October 21, 2016

United Catholic Appeal

UCA funds help provide professional development for education

By Natalie Hoefer

In chapter 16 of the Gospel of Mark, Jesus told his disciples to “Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to all creation” (Mk 16:15).

Such preaching to “all the world” is a component that separates Catholic schools from public schools.

In an effort to make its Catholic schools the best possible forums for the spiritual, emotional and educational development of its students, the archdiocesan Office of Catholic Schools (OCS) uses funds from United Catholic Appeal: Christ Our Hope to aid in offering professional development to principals, school commission board members and administrators.

This year, given the growing amount of diversity among the school population throughout the archdiocese, much of the professional development has focused on inclusivity, says Mary McCoy, archdiocesan assistant superintendent for elementary education.

“We want to help our principals on inclusivity and being able to meet the needs of all the diverse learners, whether that’s economic differences, differences in learning needs, Catholic or non-Catholic or ethnic differences,” she says. “They then can take that [knowledge] into their buildings and be able to meet the needs of all the diverse learners.”

Such development is offered through workshops and visits to schools throughout the archdiocese by the OCS staff, with UCA funds helping finance the materials and travel.

“One of those sessions was done in partnership with St. Vincent Health [in Indianapolis],” says Benjamin Potts, archdiocesan assistant superintendent of secondary education. “They provided a poverty simulation experience with all of the principals.

“It was a powerful experience. It developed awareness and empathy, and equipped them with skill sets to work with people facing poverty and how schools can respond to their needs.”

With the help of UCA funds, OCS also offered a conference with Paula Kluth, an expert on supporting students with learning differences.

“Her topic was how to have an inclusive environment in classrooms and schools,” says Potts. “There was a good crowd from across the archdiocese there.”

But in the realm of Catholic education, there is more to professional growth than operational matters, says McCoy.

“Every professional development opportunity includes some kind of spiritual component to keep principals fed so they can be spiritual leaders in their buildings,” she says.

To address the spiritual side of inclusivity, Mass and a presentation were offered by Father Todd Riebe, pastor of St. Mark the Evangelist Parish in Indianapolis.

“Jesus was the most inclusive person there was in his time,” says McCoy. “Father Todd talked about being inclusive and welcoming, and opening the doors to all.”

Father Riebe has seen St. Mark Parish and its school increase in diversity both in Hispanic and Burmese populations.

“The percent of families [sending children to Catholic schools] that are living in poverty is increasing, so we’re helping schools look at how to better understand and support these families.

“And a big population [attending archdiocesan schools] that has grown is the Latino population. We have a much more diverse population in schools than in years past throughout the whole archdiocese. And that’s not just in Indianapolis. For instance, Seymour and Clarksville are now serving a large Latino population.”

Beyond this year’s focus of professional development on inclusivity, the OCS staff provides many other types of developmental opportunities for those tied to Catholic school education, with the help of UCA funds.

“We have a major initiative on Catholic school strategic planning, supporting principals, pastors, school commission members and board members with strategic planning for school ministries,” says Potts.

He says that he and Robert Rash, archdiocesan assistant superintendent of personnel and legal support, have travelled “throughout the archdiocese supporting commissions in being effective and efficient in their role to support the vitality of schools.”

Another significant area of formation for schools offered by the OCS is the Catholic School Leadership Academy, whose goal is to help develop the next generation of Catholic school leaders. Participants attend sessions on mission and Catholic identity, governance and leadership, academic excellence and operational vitality.

The Office of Catholic Schools also uses United Catholic Appeal funds to help pastors by hosting a University of Notre Dame-led session on succession planning and developing Catholic school leaders.

“These opportunities are important so our schools can continue to meet the needs of all the learners,” says McCoy. “It’s all about continuous school improvement.”

(For more information on the United Catholic Appeal, log on to www.archindy.org/uca or call the Office of Stewardship and Development at 317-236-1415 or 800-382-9836, ext. 1415.)

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