April 15, 2016

Superintendent discusses changes for schools joining ACE Academies

By John Shaughnessy

Gina FlemingChange will be a natural part of the process when five center-city Catholic schools in Indianapolis join the Notre Dame ACE Academies network starting in the 2016-17 school year. (See related story)

Gina Fleming, the archdiocese’s superintendent of Catholic schools, discussed some of the expected changes for the five schools that currently form the Mother Theodore Catholic Academies—Central Catholic, Holy Angels, Holy Cross Central, St. Anthony and St. Philip Neri—in a recent interview with The Criterion.

Q. Who will be in charge of the five schools—Notre Dame, the archdiocese or a collaboration of both?

A. “The Notre Dame ACE Academies [NDAA] will be operated by the Archdiocese of Indianapolis in partnership with Notre Dame ACE. In other dioceses, NDAA partnered with Catholic parish schools in a similar geographic area and put them together under one governance structure. The Mother Theodore Catholic Academies already operate as a shared system, and therefore the governance will look quite similar to its current form with the exception of NDAA leadership serving, supporting and actively engaging in the principals’ performance appraisal process and instructional support for teachers.”

Q. Does Notre Dame now assume the financial responsibility for running the schools and hiring staff?

A. “There will be two new positions that initially are covered under Notre Dame ACE. One is that of the Regional Director of School Culture. This individual will work directly with school leaders and teachers to aid in the intentional focus on Catholic identity, school culture and academic excellence.

“Because we have five schools, we will have two full-time regional directors. The second position is that of the Advancement Coordinator. This person will assist with the recruitment and support of families so that all understand that Catholic education is accessible and affordable. This individual will also work with the MTCA director of finance, and the archdiocese’s Office of Stewardship and Development to further enhance our efforts to maximize tax credit scholarship support for the purpose of tuition assistance for families.

“With continued board support, we will monitor the budget carefully and work toward increasing revenues through various sources—especially through increased student enrollment—so that by year three of our partnership, the new positions are fully funded through our budget.”

Q. What other changes are expected?

A. “Our board will stay intact—now known as the NDAA Board—and one new dimension will be added. There will be a Leadership Committee that includes the Director of ACE Academies, the NDAA Coordinator for Teaching and Learning, and the archdiocesan superintendent.

“Together, these individuals will supervise and support principals. The Regional Director of School Culture will give input to the support of teachers while the principals are still responsible as the spiritual, instructional, and managerial leaders of their Catholic school within the NDAA.”

Q. This school year marked the first time that ACE teachers are serving in the Catholic schools in the archdiocese. One teaches at St. Philip Neri, while two ACE teachers serve at St. Anthony School. With this new partnership, is it likely that there will be more ACE teachers serving in these schools in 2016-17?

A. “As a matter of fact, the Archdiocese of Indianapolis recently confirmed that three additional ACE teaching fellows will join us this coming fall. One will serve at Holy Name Catholic School in Beech Grove, and the other two will serve at Providence Cristo Rey High School, a private Catholic school just west of downtown Indianapolis.”

Q. What other impact will the partnership possibly have on staffing at the schools?

A. “This partnership has already opened doors to new friendships and opportunities. For example, we are currently completing the search for a principal at Holy Angels, one of our five MTCA schools, so I have had the privilege of interviewing multiple candidates for both the principal role and the open teaching positions. I have been blown away by the commitment, grit and passion the candidates have shown, many of whom are ACE graduates who have learned of the leadership opportunity through the Notre Dame network.

“I am beyond excited as I consider the experience, diversity and zeal for Catholic education that these individuals bring. And I am confident that with our existing phenomenal staff, our shared efforts in doing whatever it takes to help students grow spiritually, intellectually, socially, emotionally and physically will certainly result in college, career and heaven.”

Q. What other advantages do you see developing from this partnership?

A. “Another great example of Notre Dame’s partnership is the wonderful friendship we have developed with Shea Foundation and Shea Kiewit Joint Venture. Shea Kiewit Joint Venture has been hired by Citizens Energy Group to complete the 8-mile tunneling project under the city of Indianapolis. Their foundation has committed to helping urban Catholic schools in the cities where they work.

“Last year, Shea Foundation built us new playgrounds at Central Catholic and Holy Cross Central, and they funded over $50,000 worth of technology at St. Philip Neri, allowing for a 1:1 technology environment in grades four through eight.

“This year, their generosity will lead to nearly $220,000 of technology and professional development to fulfill our needs assessment, a beautiful playground at St. Philip Neri and expanded space at Central Catholic that will create space for three year olds, a STEM [Science, Technology, Engineering and Math] lab and a dedicated space for music and resource support. This incredible collaborative effort will lead to increased enrollment and even better services and supports for students and their families.” †

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