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Catholic Educators Honored as "Champions of Change"

Written by William Schmitt on Friday, 27 January 2012.

Four of the White House Honorees Have Connections to ACE

The Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE) is honored to be part of the career stories of three educators who were saluted by the White House on Jan. 25 as "Champions of Change." A fourth educator who was spotlighted is another supporter of ACE, as seen in the formation for leaders in her diocese. ACE is pleased to join in thanking all ten of the champions of Catholic education who were spotlighted in the Washington, D.C., ceremony. They share in ACE's commitment to offer all young people, especially the disadvantaged, the opportunity for a high-quality Catholic education.

Among the honorees was Joseph Womac, a graduate of ACE’s ACE Teaching Fellows program. In recent years, he has served as executive director of the Fulcrum Foundation, a Seattle-based organization whose fund-raising has helped more than 10,000 low income students attend Catholic schools.

Sister Rosa Maria Ruiz, C.F.M.M., superintendent of schools for the Diocese of Tucson in Arizona, was also one of the honorees. She noted that her purview includes an in-depth partnership with the Notre Dame ACE Academy initiative, in which ACE and Notre Dame are working with local educators to strengthen three diocesan schools.

A third honoree was Yvonne Schwab, principal of St. James the Less Catholic School in Columbus, Ohio.  As the White House press release noted, “Mrs. Schwab and her staff have worked closely with the University of Notre Dame’s Alliance for Catholic Education. This connection has provided the staff with necessary training for the new population” of her school, which is largely Latino. A recent news story posted at ACE’s website described the school’s adoption of ideas from the ACE Catholic School Advantage campaign.

Annette "Mickey" Lentz is chancellor of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis. Among the steps leading to success in this honoree's schools, the Archdiocese has built partnerships with higher education institutions to help teachers earn advanced degrees. "Reflecting Mickey's ardent support of ACE, her archdiocese has sent more candidates to the Mary Ann Remick Leadership Program (RLP) —preparation for a principal's duties and other leadership roles—than any other diocese," said Rev. Ronald Nuzzi, senior director of the RLP.

The salute to the ten educators included individual comments and panel presentations giving voice to the honorees' love for Catholic education. Womac, in his reflection, said that preserving the American dream for millions of American families involves preserving Catholic education.

"I saw this first-hand teaching in Catholic schools in Louisiana as a part of the University of Notre Dame's service program, the Alliance for Catholic Education," Womac told the White House audience. "I see it first-hand every day at work in the hopeful lives of thousands of students attending school with Fulcrum's assistance."

"Madrinas and Padrinos" Approach Helps a Chicago School Build Family and Community

Written by William Schmitt on Friday, 27 January 2012.

A Padrino & a Principal See "Catholic School Advantage" Idea Bearing Fruit

At St. Benedict's Catholic School, in Blue Island, Ill., near Chicago, principal Susan Rys (pronounced Rise) and parents at the school are articulating a growing connection to their community. One of the parents, Roberto Reyes, reflects how the school has found its voice to call others into cooperation—and how that voice has acquired a Latino accent—with assistance from the Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE).

Roberto is one of the school's "padrinos," part of a team of padrinos y madrinas (godfathers and godmothers) who help the school extend an invitation to local families. This team, inclined and trained to offer mentoring services and authentic hospitality while also recruiting children for the school, has come about as the result of training in ACE's Catholic School Advantage campaign.

"The best resource we have is the human resource," says Roberto, explaining that good relationships among the people in the area—many of whom are immigrants—are the best way to get the school's messages across. The Catholic School Advantage campaign, in which St. Benedict's is one of ACE's many partners in the Archdiocese of Chicago, helps schools become more accessible to Latino culture even as they convey the strengths they offer to local children in need of educational alternatives.

National School Choice Week Resonates at ACE

Written by William Schmitt on Tuesday, 24 January 2012.

The Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE) is marking National School Choice Week, which spans January 22-28, 2012.

Rooted in Catholic Social Teaching, ACE supports school choice policies, also called parental choice policies, that give all children effective options for obtaining a high-quality education.

Official Church teaching has repeatedly and consistently reaffirmed the vital importance of Catholic schools and school choice. The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches, "Parents have the right to choose a school for them which corresponds to their own personal convictions." The Catechism adds that "public authorities have the duty of guaranteeing this parental right and ensuring concrete conditions for its exercise" (CCC #2229).

schoolchoiceweek logo teaserAs part of our support for principles of school choice, ACE's Program for K-12 Educational Access (PEA) is dedicated to empowering low-income families with access to a quality education, with a particular focus on parochial schools. PEA advances educational access through teaching, research, and outreach, and it seeks to cultivate data-driven, parent-centered education reform.

The Notre Dame ACE Academy initiative, currently operating innovative, in-depth partnerships with three Catholic schools in the Diocese of Tucson, strives to remove the cost barrier for families whenever possible. As a result of Arizona's parental choice policies, allowing scholarships funded by tax credits, Notre Dame ACE Academies can provide tuition assistance to families facing financial hardship.

During the past year, the state of Indiana—where ACE is headquartered as an initiative of the University of Notre Dame—has been a center of action on school choice through a new voucher program.

The Indiana Choice Scholarship Program experienced unprecedented success in 2011. National experts indicate this is the most successful first year implementation in the history of the parental choice movement. More than 3,900 students across the state have received Choice Scholarships, and more than 2,500 of those are now attending Catholic schools. The new program's benefits were most deeply felt by the families facing economic struggles, as 85% of voucher recipients qualify for free or reduced-cost school lunch.

Support for the principles of school choice, or parental choice, finds affirmation in Catholic thought.
In 1965, the Second Vatican Council's Declaration on Christian Education stated: "The public power, which has the obligation to protect and defend the rights of citizens, must see to it, in its concern for distributive justice, that public subsidies are paid out in such a way that parents are truly free to choose according to their conscience that schools they want for their children."

In 1987, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith expressly communicated that "whenever the State lays claim to an educational monopoly, it oversteps its rights and offends justice.... The State cannot dwithout injustice merely tolerate so-called private school. Such schools render a public service to civil society and therefore have a right to financial assistance."

The 2004 Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church focused attention on the lack of public funding for non-public schools: "The refusal to provide public economic support to non-public schools that need assistance and that render a service to civil society is to be considered an injustice."

Pope Benedict XVI, in a 2008 Address to Catholic Educators, declared: "Everything possible must be done, in cooperation with the wider community, to ensure that [Catholic schools] are accessible to people of all social and economic strata. No child should be denied his or her right to an education in faith, which in turn nurtures the soul of a nation."

You can find out more about the official events and messages accompanying National School Choice Week at http://schoolchoiceweek.com.

Catholic School Champion: Antonio Ortiz

Written by William Schmitt on Friday, 20 January 2012.

Antonio Ortiz, a graduate of the Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE) who has embodied a commitment to Catholic schools throughout his career, will become president of Cristo Rey Jesuit High School in Chicago, effective June 25, 2012.

The school's board of trustees and presidential search committee announced recently that Tony had been elected to succeed Rev. Jim Garland, S.J. The announcement is headlined at the school's website.

Cristo Rey Jesuit, founded in 1996, enrolls more than 500 students. Located in the Pilsen/Little Village neighborhood, it serves low-income Latino communities. The school is part of a distinctive network of Cristo Rey schools that offer a college preparatory education to children for whom other private schools are not a financial option. Indeed, the Cristo Rey school model started at this Chicago site, and there are now 24 Cristo Rey schools across the country, of which Cristo Rey Jesuit High School is the largest.

"If you look at the education and experience that have prepared me for this very important responsibility, I would have to credit Notre Dame—both my undergraduate studies and the ACE Program—as having inspired me to focus on the mission of Catholic schools," Tony commented following the Cristo Rey announcement. "As enthusiastic as I am about the opportunity, I'm also a little bit nervous to be the first lay president. However, I know I have the ACE Program, resources, and ACE Advocates to lean on for support and prayers!"

Tony previously served at Cristo Rey Jesuit for ten years, with titles including Associate Principal and Director of Foundation and Corporate Relations. His experience in the ACE Teaching Fellows program, during which he earned a Master of Education degree, included teaching for two years at a Catholic grade school in the border area of Mission, Texas. He graduated from ACE in 1999 as a member of the program's fifth cohort.

In 2010, Tony received ACE's Michael Pressley Award for Excellence in Catholic Education.

"I was raised in a family where my parents emphasized Catholic education as our absolute number one priority," said Tony in his recent email. "My experience in the ACE Program shaped my value system, work ethic, and spiritual life. I am now eager for the opportunity to return and continue advancing [Cristo Rey Jesuit HS] as one of the most important works of hope and opportunity for so many families who simply want the best education for their children."

Tony was among the ACErs profiled in the 2010-2011 ACE Annual Report. At that time, he was serving as director for partnerships and outreach at the Big Shoulders Fund. The fund provides millions of dollars annually for scholarships, instructional equipment, and facility improvements in Catholic schools in Chicago's neediest areas.

In the profile, Tony described his vision of ACE's future—providing more and more graduates the opportunity to enter leadership positions in education and public policy and giving more children access to the transformational benefits of excellent schools.

"The most important expression of ACE's mission," he said, "will be when traditionally underserved students, who have benefited from ACE teachers, reach their personal and professional dreams, as well as improving the quality of life for families and communities."

Tony holds a bachelor's degree in business administration from the University of Notre Dame and an MBA from Loyola University Chicago. He and his wife Brenda have two children, Gabriela and Antonio.

Using the Cristo Rey model adopted in other cities, Cristo Rey Jesuit utilizes the Corporate Internship Program. All students participate in this work-study program, through which they work five days per month in entry-level jobs in Chicago firms. In this way, they fund a majority of the cost of their education.

ACE congratulates Tony and joins in prayers for his continued success in service to young people through Catholic education.
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Photo above: Antonio Ortiz at center.

From the Field: Grainne Carroll

on Thursday, 19 January 2012.

Recently we asked Grainne Carroll, who hails from Ireland, to tell us about her experience with ACE. Grainne is a graduate of ACE Teaching Fellows (STT, cohort 16) and has completed one semester of ACE's Teaching Exceptional Children (TEC) program. Here's what she had to say.

carroll g 2My experiences with ACE and ACE TEC have been truly wonderful. From the joyous moment I received my letter of acceptance to the master's program in 2009, to sunny summers of intense studying at Notre Dame, to late night TEC assignments this fall, ACE has truly challenged me, pushing me to reach my potential as a teacher and minister of Christ.

During my undergrad years in Dublin, Ireland, where I gained my bachelor's degree in education, and the two years I spent in Texas completing my master's degree, one area that really intrigued me was special education. In my few years of teaching, I have encountered so many beautiful and talented children of God who have been denied their right to an equal and adequate education, specific to their individual needs. This reality hit home when one of my students in Texas left for the public school system due to insufficient funds and resources available at our Catholic school. It was heartbreaking to realize that we were unable to provide that student the education he needed in a Catholic environment. During this time, I decided to apply for ACE TEC.

ACE TEC has been a tremendous gift to me. It has provided me with the tools and information needed to actually make a difference in my classroom and in my school. Many times in my (short) teaching career, I felt unsure and unaware of the best approach to take with a student with special needs. But after just one summer and one semester of ACE TEC, I feel a greater sense of comfort working with these students, because ACE TEC has given me strategies that can help them succeed. For example, I am now a member of my school's Intervention Assistance Team, which exists to provide support of and/or guidance for teachers and parents of students with special needs. In the first two quarters of the year, our team met to address the unique learning needs of seven different students. We created implementation strategies for the teachers and parents to help these students achieve success.

ACE TEC has reinforced my belief that teachers must be equipped to address the unique needs of every student, because all students are special. I am grateful for the tools and encouragement the program provides so that an equal and excellent Catholic education is available to all.

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