By Ruby Thomas, Record Staff Writer
It’s back to school season for students in the Archdiocese of Louisville and Catholic school leaders have been working behind the scenes to prepare for the new year — from overseeing leadership development of teachers to the renovation of school buildings and adding new school bus routes.
The official school start date in the Archdiocese of Louisville is Aug. 17, but some schools choose to begin on a day other than the 17th.
Leisa Schulz, superintendent of schools in the Archdiocese of Louisville, said three of the major initiatives new this school year are: The Merton Leadership Initiative — “Cultivating Catholic School Leaders;” the online “Speak Up Be Safe” child sexual abuse prevention education curriculum; and an external review for accreditation of schools by AdvancED.
Schulz called the Merton leadership initiative “exciting.” The program identifies “fine and capable leaders” to participate in an “intentional leadership formation program,” Schulz said. The first group selected to participate is composed of 21 teachers and principals from seven Catholic elementary and high schools
The leadership program, modeled after the St. Remy Initiative at the University of Dayton in Ohio, is “designed to support and nurture current school principals, teacher leaders and aspiring principals in our Catholic schools,” said Schulz.
The program began with a tour of the Kentucky Holy Land on July 25, in order for the participants to “familiarize themselves with the over 200-year old history of Catholicism in Central Kentucky,” said a press release from the archdiocese.
The tour was led by Father Ben Brown, pastor of St. Ambrose Church in Cecilia, Ky. The group then took part in a three-day pilgrimage, July 26 to 28, on the campus of the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth near Bardstown, Ky. The group also heard from Bellarmine University professor Dr. Greg Hillis on “the contemplative approach used by Thomas Merton.”
The group will meet throughout the school year for four “learning days,” which will include a keynote topic, prayer groups and professional learning community groups.
Another new initiative this school year is the transition to a “newly revised online” Speak Up be Safe child sexual abuse prevention curriculum for those in preschool through eighth-grade. With the curriculum online, it can be continuously updated and teachers and counselors will be able to access professional learning online, too. The new online curriculum was made possible through a grant from Kosair Charities.
This year it’s also time for the Archdiocese of Louisville’s schools to undergo an external review for accreditation. The archdiocese’s schools are accredited through AdvancED, a national non-profit accreditation organization.
Between Sept. 18 and 21, a national team of eight Catholic school leaders will be conducting interviews and visiting schools as part of this review process. The team will identify “powerful practices” and “improvement priorities” at schools. And they’ll provide “feed back and guidance for the next three years,” Schulz said.
Other news this school year includes:
- School bus service is being added to St. James School, 1818 Edenside Drive, St. Leonard School, 440 Zorn Avenue, and St. Rita School, 8709 Preston Highway.
The bus service at St. James and St. Leonard schools is provided through a partnership between the Community Catholic Center (CCC), the Catholic Education Foundation (CEF) and the Archdiocese of Louisville. St. Leonard and St. James students who receive tutoring services and participate in after school activities at the CCC will be picked up from and dropped off at the center daily.
St. Rita’s bus service is a collaboration with the CEF and the archdiocese.
- Technology coaches and school technology coordinators will be invited to participate in webinars to help develop leadership skills through the International Society for Technology in Education.
- Several schools have renovated and updated parts of their campuses.
DeSales High School will dedicate a new $6.1 million capital project on Aug. 19. The project features new athletic facilities. Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz will preside at the event.
Holy Angels Academy built a new basketball facility and updated its play area.
Assumption High School renovated its interior and Mercy Academy, St. Paul School, St. Rita School, Sacred Heart Academy and Trinity High School also completed renovations on their campus. Three St. Albert School teachers worked with the Louisville Nature Center to choose plants to spruce up the school’s campus.
There are 49 Catholic elementary and secondary schools in the Archdiocese of Louisville. Last year, approximately 19,500 students attended preschool through 12th-grade in Catholic schools, according to a press release from the archdiocese.