Evangelization, Catholic values focus of upcoming school year

August 16, 2016

HOUSTON — The 2016-2017 school year is underway as 10 high schools and 49 primary schools are back in session.

Boasting the largest private school network in Texas, there are currently 59 Catholic schools in the Galveston-Houston system, spanning six counties and 23 public school districts. 

Daniel Cardinal DiNardo blessed the start of the new school year with a Mass at the Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart on Aug. 5 in downtown Houston.

“Formation in the faith requires some formation in other subjects that can be laced with the faith, like the laces on our shoes,” Cardinal DiNardo said in his homily. “That’s what makes Catholic schools; we are unafraid of the religious imagination.”

This summer the Catholic Schools Office of the Archdiocese focused on enhancing and promoting the evangelization mission of the Church and integrating Catholic values across the curriculum.

“Our Inner City Catholic School teachers are in year two of innovative literacy training that enhances the consistency of instructional practices across our schools,” said Dr. Julie Vogel, superintendent of Catholic Schools. “All of our professional development training falls into our three ‘E’ buckets: Evangelization, Excellence and Enrollment. Our schools are, ‘On the Rise!’ in all three buckets as we work hard to provide a world-class Catholic education for our students.”

All Archdiocesan teachers have five years to become catechist certified. Schools that hire specific teachers to teach religion have three years to meet the requirements set forth by the Archdiocese.

“We are all teachers of our faith. For Catholic schools to be transformational, it is critical that Catholic school teachers continue to strengthen their own knowledge of our Catholic faith while deepening their personal relationship with Jesus Christ,” Vogel said. “By doing so, we become better models to the children we teach. Students see our own knowledge and personal relationship with Jesus Christ as attainable for themselves — by our example. Everything that we say and do makes a difference in their formation during these early years. We want that transmission of faith to be true to the teachings of the Church and the joy of the Gospel to be visible in our daily actions.”

In order to accomplish this, the Catholic Schools Office embarked on a new process to infuse curriculum more with Catholic faith and traditions. In addition, the office revised its student learning expectations to ensure students are ready for high school, college, career and heaven.
“Our goal is to call our young people to holiness and prepare them to live and proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ,” said Brandy Sato, assistant superintendent of curriculum and assessment. “We truly believe that we have the capacity and capability to educate a future pope of the Church in the Catholic Schools of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston.”

The office created a multi-year plan and a robust system of support to carry out the implementation of 10 major components: 1. Mission, Philosophy, Learning Principles (the foundation); 2. Enduring Understandings, Essential Questions, and Standards; 3. Cornerstone Assessments; 4. Curriculum Mapping; 5. Specific Criteria for Evaluating Student Work (Rubrics); 6. Student Work Exemplars; 7. Instructional Strategies and Resources; 8. Summative, Formative and Diagnostic Assessments; 9. Differentiated Instruction; and 10. Troubleshooting Guides for Teachers.

Each content area will be addressed within the plan. A curriculum group comprised of principals and teacher leaders has been created to assist the Catholic Schools Office in monitoring and evaluating the implementation. As they work throughout the year, they will ensure that each component reflects Catholic identity and is imbued with Gospel values.

“We envision this training to be collaborative and collegial across grade levels and across elementary schools in our Archdiocese,” Sato said. “The Catholic Schools Office intends to use more technology, such as webinars and social media platforms, to promote teacher connectivity across Houston.”

A highlight of this school year will be the first Frassati High School graduation. Sister John Paul, O.P., principal at Frassati High School, said the entire Frassati Catholic community is looking forward to this academic year during which, for the first time, they will have all four grade levels and a student body of 230.

“I am most excited to see our founding students, the Class of 2017, graduate in May,” she said. “They have been true pioneers who have been asked to be responsible beyond their years, take initiative, follow through, and work with the faculty and staff to establish a culture of unity and charity since their freshman year. They have responded generously and have laid a strong foundation.”

Vogel echoed Sister Paul’s sentiments.

“This is a monumental accomplishment and we are all excited to share their hard work,” Vogel said. “It takes perseverance, strength, and a leap of faith to start a Catholic High School and we pray for the continued success of this rapidly growing community!”

Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston Catholic SChools
OUR MISSION: Catholic schools call young people to holiness and prepare them to proclaim and live the Gospel message of Jesus Christ. In collaboration with families, Catholic schools teach the principals of our faith and tradition, foster experiences of community and service, and provide educational excellent. Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston are committed to the evangelizing mission of the Church to educate and form the whole person mind, heart and spirit.

The Archdiocese has the largest private school system in Texas, with currently 59 schools and an enrollment of more than 19,000 students in PreK-3 through 12th grade. All schools offer need-based tuition assistance for students. †