A Catholic Campus

Jan. 22-28, 2004
A Catholic Campus
By Eileen Jevis/ SUN staff writer
SUN photo(s) Paul Finch
Rome Catholic Schools announce new venture that brings schools together

ROME –– At a press conference on Jan. 16, Superintendent of Catholic Schools for the Syracuse Diocese John Cataldo shared his vision for the future with staff, faculty members, administrators, community leaders and parents. Students in grades pre-K through sixth at St. Peter’s Elementary School will join the students at Rome Catholic Jr./Sr. High School in what will soon become a cohesive K-12 Catholic school campus.

The audience reacted to the announcement with approval and applause as Cataldo mapped out the future plans for the Rome Catholic School System. After the presentation, one parent who is an alumni of the school said, “Mr. Cataldo, we’ve been waiting for you.” Cataldo explained that a committee comprised of parents, staff and administrators, community members and one priest spent several months forming the best possible plans for the future. “Catholic education is now in a highly competitive market,” said Cataldo. The committee looked at declining enrollment, financial stability and parent and student concerns about the fate of the Rome Catholic Schools when creating a concrete strategy. “We will move from a surviving school district to a thriving school district,” said Cataldo.

Instead of spending time closing schools, laying off staff, slashing programs and eliminating services, Cataldo plans instead to enhance the curriculum, upgrade the facilities, install technology and promote the arts and athletics. “My commitment to you will be no layoffs,” said Cataldo. The statement was received with thunderous applause. “No one will lose their job. In all likelihood, more jobs will be created,” he said. During the transition process support groups, student ambassadors and staff-to-staff communication will be implemented to keep the lines of communication open. “Parents will look to the staff for guidance and reassurance,” said Cataldo. “It is our job to ease anxiety and build excitement.” Cataldo said he was impressed with the reaction and commitment of the faculty, staff and community members, whom he described as very special people. At the first presentation of the new venture, most of the faculty members immediately signed-on to work on committees. He is asking for volunteers for curriculum programs, such as facilities, marketing/communications, and finance; and external programs such as athletics, arts/music and after school programs. “Has there been a cloud over Rome?” asked Cataldo. “Yes, but that cloud has been lifted. Is Rome Catholic School open? Yes, it is. We are open –– not just for the ’03-’04 school year or the ’04-’05 school year or one year at a time. We are open!” he said. “The bishop is committed to keeping Rome schools open.”

At the end of the press conference, audience members asked about plans for fitting the additional students into the junior/senior high school building. Cataldo replied that the committee is just beginning to look at how rooms will be utilized as well as how to coordinate schedules for lunch and physical education classes. Cataldo explained that renovations are planned to modify and customize the building. He also said that there are no immediate plans for the two existing elementary school buildings that will be vacant.

The venture will be implemented in September at the start of the new school year. “I don’t view this as an ending, but as a beginning,” Cataldo said. “When you have unlimited vision, you can do anything you want to do.”

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