Interim Superintendent looks for Catholic schools to continue ‘raising standard of excellence’

August 16, 2017

Pre-K 4 teacher Elva Earls talks to a student about her drawing on the first day of school at St. Helen Catholic School in Pearland Aug. 8. More than 19,000 students in Catholic schools from Galveston to Conroe start the new school year this month. Photo by James Ramos/Herald.

Debra Haney will serve as the interim Superintendent of Catholic Schools for the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston for the 2017-2018 academic year. She recently served the Catholic Schools Office (CSO) as Associate Superintendent.

Dr. Julie Vogel resigned as Superintendent on Aug. 8 after serving the Archdiocese for three years.

Before joining the CSO, Haney had previously served as principal of St. John Paul II Catholic School in Houston and St. Laurence Catholic School in Sugar Land.

This school year, Haney said the CSO will be primarily focusing on the “three Es” — Evangelization, Excellence and Enrollment.

Those focal points include challenging teachers and students to humbly serve through the Spiritual and Corporal Works of Mercy; integrating the Catholic faith and doctrine throughout all of the content areas; and encouraging school communities to be “shining examples of Christ in the world,” Haney said. “We hope that our teachers, students and parents will share the good news about Catholic schools.”

PHOTOS: St. Helen Catholic School in Pearland kicks off school year

Haney also said the CSO is looking to complete the transition of every school to a common student information system (which will allow for enhanced communication between CSO and the grade schools) and continue incorporating the Transformational Model in all Inner City Catholic Schools.

The model focuses on three key metrics for success (enrollment, academic performance and finances) that places schools on a path toward long-term sustainability without sacrificing the mission of providing a high quality Catholic school education that is affordable and accessible to all students.

In addition, the Archdiocese is increasing the number of full-time teachers that are the fully certified catechists.

“We are thrilled to report that we have increased retention amidst our principals and teachers; we expect that the retention rate will continue to increase this year,” Haney said. “Our expectation is that the Catholic schools will be safe and nurturing places that meet the needs of their learners so they can achieve to their fullest potential.”

Among the other big highlights this academic year:
• Epiphany of the Lord in Katy is currently planning for a new school opening in Fall of 2018. (See related story on pg. 5).
• Our Lady of Fatima Schools in Galena Park and Texas City are highlighting the 100th anniversary of the apparitions of their namesake with special activities.
• The year 2018 will mark the 200th anniversary of Philippine Duchesne’s journey from France to the New World and her establishment of the Academy of the Sacred Heart, which Duchesne Academy of the Sacred Heart (grades PreK to 12) will celebrate.
• Christ the Redeemer Catholic School will have its first graduating class (eighth grade) this year.
• Holy Family School in Galveston and Galveston O’Connell College Preparatory will be celebrating 170 years of Catholic school education on the island. The schools trace their lineage back to 1847 when the Ursuline Sisters arrived on Galveston Island and established the first Catholic girls school in Texas.
• Other key milestones this academic year: Resurrection Catholic School celebrates 80 years; Queen of Peace Catholic School, 70 years; St. Cecilia School and St. Augustine School, 60 years; and St. John Paul II Catholic School, 30 years (2018).

On Aug. 8, St. Helen Catholic School in Pearland opened its doors to a new, parishioner-funded, state-of-the-art 75,000-square foot facility. The previous school facility had originally been designed for CCE classes and was 25,000 square feet. The new facility boasts the latest in safety and lighting technology, is completely eco-friendly and large enough to house the demands of the fast-growing parish.


“Our mission is to ‘grow children in wisdom, age and grace.’ Our hope is to continue that mission this year as we open a state-of-the-art educational facility to serve our student body and the parish community.”

- Dr. Phyliss Coleman, St. Helen Catholic School principal


Dr. Phyliss Coleman, St. Helen Catholic School principal, describes the facility as the “culmination of a 10-year dream.” The facility features an expansive gym and media/resource center that will be used by the school, religious education and youth ministry programs as well as numerous other parish groups.

“Our mission is to ‘grow children in wisdom, age and grace,’” Coleman said. “Our hope is to continue that mission this year as we open a state-of-the-art educational facility to serve our student body and the parish community.”

Catholic schools are imperative to the parents and communities in our local Church because they strive to evangelize to all faiths in a secular society that seeks to “devalue the importance of faith in our lives,” according to Haney.

“Our Catholic schools become second families for their students, and school communities provide spiritual, academic and social support to families,” she said. ”In a world that encourages self-promotion and materialism, Catholic schools provide service to all and raise the standards of excellence.”

Coleman agrees, adding that Catholic schools are important in preserving the rich traditions and rituals of our Catholic faith and are crucial for “developing faith-filled, productive citizens who are disciples of Christ, devoted to fulfilling His mission.”

About the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston Catholic Schools

• The Archdiocese has the largest private school system in Texas.

• There are currently 59 schools throughout the Archdiocese

• More than 19,000 students are enrolled.

• The schools serve students PreK-3 through 12th grade.

• All schools offer need-based tuition assistance for students.