Good, better, best

Aug. 31-Sept. 6,06
VOL 125
Good, better, best
By Claudia Mathis/ SUN staff writer
SUN photo(s) Paul Finch
Three new Bishop’s Academies and Cathedral Academy at Pompei set to open

The three newly-established Bishop’s Academies — Holy Family in Fairmount, St. Charles Borromeo and Most Holy Rosary in Syracuse in addition to Cathedral Academy at Pompei in Syracuse — will be opening their doors on Sept. 6 to well over 783 pre K – 6 grade students in the first phase of a plan to consolidate the diocese’s schools into a more efficient and unified Catholic school system. “We’re starting with the south/southwest corridor of the diocese, but next year we’ll be branching out to the entire diocese,” said Diocesan Superintendent of Catholic Schools, Michael Colabufo.

As of June 2006, St. Patrick’s, St. Ann’s, St. James and Cathedral, all of Syracuse, had closed. Various options are presently being considered for the use of the closed buildings. Plans for the future of St. Patrick’s School building are indefinite. Paul Drotar, Cathedral business manager, said that various alternatives for the future of Cathedral School are being evaluated. Business manager at St. James Parish, Fran Greeley, said that St. James School would be offered for sale or rent. St. Ann’s School will remain open for the existing Little Eagles Nursery School and pre-K program. St. Ann’s business administrator, Ellen Flynn, said the former school would also house BASCOL, an after-school program for K-6 grade students. The Westhill School District will transport students to the school.

Colabufo said that with the goal of the parish schools becoming diocesan and managed by the diocesan Finance and Catholic Schools Offices, the exemplary education that is now offered in Catholic schools would be even better. Colabufo said the centralization and organization in ordering textbooks and other supplies would provide support for teachers in obtaining the materials they need to enhance their programs. “It would be cost-effective as well,” said Colabufo. “We will be maintaining the very good programs that the parish schools have offered, but now we would certainly be looking at the best practices of education. We would become a school system instead of a system of schools.”

Open houses at the new academies have been planned to alleviate the students’ apprehension about starting the new academic year at a new school. “The open houses will provide an opportunity for the students and parents to meet their new teachers and classmates,” Colabufo said. “Last spring we held a ‘Student’s Day’ for them at Bishop Ludden Jr./Sr. High School to make this transition as smooth as possible. We want to go from good to great schools.” Colabufo has a number of goals and objectives in mind. He plans on examining student enrollment weekly and will keep a close watch on the strategic plans for student retention and the academic curriculum. “We’ll be making sure we’re aligned with the state’s standards and syllabus as well as other state and federal regulations to meet the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001,” explained Colabufo. “We’ll also be looking at our marketing strategies as well as development efforts. So, every time we meet the principals on a monthly basis, this will be our focus. In our daily communication with the schools, we will keep this on the front burner so that we’re all cognizant of the direction and growth that we’re looking at for our Catholic schools. Woven throughout all this is our faith. This year we have a theme that encompasses our faith as well as the academics — that theme is ‘The Heroic Witness of the Saints as a Model for Successful Catholic Schools.’”

This year, the students will benefit from the addition of a foreign language teacher, who will teach French and Spanish. Colabufo said the children would have an opportunity to explore both cultures as well as the language of that culture. “When they take the mandated foreign language test at the junior high level, they’ll have a better grasp of which language they would like to explore,” said Colabufo.

“We are also enhancing our schools with the addition of a language arts teacher,” he continued. “She’ll be there to assist the classroom teachers, providing and maintaining the high quality of our language arts skills, so the students can continue to do well on the state exams that will be coming up for grades three through eight.” Colabufo mentioned that on Sept. 5, the faculty and staff of the diocesan Catholic schools will gather at Most Holy Rosary Church in Syracuse for an opening day in-service at which renowned professor Dr. Elinor Ford will preach the religious goal of the Lord’s witnessing of the saints and combining it with the schools’ successes. Ford will also be focusing on the study skills of students in grades four through 12.

Colabufo also noted that the students’ education at Cathedral Academy at Pompei and Bishop’s Academy at Most Holy Rosary will be greatly enhanced by a partnership with Le Moyne College. “We’ve been working closely with Dr. Linda LeMura, who is Dean of Arts and Sciences and several other professors at Le Moyne,” said Colabufo. The relationship will offer opportunities for mentoring; creation of lessons relevant to diversity, arts and culture; and utilization of the Cathedral Academy at Pompei as a learning center. Le Moyne’s professors will be engaged in professional development opportunities for the teachers and administrators.

Adults in the Pompei community will also benefit from the English as a Second Language and computer classes that will be offered by Le Moyne during the evening hours. “Cathedral Academy at Pompei will become a true community asset,” remarked Colabufo.
Dr. Patricia Schmidt, literacy professor at Le Moyne College, will be teaching a “cultural responsive instruction” course to the teachers at Cathedral Academy at Pompei after receiving a grant for professional development for the school. Le Moyne College will provide the supplies for the course and give the teachers a stipend at the end of the course. Next spring, she and other Le Moyne professors will follow up with the teachers and provide support. Schmidt has enjoyed the interactions she’s had with the teachers so far. “Parochial teachers are unusually well-prepared,” commented Schmidt. “The teachers at Pompei are an amazing group of human beings. Parochial schools are the best kept secret in Central New York.

“This is my research area,” said Schmidt. “It will be fabulous for everyone. I’m hoping we make a connection in the community and that the school becomes a literacy center for immigrants. The school could become a model for the country as an example of urban education.” Schmidt said she would be teaching a literacy course to her Le Moyne students two days a week at the Pompei site. After each class, her students will tutor Pompei’s students for 45 minutes. As another facet of the professional development plan, 21 teaching assistants will be working with the faculty members at Pompei, designing lesson plans and other faculty duties. Spanish and Chinese language classes will also be offered to students at the Pompei site. Charles LaBarbera, administrator at Cathedral Academy at Pompei, will be overseeing a teaching staff of 13 in addition to 133 students. LaBarbera said he is happy that everyone has had such a positive attitude. He is also grateful for the assistance he has received from the community — businesses and parishes have donated supplies to the school. The Guardian Angel Society, which assisted children with tuition costs at Cathedral School, will continue to offer assistance to all students at the Pompei site.

LaBarbera said that, in addition to the support the school will receive from Le Moyne College, the students would also benefit from a number of other programs at Pompei. The children will grow from the mentoring efforts of the Oasis group. Sponsored by Upstate Medical Center and Macy’s Department Store, adult volunteers who were trained by LaBarbera, will assist kindergarten through second grade students in the language arts curriculum to help them develop a love of reading and to develop a positive self image.

Additionally, the students at Pompei will profit from a grant from Syracuse University, which will provide NASA scientific equipment to be used by an astronomy club at the school. The grant will also provide payment to one of Pompei’s teachers to serve as advisor for the club. “It’s going to be a great start,” said LaBarbera. “It will be challenging, but we’re up for the challenge.” Barbara Messina, administrator at Bishop’s Academy at Most Holy Rosary, is looking forward to the new school year and is grateful for the advantages of the partnership her school shares with Le Moyne College. “We’re excited about moving forward,” said Messina.

The Bishop’s Academy at Most Holy Rosary’s enrollment this year numbers 146 students. In addition, 13 teachers have been hired this year. Messina is excited because a new reading teacher is now in place at the school. “It’s going to enable us to refocus on our literacy — it’s a great thing for us,” she said. Messina is also grateful because this year the students and faculty will have greater access to the technology teacher who has increased hours this coming year. After the consolidation of the schools in the area, The Bishop’s Academy at Holy Family’s enrollment ballooned to 326 students with 21 faculty members. Susanne Donze, administrator at Holy Family, said she is happy and excited about bringing people from different parts of the diocese together at the school — many students from St. Pat’s, St. James and St. Ann’s Schools will now be attending Holy Family. “I’m looking forward to meeting the new families and working with the teachers — these are exciting times,” said Donze. Some new programs have been introduced at Holy Family this year. The school now boasts a reading specialist and the pre-K program now gives parents the option of a full-day session in addition to the customary half-day session at the school. The laptop initiative program has been added this year for students in grades three through six. Donze said she has added a fifth and sixth grade chorus this year and in-house piano lessons will be provided at the school for a nominal charge.

The Bishop’s Academy at St. Charles will be educating 178 students this year with a staff of 13 teachers. Colabufo’s vision for the schools is one of vitality and growth. “I see a strong emphasis on our Catholic faith that’s interwoven throughout the content areas on a daily basis so that the children will have a good opportunity to explore the Lord’s witness of the saints as a model for successful Catholic schools,” he said. “We want to make sure that all of our schools are safe harbors for our students and that our teachers are prepared to do their very best in proclaiming the Good News, as well as continuing the provision for an outstanding academic program.”

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