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Catholic School Advantage

Mentor Spotlight: Getting to Know Jeannie Courchene

on Tuesday, 17 November 2020.

MentorSpotlight JeannieCourchene


Mentor principals have played a critical role in the success of the Latino Enrollment Institute (LEI) since the program’s inception in 2012. The experience, accountability, and personal attention that these leaders provide has been a defining characteristic of the LEI, helping Catholic school principals—and their teams— institute lasting changes. 

After schools attend the LEI summer conference, mentor principals maintain regular contact with the 4-6 school leaders in their group through monthly video conference calls. These conversations, which focus on various themes related to Latino outreach, recruitment, and enrollment, are an opportunity for school leaders to learn from one another and receive real-time consultation and feedback from their mentor on some of the things that they’re doing in their school. 

The commitment of our LEI mentors, most of whom are still active Catholic school principals themselves, is truly the engine that drives the LEI.  

This month, we highlight Jeannie Courchene, who has worked in education for over 40 years and has served as a mentor principal for the LEI since the program’s inception in 2012. Prior to joining the LEI team, Jeannie served as principal of St. Rose of Lima School in Denver, Colorado, for ten years. When Jeannie became principal of St. Rose of Lima in 1999, the school was in physical disrepair and in dire need of renovations. She and the pastor began the long road to cleaning up the school, while also seeking ways to attract more students. Under her leadership, Jeannie, along with the development board that she established, turned a failing inner-city Catholic school with declining enrollment into an incredible success story. Because of the school’s success, especially in serving the Latino community, St. Rose of Lima was the feature school in the University of Notre Dame’s 2009 publication, To Nurture the Soul of a Nation: Latino Families, Catholic Schools, and Educational Opportunity, which served as the impetus of the Catholic School Advantage Campaign.

Although technically retired from her role as a school leader, one would be hard pressed to find an individual who gives more of their time, talent, and energy to Catholic schools than Jeannie Courchene. She remains a tireless advocate for the mission to improve educational opportunities for Latino children, and she continues to share her expertise, knowledge, and passion with Catholic school leaders around the country through the LEI. 

Read the interview with Jeannie below.


Honrar al Padre Vince Coppola, C.S.C.

Written by Clare Roach, M.Ed., Katy Walter Lichon, Ph.D., Fr. Jim Fenstermaker, C.S.C. on Sunday, 01 November 2020.

Father Vince Coppola“¡Mira! ¡Es Padre Vince!” exclaimed second grader Athziry Rodriguez as she rounded the corner and beheld this year’s Día de los Muertos altar at Holy Cross School. She recognized the face of Fr. Vincent Coppola, C.S.C., as Padre Vince, the beloved pastor of Holy Cross Catholic School.

Athziry knew Fr. Vince from when she was just a “peque” (a term of endearment for pequeña, or little one) in the two-way Spanish immersion program that he helped initiate in 2017. Four years after starting in the program, Athziry spends 80 percent of her day learning to read, write, and calculate in Spanish. She focuses the rest of her day on learning science and social studies in English.

Holy Cross was founded in 1929 by the Congregation of Holy Cross to serve the rapidly growing, working-class Catholic community comprised largely of families of Polish, Irish, and Italian descent on the west side of the city of South Bend. Thanks in great part to the effort and creativity of the Sisters of Holy Cross, it thrived for decades as one of the largest and most vibrant Catholic learning communities in the region.

Like so many other Catholic schools in recent years it confronted the difficult challenge of population decline and changing demographics in surrounding neighborhoods. By 2016, enrollment hovered at 50 percent of capacity, with the steepest declines in the Pre-K and kindergarten classes. The school’s viability was teetering.

Latino School Leadership: Redefining "The Road Less Traveled"

on Monday, 12 October 2020.

Buddy Martinez Banner


The Latino Educator and Administrator Development (LEAD) program aims to strengthen the Latino voice in both the classroom and school level nationally. LEAD’s inaugural cohort continues to learn ways to better understand the opportunities and challenges that exist as Latino leaders in their schools. 

An important aspect of the LEAD program is the mentorship that each LEADer receives on a monthly basis from a Latino mentor currently in a leadership role in Catholic education. Each month, LEADers join other members of their team, including a LEAD mentor, on a conference call to focus on a wide variety of themes related to Latino leadership in Catholic education. 

Throughout the year, the CSA team will highlight various members of this inaugural LEAD cohort—both LEADers and mentors—beginning with Israel “Buddy” Martinez, principal of Our Lady of Sorrows Catholic School in McAllen, TX, member of the eighth cohort of the Latino Enrollment Institute (LEI), and LEAD mentor. 


Hurdles, Advice, and Creative Solutions: Principals’ Reflections and Insights on Reopening

on Monday, 05 October 2020.

St. Theresa School, Little Rock


As Catholic schools plan, evaluate, and sometimes reevaluate their opening plans and protocols, school leaders are called to be innovative and resourceful in an effort to keep their students and families safe, healthy, learning, and hopeful. 

The CSA team commends all leaders on the heroic efforts being conducted, and we interviewed four former Latino Enrollment Institute (LEI) school leaders regarding the start to the year, with a particular focus on ensuring their schools are a safe haven for students. The schools featured represent a cross-section of the country in terms of geography, grade-levels served, and in program offerings - in person, hybrid, and virtual learning.

We are grateful to the following leaders for their insights and wisdom shared.


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