End of school year good time for reflection

May 22, 2012

HOUSTON — After working 32 years in public school education, Diane Zuccarini considers her current role as St. Francis of Assisi School principal to be a blessing, where every day starts with student-led prayers and praise dancing, and Gospel messages are implemented throughout the curriculum.
“What I’ve found to be most rewarding is the fact that our students truly are educated with the ‘whole child’ in mind. I know that term is used loosely, but at St. Francis of Assisi Catholic School, we do exactly that,” Zuccarini said. “What I appreciate most is the fact that we have the opportunity to nurture spiritual and moral values within the students.”
With the 2011-2012 school year winding down, it is an ideal time to reflect on such qualities of Catholic school education, said Sister Kevina Keating, CCVI, Superintendent of Catholic Schools. This past academic year is no exception.
“We are pleased to recall how much our students have prayed, engaged in liturgical and para-liturgical services, studied their faith, and offered significant care and service to others,” she said. “We are, likewise, pleased that our students have been challenged academically and have placed in essay contests, spelling bees, science fairs, [earned] music awards, and are among National Merit Scholars to name a few achievements.”
This past year at Corpus Christi School, the faculty spent a great deal of time reflecting on a new “Creed and Code,” which expresses what the school’s educators believe and how they should act due to those beliefs.
“It is our promise or covenant with our students and families,” said Claire Mueller, Corpus Christi principal. “One of the best things about being involved in our Archdiocesan Catholic Schools is that we all share in one another’s successes. We, as school communities, are able to share wisdom with one another when we face challenges and celebrate every school’s successes.”

In the year ahead, Sister Keating said many of the Archdiocesan Catholic schools are gearing up for “new programs, new textbooks and new technology.” She said teachers will return to school in June for a Diverse Learners Conference.

Sister Keating credits the success and continued growth in Catholic school education to the selfless supporters in the local Church.

“I want to thank all who have assisted us this year to continue to offer a great Catholic education — pastors, principals, teachers and staff, volunteers, parents and grandparents, generous donors,” Sister Keating said. She offered a special thanks to those supporting education opportunities to Inner City Catholic Schools, including members of the Cardinal’s Circle, and to Nancy and Rich Kinder, who generously committed to the first Catholic School Cooperative.

St. Francis of Assisi School, located in the Kashmere Gardens area of Houston, is one of the Kinder Foundation grant benefactors. The school community is looking forward to many changes next year.

“Although our classrooms will still be in portable buildings, we’re getting a wonderful facelift and even more importantly, we’ll be starting the school year off with new textbooks in every subject, a new computer lab and much-needed technology in each classroom,” Zuccarini said.

The principal said the Inner City Catholic School has re-written its mission statement to express the desire to assist students in becoming leaders at the school.

“Our motto is, ‘Developing Today’s Leaders for Tomorrow’s Future.’ We know that giving students a voice in their learning helps them with retention so we aim to do just that,” she said. “Our goal next year is to add programs such as speech and debate, robotics, art, and build our concert band back to when it was an award-winning band.”

Zuccarini said that St. Francis of Assisi School is also grateful for the opportunity to expand their fine arts program in other ways. The school received a grant from the Joe Sample Youth Organization and will create a new band room and media center.

“The blessings just keep coming,” Zuccarini said. 

Mueller said Corpus Christi School will be meeting a big goal next year when they open their PreK3 class (the school had offered PreK4 through eighth grade).

“This has been a long-time request of our families, and we are finally making it happen,” she said.

Last year, the school hosted their first ever Alumni Visit Day during Catholic Schools Week.

“We invited alums to come back and share their successes and their experiences of Corpus Christi as students,” Mueller said.

With those testimonies in mind, the Corpus Christi principal said that Catholic education is a “life-giving force in our greater Houston community.”

“Our students are formed in our schools to be givers in the community and that extends far beyond their school years,” she said. “It’s such a joy to me to celebrate the ongoing successes of our graduates. Every year, I beam with pride as I receive notes and invitations as former students graduate high school and college. We never tire of hearing how our students are making a difference in the world.”