Catholic Schools employees make the grade through lifelong catechesis

March 28, 2017

HOUSTON — To fulfill its mission to form disciples of Jesus Christ who transform the world, the Catholic Schools Office (CSO) of the Archdiocese is currently working to have all full-time employees Catechist Certified.

Dr. Julie Vogel, Superintendent of Catholic Schools in the Archdiocese, is leading the efforts of the CSO that oversees the largest private school system in Texas serving approximately 19,500 students in 60 schools in 10 counties. Vogel said this Catechist Certification program for employees is part of a Transformational Model consisting of five initiatives CSO is working on to help build a strong and viable system of schools.

“It is important to have a common framework to build upon, and our Catechist Certification program, developed by the Archdiocesan OEC (Office of Evangelization and Catechesis) using Daniel Cardinal DiNardo’s Framework for Lifelong Catechesis, provides many opportunities to help all employees integrate faith and knowledge in our schools every day,” Vogel said. “While we understand that this is just the beginning, building a solid foundation for all employees helps our schools truly embrace their relationship with Jesus Christ and live out the mission daily.”

The Transformational Model’s other four initiatives include:
1) Creating Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) where principals work together in five small groups to set goals, plan, and problem solve;
2) Working on a continuous cycle of improvement for all major content areas, beginning with English/Language Arts;
3) Developing a common set of assessment tools that include both norm referenced and criterion referenced measures; and
4) Implementing a Student Information System that allows better communication with parents, schools, and national groups from a common platform.

“We are in year one of the Transformational Model and are experiencing much success with our metrics,” said Vogel. “For instance, the teachers and principals in the ICCS (Inner City Catholic Schools) are in year two of intensive training to increase their knowledge and skills in literacy instruction and early assessment results show a huge increase in the number of students meeting or exceeding our learning targets. It’s exciting to listen to teachers talking about using the data they are gathering about their students to inform their teaching and designing lessons to meet the individual needs of the students.”

As one of 60 ministries supported by the Diocesan Services Fund (DSF), Vogel said another CSO initiative has been to encourage administrators, teachers and students alike to incorporate the Seven Corporal Works of Mercy into their community service projects. This focus includes feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, sheltering the homeless, visiting the sick and those in prison, burying the dead and giving alms to the poor.

“We are embarking on re-framing our service component back to the Works of Mercy, which highlights our Catholic ethos and keeps our schools focused on deep integration of faith, knowledge and service,” said Vogel. “We provide support and service to help all of our schools succeed and work hard to ensure all students and families have access to a high quality Catholic education, which directly impacts the community of Houston by providing highly educated citizens with a strong moral compass, Catholic Ethos, servant leadership, and the knowledge and skills to keep Houston strong. The impact of our students reaches far and wide.”

Vogel believes much of CSO’s success has been made possible through the support of the DSF. She said CSO’s financial stewardship goals are providing the stability needed to retain highly skilled teachers and education leaders on staff, and to recruit new talent truly dedicated to serving students and families. She said since all CSO staff positions are directly funded through the DSF, without this financial support, the office would not exist.

“There has always been a strong focus on education within the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston and our team understands the depth of our responsibility to provide and outstanding Catholic education to raise the next generation of saints,” said Vogel. “We are 100-percent committed to the mission of Catholic education and are passionate about our work with our schools, and greatly appreciate all those who generously support the DSF. We also feel blessed to work with amazing school pastors, principals, teachers, parents, and appreciate the value of a strong community.”