TYLER – Catholic schools in the Diocese of Tyler and around the nation will again celebrate and proclaim their unique gift to education in the U.S. with events scheduled during Catholic Schools Week, Jan. 29-Feb. 4.
The theme for this year’s celebration is Catholic Schools: Communities of Faith, Knowledge and Service. Catholic schools in the Diocese of Tyler will observe the week with a number of events including Masses, open houses, and other activities for students, families, parishioners, and the community at large.
The four Catholic schools in the Diocese of Tyler are:
• Bishop T.K. Gorman Schools, Tyler – a middle- and high-school program, opened in 1958, with an enrollment of 365 students in grades 6-12;
• St. Gregory Cathedral School, Tyler – a PreK-3-5 elementary program with an enrollment of 244 students, opened in 1946 and Tyler’s oldest continuously-operated private school;
• St. Mary Catholic School, Longview – a PreK-3-12 program, opened in 1968, with an enrollment of 196; the program began adding high school levels in the 2011-2012 academic year and graduated its first senior class in 2015;
• St. Patrick Catholic School, Lufkin – a PreK-3-8 program with an enrollment of 90 students, opened in 1955.
“As we celebrate Catholic Schools Week, we give thanks for the blessing of excellent Catholic education that our schools offer,” said Bishop Joseph E. Strickland. “Our schools strive to teach the whole person – body, mind, and spirit – and to form young people to reflect more profoundly the image of God our maker.”
As part of Catholic Schools Week and to support the work of the schools in the diocese, Bishop Strickland has authorized a second collection to be taken up in all parishes and missions the weekend of Feb. 4-5.
“The work of our Catholic schools is more essential today than ever before, and the diocese is working diligently to strengthen our schools,” the bishop said. “As bishop, I ask every Catholic to join us in making our schools a real option for as many families as possible and to assist me in ensuring that our schools are Catholic, excellent, and available for years to come. We give thanks for the parents, faculty, and staff of our Catholic schools who sacrifice so much so that our children can grow in the ways of God in our beautiful Catholic faith.”
St. Gregory and Bishop Gorman have been recognized as U.S. Department of Education Blue Ribbon Schools of Excellence, with St. Gregory having won that recognition three times. St. Patrick has long been lauded for its Kumon Math and language arts programs and has been named a PreK Center of Excellence. St. Mary boasts an Accelerated Reader Program and offers dual college credit to its high school students.
St. Gregory offers a full-time dyslexia specialist on staff, as well as support for students with special needs.
Graduating classes of Bishop Gorman and St. Mary high schools consistently are offered substantial amounts in scholarship monies, and individual graduates are routinely accepted into multiple colleges and universities across the country.
Graduates from St. Patrick who move into public high school consistently rank as honor students.
“Over the past year as Episcopal Vicar of Education (for the Diocese of Tyler), I have had the unique opportunity to witness and share in the faith, spirit and academic excellence of all our Catholic schools,” said Father Dan Dower, pastor of Christ the King Parish in Kilgore. “As a product of 12 years of elementary and high school Catholic education myself, I know first-hand the tremendous value and importance there is in providing Catholic school education to as many of our children as possible. I strongly encourage all our parishes and missions to support this important mission of the Church here in the Diocese of Tyler. I also wish to thank the pastors, principals, teachers, staff, and parents of our Catholic schools for their dedicated service to our current and future generations of students.”
Academic excellence has long been a hallmark of Catholic schools, whose students routinely score higher on national achievement tests than their public school equivalents.
The National Catholic Educational Association (NCEA) reported recently that results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), often referred to as the Nation’s Report Card, show that Catholic schools consistently outperform public schools in science.
“Academic excellence in Catholic schools is proven time and again through tests such as the SAT and AP exams, as well as through assessments such as NAEP,” said NCEA President/CEO Dr. Thomas W. Burnford. “Catholic schools are sacred places of faith formation, and where 1.9 million Catholic school students receive an outstanding education.”
The NCEA also reported that College Board SAT Subject Tests scores show that religiously affiliated schools, which include Catholic schools, scored significantly higher than the national mean for public schools on the new version of the SAT. The SAT Program uses a 200–800-point scale in three categories: math, reading, and writing.
Religiously affiliated students had a mean score of 532 in math, 537 in reading, and 525 in writing compared to the public school mean score of 487 in math, 494 in reading, and 472 in writing. The national mean score is 494 for math, 508 for reading, and 482 for writing.
Catholic schools comprise 22.3 percent of private schools, yet enroll 42.9 percent of the private school population. More than 46 percent of private schools are other religious schools enrolling 37.3 percent of the students in nonpublic schools.
“Catholic schools work,” said Burnford. “These scores show that students in Catholic schools demonstrate higher academic achievement than similar students in district-run schools.”
But academics are only part of Catholic education. Catholic schools exist as part of the Church’s teaching mission and have as their primary goal the ongoing formation of the Christian person according to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Schools in the Tyler Diocese devote themselves to the helping students establish an understanding of and deep rooting in the Catholic faith through an intensive theology curriculum, weekly school-wide Masses, and a variety of liturgical and devotional practices, many of which are student-led. A sense of discipleship is fostered through service projects, both communal and individual. Canned-food and clothing drives, visits to nursing homes, and collections of money and goods for disaster victims, both local and throughout the world, are regular aspects of student life at Catholic schools in East Texas.
St. Mary students raised funds to build a house in Haiti. The Bishop Gorman student body has become a powerhouse in raising funds for research into and treatment of cystic fibrosis after learning of a fellow classmate’s struggles with the disease.
Catholic schools, both in the Tyler Diocese and nationwide, also promote deep parental involvement. Parents are active at every stage of their children’s education, engaging with teachers, attending parent-teacher conferences, and serving as volunteers for the schools in almost every capacity, from bus drivers to landscapers. Catholic education is a collaborative effort, a partnership between the school, the student, and the family, with all working toward the same goal.
As Amy Blalock, principal of St. Mary in Longview has often said, “Our schools aren’t laundries. You can’t drop your child off dirty and pick him up clean. Faith formation is a journey we all have to take together, or we’ll never get there.”
The collaboration has proven so strong and so successful that all four Catholic schools in the diocese have parents who continue to volunteer after their children have graduated.
The commitment of faculty is another hallmark of the Catholic schools in East Texas.
Martha López Coleman, principal of St. Patrick in Lufkin, is a graduate of the school she leads. PreK-3 teacher Judy McKinney has taught at the school for 16 years.
At St. Gregory, Linda Harvey, a fifth-grade teacher, has taught at the school for 31 years, and Bridget Chapman, a second-grade teacher, has taught there for 18 years. She also is a graduate of St. Gregory and Bishop Gorman.
Bishop Gorman has a number of graduates on staff. Judy Carney, a theology teacher, graduated from Bishop Gorman in 1981, and has taught there since 1990. Lisa Breedlove, a middle school math teacher and the school’s PSIA coordinator, graduated from Bishop Gorman in 1986 and has taught there since 1994. Deacon Bill Necessary, eighth-grade theology teacher and assistant chaplain, graduated from the school in 1982 and has taught there since 2009. Other graduates now teaching at their alma mater include Elizabeth Alexander, Amanda Blalock, Felipe Natera, and Justin Ruelle.
Longtime teachers at the school include Kaye Fackrell, seventh-grade science teacher, on the faculty since 1993; Lonnie Glosson, social studies department chair and history teacher, since 1995; and Mary Schick, middle school coordinator and sixth-grade science teacher, since 1998.
At St. Mary, Laurie Kubicek, director of instructional services, has taught there since 1991. Her daughter Gabrielle was a member of the school’s inaugural high school graduating class in 2015, and Laurie and husband Jason were instrumental in helping the school add its high school component.
Registration at all four schools in the diocese for the 2017-2018 academic year is open. For information, contact the schools or see their websites:
Bishop T.K. Gorman, Tyler (6-12): 903-561-2424, www.bishopgorman.net
St. Gregory Cathedral School, Tyler (PreK3-5): 903-595-4109, www.stgregory.info
St. Mary Catholic School, Longview (PreK3-12): 903-753-1657, www.stmaryslgv.com
St. Patrick Catholic School, Lufkin (PreK3-8): 936-634-6719, stpatricklufkin.com