School thrives with innovations to its curriculum
By Claudia Mathis
Sun staff writer
There’s a sense of renewed energy and confidence at Bishop Ludden Junior/Senior High School these days.
The enhanced environment is a result of the changes former Ludden science teacher Curt Czaniak made to the school’s curriculum when he took over as principal in July 2008.
On Dec. 18, a school assembly was held to recognize Czaniak’s first 500 days as Ludden’s principal. Parents, teachers, students and alumni attended the gathering where speakers gave presentations which focused on Czaniak’s motto for the school — “Belong, believe, work hard and succeed.”
“The ultimate goal is that nobody fails,” said Czarniak.
One of Ludden’s most successful changes, the recently implemented House Program, was discussed that day. The unique system was introduced in September 2008. Instead of attending traditional homerooms, students are assigned to a House, consisting of nine to 13 students. Students meet in the House for both a morning and afternoon session. The morning session allows time for many activities such as service projects, worship, listening to guest speakers, class meetings and group activities.
The afternoon House session is a shorter time period of five to seven minutes and is used as an organizational period for students to gather everything needed to take home.
There are 35 Houses in all and students remain together in their House for the entire six years that they attend Ludden. Each House has a Housemaster who leads the House for a two-year term. Then the House will be passed on to another Housemaster during a special ceremony.
One of the goals of the new House Program was to name each House after an alumnus of Bishop Ludden and to have him or her participate as House Stewards. Maria Walsh, Bishop Ludden’s Advancement Office chairperson, said the goal was to find alumni who represented all walks of life and who had graduated as long ago as 1960. “It’s worked out well,” said Walsh. “There are many opportunities available. We need their time, talent and treasure.”
On Feb. 4, 2009, the first group of House Stewards were commissioned and introduced to the Ludden community during a Mass celebrated by Father Daniel Muscalino and concelebrated by Father Joseph O’Connor, class of 1995. Father O’Connor is a newly-commissioned House Steward for the classes of 2009 and 2015.
Many of the new House Stewards have children currently enrolled at Ludden. Each House Steward signed a commitment to serve for a predetermined length of time, from one-and-a-half to six-and-a-half years, depending on the grade level they chose.
It is the goal of the House Steward program to have these alumni and their families be a presence in the lives of Ludden students. Some House Stewards are involved on a daily basis at the school — it is not unusual to see them dropping by in the morning to say hello and to have breakfast with the students in their Houses. The alumni also participate in Masses, service days, career days and other mentoring opportunities.
Houses are expected to participate in both service and spiritual activities. Many of the Houses have adopted not-for-profit agencies in the area. Spiritual exercises include individual prayer services, morning Masses, rosary recitation and the Stations of the Cross.
Each House is also a member of a College within the building. The Colleges, which are named for saints, are made up of one House from each grade level. Each College sits together at school-wide Masses or assemblies in the school gym, allowing the students from each grade level to get to know one another. This system allows students at the high school level to serve as peer leaders and mentors to younger students.
Beginning with the second semester of this year, each House and College will receive a collective report card (no names, just group averages) at the end of each marking period. This report card will given to each House member in addition to their personal report card. Houses and Colleges (as a unit) can qualify for recognition on the Honor Roll, High Honor Roll or Principal’s List. At each grade level, Houses will be recognized for high achievement in particular disciplines.
The idea for integrating the House Program into Ludden’s curriculum came about after Czaniak read about Harvard University using the program and how it bolstered their sense of community. Czaniak consulted with Ludden teacher Marguerite Kolinski, who thought it would be a good way to provide small learning groups of students. Czaniak then met with the Ludden staff and community.
“The program has been fabulous for providing a sense of family for the students,” said Czaniak. He said the advantages of the program include the presence of role models and the students sense that the adults care for them.
Ludden senior Adeline Fagan thinks the House Program has worked out well and especially likes the opportunity of being able to receive extra help from her teachers during the first House period in the morning. “I also like the family feeling I get from the things I do with everyone in my House,” said Fagan.
Other changes to the school environment include the makeover of two classrooms into science and math enrichment rooms. The science enrichment room provides a place for students to work on science projects, receive or give tutoring in science and prepare for the Science Olympiad. The room is staffed by retired physician, Linda Mandanas. She said she enjoys interacting with the students who visit the room. “The kids are bright and they are a pleasure to work with,” said Mandanas. “I’m happy to encourage the students to enter the medical field.”
The math enrichment room serves as place for students who enjoy exploring math activities on their own. Kathleen Hurley, a retired math teacher, staffs the lab on Wednesdays, offering tutoring.
Czaniak has enjoyed his time as principal. “It’s been very challenging, but it’s been extremely gratifying to see how all the groups have been responding.”