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placeholder Home for dying children at risk of closing

Project hammers hope into the lives of Tijuana’s poor

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Special section

Catholic schools sustaining values, facing challenges

Formation program trains teachers to be catechists

School lunches shift from cafeteria fare to healthy cuisine

FACE appeals for more funds for students needing tuition assistance

Saint Mary’s College opens center for first-generation college students

‘Mom, I’m starving’: Kids are hungry for dinnertime conversation

Knights of Columbus give awards to 51 young altar servers in the diocese

Young authors honored for works of fiction, autobiography and poetry

Honors from CYO

A tribute to the Class of 2009

St. Bede School honored for environmental programs

Salesian students in service

Socks for newborns

Water for life

placeholder June 8, 2009   •   VOL. 47, NO. 11   •   Oakland, CA
Catholic schools sustaining values, facing challenges

What is your definition of a quality Catholic school?

Sister Barbara Bray, SNJM

Our schools provide each student with an excellent academic program and excellent faith formation designed to strengthen their union with Christ and His Church. In such a quality Catholic school, administrators and teachers collaborate with parents as the primary educators in the full development of each human person who is a student in our schools.

Each of our schools is focused on proclaiming the message of the Good News, forming a strong community and leading students to the full development of their gifts and talents so they may lead lives of service to the Church and the world as Jesus did.

What are the greatest challenges facing Catholic schools today?

The greatest challenges are to sustain and strengthen Catholic schools as one of the most effective means available to the Church for the education of children and young people who are the future of the Church and of our world. That is what the U.S. bishops reminded us of in their statement, “To Teach as Jesus Did.”

What are the immediate problems?

Maintaining affordability so that our Catholic schools will continue to be staffed by highly qualified administrators and teachers who receive just wages and at the same time making this faith-based education affordable for all of our families.

Tuition remains the major portion of most schools’ income. Scholarship programs like our own wonderful FACE (Family Aid-Catholic Education) need to continue to grow. We have many generous benefactors who give and work tirelessly to ensure affordability of Catholic education.

Likewise, many parishes and Catholic schools have partnered with sister schools in low-income areas of our diocese to help support their mission. We need to build on that legacy of generosity. I believe it is going to take all of us together to accomplish this.

What must schools do to remain viable?

Through collaborative leadership among pastors, principals, our consultative school boards and the Department of Catholic Schools, we need to enhance development programs and share best practices about leadership, financial management, strategic planning, academic excellence and Catholic identity.

Even with the large number of school closings in the Great Lakes and Mideast regions, these areas still contain nearly half of all the schools.
CNS graphic/Emily Thompson

Along with our colleagues in Catholic education around the country, we need to continue to seek new partnerships with our colleges and universities and with our philanthropic and business communities. The Diocese of Memphis, for example, has a strong partnership with local businesses in building a strong endowment fund.

Each diocese, of course, is different, but I believe there is “wisdom in the room” that we need to draw upon. As the U.S. bishops have stated, Catholic education is the responsibility of the entire Catholic community.

Will the schools benefit from the forthcoming Federal Stimulus package?

The funding for education in the Federal Stimulus package (AARA) is coming to schools in already existing programs of No Child Left Behind. Many of our schools in the diocese qualify for services under the program called Title I, administered by the local public school district, which provides additional educational support such as tutoring for students attending school in locations identified as poverty areas.

Our school administrators are in consultation with each local public school district in which they are located to plan for the effective use of the additional funding to provide services for our students.

No Child Left Behind has put a lot of focus on test scores. How are standardized tests used in Catholic schools?

Along with all the 12 (arch)dioceses in California, we administer the Iowa Test of Basic Skills in the fall to our students in grades 2-8 for diagnostic purposes to identify each student’s areas of academic strength and areas for growth.

Although they are not our sole criteria, these scores give our faculties a picture of our students as compared to the national scene. Principals and teachers use these scores to tailor instruction for each student and for the class. It is most helpful to administer this test early in the same year so that the scores can be used to support student learning during that year.

Our goal is academic excellence and success in learning for each child and these tests are one measure that helps us identify what we need to provide to achieve these goals.

Our schools also participate in a rigorous accreditation process by two accrediting agencies, the Western Catholic Education Association (WCEA) and the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC), which are focused on ensuring that all students are learning effectively.

You have been involved in teaching since the late 1960s. How has the classroom changed since you first started teaching?

When I started teaching, I had 65 third-graders at St. Stephen’s School in Monterey Park. I will never forget that first day. Much has changed in education since then and yet the enduring values of Catholic education still remain.

The size of classes, the use of textbooks as the sole guide for how and what students learn, the method of having all students doing the same thing at the same time and in the same way — these are aspects of education that have changed.

What has not changed is Catholic education’s commitment to the full development of the human person in the light of the Gospel.

Scientific and technological advances have led to increased knowledge about the functioning of the brain and the processes of learning that are now being used in classrooms to help all students learn effectively.

The jobs that schools once prepared students for have changed dramatically. Today’s students, like students of prior generations, need to be proficient in reading, writing and mathematics. They also need to understand and utilize 21st century skills in science, communication, and the arts.

Because we live in a multi-cultural environment, we need to have our students understand the meaning of global awareness and collaborative interdependence in problem-solving complex realities.

We as Catholic educators continue to rethink education and continually ask ourselves what it takes to prepare the next generation to be people of competence, conscience and compassion in this decade and for a future we cannot yet see in this young century.

What is the greatest lesson you have learned as an educator?

There are several that come to mind: Each student reflects a unique sacredness. Children have the ability to inspire wonder, joy and ingenuity sometimes in the face of daunting circumstances.

Kindergarteners ask the most profound questions. Teachers are amazing miracle workers.

Who are your heroes and heroines of education?

My parents, Alice and Ira Bray, first and foremost recognized the individual dignity of each of us six kids. And my mother and aunt were teachers who shared their love of teaching with me. When I went to St. Cecilia Elementary School in San Francisco, and then, at Mercy High School, I had teachers who inspired me.

When I entered the Holy Names Community, my Sisters modeled and mentored excellence because of their spirituality, energy, enthusiasm, enormous creativity and their deep commitment to Catholic education as a transforming experience.

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