.
MADISON St. Francis of Assisi Parish, YY and Faithfull Followers, Christmas Service Blitz, Sunday, Dec. 18. It ends with a party and Christmas caroling. Meet in the FLC at 1 p.m. RSVP by Dec. 14.