Catholic Schools – Building Strong Communities of Faith, Knowledge and Service

Second grade St. Jude

The following is an opinion piece by Diane Starkovich, Ph.D., Superintendent of Schools for the Archdiocese of Atlanta.

Since 1974, Catholic schools across this country have celebrated National Catholic Schools Week during the last week in January. This year, our 18 archdiocesan and seven independent Catholic schools will join the National Catholic Educational Association and the 6,500 other Catholic Schools across this country as we highlight achievements in Faith, Knowledge and Service.

Serving 11,800 students throughout North Georgia, our Catholic schools continue a long-standing tradition of providing strong academics in a faith-based environment. Catholic schools in our archdiocese remain a vital component of the teaching mission of the local Church – spiritual formation of the entire school community remains an essential dimension of the mission of Catholic schools.  Consequently, our educators expose students to ongoing social development which is aimed at forming men and women who will be ready to take their place in society, preparing them to work for the improvement of social structures which align with our Gospel principles.  Our schools have formed thousands of students – Catholics and those from other faith dimensions – to become productive, successful and active citizens whose impact has been felt beyond the local communities in which they were formed.

The traditional fruits of a Catholic education remain outstanding faith formation and academic preparation second to none. In our archdiocesan schools, academic excellence remains a hallmark of a continuous model of on-going improvement. Our educators proudly continue a legacy of academic achievement – 75 percent of our grade schools have been recognized as U.S. Department of Education Blue Ribbon Schools of Excellence. Results of our annual administration of Iowa Assessments place our grade school students in the top national percentages of academic achievement. In addition, our archdiocesan high schools have been named to the College Board’s AP Honor Roll for three of the five years this award has existed.  Our 620 graduates in the class of 2014 posted a 100% graduation rate; over $50 million dollars of college scholarship offers (exclusive of the Georgia’s HOPE Scholarship) and, thousands of hours of service to local, state and international agencies.  21st Century Teaching and Learning remain key components of our course of study and STREAM (Science, Technology, Religion, Engineering, Art and Math) initiatives continue to expand in our schools.

From our youngest kindergarten children to our graduating seniors, all students in Catholic schools perform works of service for others. Whether serving meals in a homeless shelter, collecting winter coats for the needy, building Habitat Homes for qualifying families, or serving on a mission trip to a third-world country during a school’s spring break, students provide living witness to this basic tenet of our faith – service to others.

Enrollments in most of our Catholic schools remain strong despite on-going increases to tuition.  We continue to make gains in maintaining enrollment open to students from culturally diverse and economically varied backgrounds. With the generous financial support of pastors and parishioners, our Catholic schools continue to provide the highest quality educational experience for our students  Additionally, school choice initiatives, such as the formation of student scholarship organizations, have assisted in providing a Catholic education for families demonstrating financial need Formed as a joint effort between the Archdiocese of Atlanta and the Diocese of Savannah, GRACE Scholars, Inc. continues to provide scholarship assistance to families in Catholic schools throughout Georgia regardless of their religious affiliation.

Through the efforts of our teachers, administrators and support staff, and in partnership with the families we are privileged to serve, the future of Catholic education in the Archdiocese of Atlanta remains promising.

With over 25 years of experience in Catholic Education, Dr. Starkovich holds a Ph.D. in Catholic Education Leadership and Policy Studies from The Catholic University of America. Since May of 2006, she has served as the Superintendent of Schools for the Archdiocese of Atlanta.  She may be contacted at dstarkovich@archatl.com or 404-920-7700.

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