By Maureen Smith
JACKSON – The new school year is underway in the Diocese of Jackson with two new principals, upgrades in science and technology, added grades and an overall uptick in enrollment. The diocesan theme for the year is FAMILY: faith, academics, mercy, integrity, love, and you.
Another diocesan-wide change is meant to reflect unity among schools. A diocesan Catholic education seal was designed by Contyna McNealy, coordinator of creative services for the diocese. Patches embossed with the new seal are being added to the athletic uniforms at the four high schools to identify the athletes as members of the Catholic schools of the diocese.
Two of the high schools, Greenville St. Joseph and Madison St. Joseph have added a character development program to their athletic programs. The program comes from Notre Dame. According to a letter sent out to parents in Madison, “Play Like a Champion Today is a national coach and parent education program designed specifically to elevate the culture of Catholic school-sponsored sports.
“Crafted by leaders in the fields of sport psychology, coaching education, Catholic theology and moral development, Play Like a Champion works in partnership with our schools to enable the athletic experience to be a missionary tool to develop our youth physically, socially, morally and spiritually.” Paul Artman, principal in Greenville, said when his teams joined the MAIS last year he got compliments on how well-behaved and courteous St. Joseph students were so he knows they have a good base on which to build. Both schools will offer workshops to coaches, parents and students on character and leadership development.
Several schools have technology upgrades, including increasing the internet bandwidth to accommodate one-to-one technology programs in which each student has a device of his or her own, such as a tablet or laptop computer, to use during instructional time. Jackson St. Richard, Madison St. Joseph and St. Anthony, Clarksdale, St. Elizabeth, and Vicksburg Catholic are all participating.
The most notable physical change is in Greenville, where students of both Our Lady of Lourdes elementary and St. Joseph middle and high schools are on a unified campus for the first time since 1964. “The moving of Our Lady of Lourdes onto the St. Joseph School campus has been a vision of our school community for a number of years. Everyone feels very blessed to finally be united once again under one roof,” said Michelle Gardiner, Lourdes principal.
“We can see a lot more activity, a lot more synergy,” said Artman. “We look forward to working together to make St. Joseph Catholic School System the best it can be for our students and future generations of students,” Gardiner added.
Sr. Thea Bowman school launched a major outreach to Hispanic families this year and hopes to continue to build enrollment with help from the Latino Enrollment Institute. Principal Shae Robinson spent part of her summer learning about recruiting and enrolling Hispanic families. She added a Spanish teacher and resources for families as part of her plan.
Students and administrators from Holly Springs Holy Family and Southaven Sacred Heart both attended a gathering at St. Joseph’s Indian School in Chamberlain, SD this summer. All schools are sponsored by the Priests of the Sacred Heart (SCJ). “This visit provided an opportunity for cultural sharing with students at the five schools sponsored in the US and two schools abroad,” said Clara Isom, principal of Holy Family.
Meridian St. Patrick School added the eighth grade this year. “We felt like we needed to go through the eighth grade because our students were having to make two transitions – first to one year of middle school and then high school. We saw lots of kids leaving in fourth, fifth and sixth grade so they would not have to make that transition in one year,” said Jennifer David, principal. Her sixth grade doubled in size this year.
Two weeks before school was set to start a local private school announced it would not open this fall so David and her staff have also seen an unexpected, but much welcomed boost in enrollment. She said she is concentrating on middle school enrichment and academics this year, offering drama, art, music and increased science, technology, engineering and math opportunities.
Madison St. Anthony School teachers teamed up with staff from Jackson St. Richard School on Aug. 5, for a day of technology professional development. The workshop covered the Substitution, Augmentation, Modification, Redefinition (SAMR) model for integrating technology into teaching as well as ways to use Promethean boards and other ways to use technology to improve instruction.
Natchez Cathedral School is expanding its science program using a system called Foss Next Generation. The school has also launched the athletic portion of its capital campaign.
Thanks to an anonymous donor, all middle and high school science and STEM labs at Madison St. Joseph were renovated and upgraded this summer as part of a goal to enhance STEM instruction. The Madison school welcomed new principal Doug Jones in April. This will be his first full year.
By Maureen Smith