Hello Erie Catholic Families and Friends,

As we begin the fourth quarter, I am simply amazed how fast this school year has passed. In reflecting on the first three quarters of the year, I am struck by how much we have accomplished in our first ten months as a system:

  • Completed Phase I building renovations (including a new computer lab, science lab tables, and school signs)
  • Implemented Rediker student information system
  • Held multiple system-wide teacher inservice meetings on best-teaching practices
  • Initiated Band programs at each school
  • Developed system-wide school handbooks
  • Offered online re-registration for first time
  • Developed Erie Catholic Mission and Vision statements
  • Introduced ErieCatholic.org and Erie Catholic Facebook page
  • Renewed and upgraded all school websites
  • Kicked-off “Have faith in your future” marketing campaign
  • Organized and participated in the first Great Mass at the Cathedral for all 6-8 graders in Erie County Catholic Schools
  • Selected system’s patron saint
  • Expanded our board of directors

I'm happy to offer the following updates on these topics and more.

 

 

Building Renovations

       As part of the strategic plan for the Erie Catholic School System, the Diocese committed to a $2.5 million investment in our school buildings. That investment includes upgrading Science Labs at each school, installing new outdoor school signs at each location, and ensuring that each school has a secure entrance. This investment is independent of our operating budget and does not impact or rely on tuition. Work will begin the week of June 11 on Phase II of the renovations. 

      We will equip science labs with new sinks, workstations and cabinetry; complete the remaining school signs; and upgrade entrances at St. James, Our Lady of Peace, and St. Jude to be more secure. Each will have two-door entrances that will make it possible for office staff to allow entry only after a visitor has been identified both visually and verbally.  Blessed Sacrament and St. Luke schools already have two-door entrances, and we are working on a design for St. George’s entrance. We will also upgrade camera and keycard systems at each school.

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Academics

      Evaluating and improving academics within Erie Catholic is and will always be a top priority within in our school system. To fulfill our mission of maximizing every child’s academic and spiritual potential through engaging learning experiences, our teachers and administrators continually seek ways to use cutting edge instruction that will instill in our students the skills for academic success. 

Academic Standards

The foundation of academic achievement begins with the academic standards that we follow within our classrooms. The Erie Catholic School System collaborates with the Catholic Schools Office of the Diocese of Erie and follows the Pennsylvania State Standards for curriculum. While this is not a change from our previous parish school configuration, the way we implement these standards has changed. Erie Catholic administrators work together as a team to develop similar expectations for lesson plans, assessments, pacing of the curriculum, use of technology, grading practices, parent collaboration, instructional practices, middle school schedule, and every other aspect of our classroom academics. Ultimately, these grade level specific standards for each subject drive our academic decisions.

Collaborating for Success

       While this may seem to be basic operating procedure for some, we are excited that we can now leverage the collective experience of the classroom teachers and principals to enhance instructional opportunities and learning experiences to better prepare our students for high school. We have already started this process by systematically evaluating and upgrading our textbooks and materials and by implementing best teaching practices across our schools.

 

       Speaking of high school, we are not only collaborating across our Erie Catholic Schools, but we are also working with Cathedral Prep, Villa Maria Academy and Mercyhurst Prep, too. These partnerships will help ensure that the content and skills that we are stressing in our elementary and middle school classrooms best prepares our students for high school. Collaborating with the high schools also helps us select the best textbooks and materials for our middle school classrooms. Historically, our students have done well on the placement exams for the local Catholic high schools, and it is our goal to help them perform even better going forward.

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Technology

Improving technology capacity across the system is also a focus for this first year. We have made great progress in this area, and we have plans to keep this progress going. 

        Technology improvements made this school year include:

  • Follett Destiny Cloud Service – online school library book catalogue system installed at all six schools is enabling our students to access our library catalogue from anywhere they have internet access
  • Year to date, we added over 150 workstations, 100 iPads, and multiple interactive display boards and projectors across the system (more to come to start next school year)
  • WIFI upgrade and enhancement with RUKUS System in all six schools
  • Incorporating Code.org instruction in all of our technology classrooms
  • ZOOM video conferencing software has been installed at each school, enabling collaboration across schools and organizations in and outside of our system
  • Installing state of the art ViewSonic Interactive Displays in each Science Lab this summer
  • Erie Catholic and individual School websites launched with online donation capabilities active for the first time

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Conduct Standards

       Similar to academics, the principals work together to assess the behavior trends in their respective buildings. In the fall we developed the student handbook to establish consistent system-wide standards for student conduct. Each school has the flexibility to tailor more specific details to their behavior plans for their building, to best meet the needs of their students and faculty. 

        Behavior in Context of Gospel Values
So often I hear how polite and respectful our students are in our Erie Catholic schools, and I am very proud of this. At the same time, we also recognize that our schools are not immune to relational aggression, inappropriate behavior, and bullying. Wherever we find people interacting with one another (children are no exception), there are behavior concerns at some level or another, and the same is true in our schools.

The behavior expectations established in our handbooks are set to address these concerns as they arise on an individual basis. As a system, we are also working to be proactive in helping to prevent behavioral issues, and increase positive relationships among our students. First and foremost, we start with the Gospel messages of Jesus Christ to help form the philosophy behind our approach to behavior concerns. The greatest commandments of loving our God with all of our heart, mind and body, and loving our neighbor as ourselves serve as the cornerstone of how we guide our students in their relationships. Each of our schools have a pledge, prayer, or motto that they revisit every morning to remind them of these commandments. Our teachers and counselors engage in lessons and conversations focused on how we treat one another correctly. Weekly we listen to God’s Word at Mass, contemplate the homily given by our beloved priests, and participate in His sacraments as a school family in a continued attempt to grow closer to God and to better understand His teachings. We will also continue to have guest speakers visit our schools to share uplifting and positive messages to our students, with the intent to motivate and encourage them to foster healthy relationships with one another, too.

        Jeff Veley Approach

       In support of all of these efforts, we are investing in materials from Jeff Veley, a world-renowned social skills educator, to further support our instruction and guidance. His Love Changes It All philosophy and “Peace Sign Approach” is a psychological method to bullying and relational aggression that is in line with Christ’s message and our Mission Statement. We are sharing these materials with our teachers and staff first, and they will share the philosophy and strategies with our students soon. Jeff’s work has proven to be quite affective across the world, and we are excited to use his expertise to help our students solve social problems, grow in resilience, and face adversity not only now, but for the rest of their lives.

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Patron Saint
Erie Catholic is excited that St. Nicholas has been chosen as the Patron Saint of our Erie Catholic School System. He joins St. James, St. Luke, St. George, St. Jude, Our Lady of Peace, and The Blessed Sacrament as our great advocates in heaven. St. Nicholas served the children and the poor in his Diocese as Christ would serve them, and his legacy will serve as great inspiration for all of us. St. Nicholas Day will have a new special recognition within our schools, and in doing so we are excited to be able to learn more about this wonderful Bishop of Myra. Thank you for contributing to the selection of our Erie Catholic Patron Saint and may the prayers and intercession of all the saints in Heaven be with us always.

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Student-Parent Activities
We are excited to be participating in the first annual Mr. and Misses Dance for Erie Catholic on May 4. We have well over 700 individuals signed up for this evening of dinner, dancing, and fun. A “Boys of Erie Catholic” event is in the planning stages. A group of parent volunteers is working on some fun ideas for this spring, and they hope to be able to send out information to the families of our boys very soon. Thank you to the volunteers working so hard to provide such great opportunities for our Erie Catholic families.

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2018-19 Calendar

      Our 2018-2019 School Calendar is now available. We have incorporated feedback from our families and teachers, and made sure that we are fulfilling the state requirements for number of days and hours accordingly. Some quick highlights:

  • First student day – Monday, August 27
  • 4-day Labor Day weekend
  • Parent-teacher conferences moved back to the end of November prior to Thanksgiving break
  • Inservice and early dismissal days on Fridays
  • Better alignment with Catholic high school calendars
  • Last day of school on Thursday, June 6

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Parent Survey

Erie Catholic is working on a parent feedback survey which we expect to repeat annually. This survey will be sent to email addresses we have in Rediker, so please be sure your most updated information is in the system. Keep an eye on your email for an invitation to complete the survey. I look forward to your feedback for the continuous improvement of Erie Catholic.

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We have much to be proud of and much to look forward to. Be sure to read the updates coming from your child’s principal and teacher for specifics concerning your school and grade level. If you have any questions about how any of the above updates relate directly to your school or child, please contact your teacher or principal directly. They will be happy to talk or meet with you to discuss any thoughts you might have about Erie Catholic. As I continue to visit each of the schools at their respective events, feel free to say hello if you get the chance. You should be very proud of your children and all that they are accomplishing, because I know that I am!

May Christ’s peace be with you always.

With faith in our future,

Damon Finazzo

President, Erie Catholic

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