2017 a ‘great’ year to celebrate Catholic Schools

Superintendent Kevin Kijewski can’t wait for Catholic Schools Week this year.

“This is going to be a great year for Catholic schools,” he said. “We did a lot of foundation building last year, particularly with the drafting of two vision documents on the future of our schools, and we look forward to continuing to build on those foundations in 2017.”

He added that he is also looking forward to the opening of Frassati Catholic Academy this fall, which is slated to be a Classical academy located in Thornton.

The Archdiocese of Denver will celebrate Catholic Schools Week Jan. 29-Feb. 4 with several events underlining the value of Catholic schools, including the launch of a new vision document called “Worthy of the Investment,” and a resolution in the state Senate praising the contribution of Catholic schools to Colorado.

“Worthy of the Investment” will be released by the Office of Catholic Schools Jan. 28, just a day ahead of the first day of Catholic Schools Week. The document, which addresses the need to support Catholic education financially, is a follow-up to the similarly titled “Worthy of the Name.” Both documents outline key principles for securing the future of Catholic education in northern Colorado.

Individual schools have organized a variety of events for the week, including all-school Masses, ice-cream socials and faculty versus student basketball games.

On Sunday, Jan. 29, Our Lady of Loreto in Foxfield will launch Catholic Schools Week with the dedication of the West Wing of the St. Joseph Ministry Center, which will be used for school and religious education classrooms, house a new gymnasium, a combination stage/music room, and a new pre-school.

Bishop Rodriguez will celebrate the 11am Mass at the parish, and dedicate the new building at a 12:30pm ceremony.

On Tuesday, Jan. 31, Bishop Jorge Rodriguez will lead morning prayer for the state Senate, and stay for the reading of a Catholic Schools Week Proclamation. Representatives from the Office of Catholic Schools and several Catholic schools will be in attendance.

Bishop Rodriguez will also celebrate an all-school Mass Wed, Feb. 1, at St. Francis de Sales in Denver at 10:30am.

On Thursday, Feb. 2, Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila will celebrate an all-school Mass at Sacred Heart of Jesus in Boulder at 9:30am, followed by visits to classrooms.

That same day, at 1:30pm, Bishop Rodriguez will celebrate an all-school Mass at St. Mary’s in Littleton.

Catholic Schools Week has been celebrated annually since 1974, and always begins on the last Sunday in January.

In northern Colorado, there are nearly 9,000 students enrolled in Catholic schools. An estimated 99.6% of students who attend a Catholic high school graduates, and 92.4% of Catholic high school graduates in the Archdiocese of Denver went on to enroll at a 4-year college.

COMING UP: A new school, Hispanic outreach, affordable tuition plan underway in Catholic schools

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A new school, Hispanic outreach, affordable tuition plan underway in Catholic schools

Q&A: Superintendent highlights progress made toward achieving vision document goals

A year ago, the archdiocese’s Catholic Schools Office released a vision statement listing characteristics that make a school “Catholic.” The document, “Worthy of the Name,” highlights goals related to mission, excellence, accessibility and sustainability. With Catholic Schools Week approaching, superintendent Kevin Kijewski, spoke with the Denver Catholic last week about those goals.

To read the latest school vision document, “Worthy of the Investment,” visit denvercatholicschools.com

Denver Catholic: How are you helping the schools to achieve their mission?

Superintendent Kevin Kijewski: One thing we did was the archbishop’s visitation of our Catholic high schools to evaluate their Catholic identity and their mission. We went to all six of the high schools and gave them recommendations. That was a first for the archdiocese and an important first step.

Coming up March 17 is the archbishop’s Catechetical Day for all 1,147 Catholic educators in the archdiocese. We’ll gather them to promote development in the faith so they in turn can give that to their students. They’ll celebrate Mass with Archbishop Samuel Aquila and Bishop Jorge Rodriguez. We’ll have speakers [including Tom Burnford, president of the National Catholic Educators Association] and we’ll have lunch. This is also a first for the Catholic Schools Office.

DC: What measures are being taken to achieve excellence?

KK: We established a pilot board of specified jurisdiction at St. Joseph School in Fort Collins. The board can help direct the school: they assist the pastor in operating it, supervise the principal and set a positive strategic direction. These boards are not new, but are new to Colorado. Of the schools using these, 70 percent were able to increase enrollment and 100 percent were able to increase fundraising. We hope to introduce this into more Catholic schools starting with the 2017-2018 academic year. That’s a good positive development.

Another exciting thing is we’re opening up a brand new school with a new education model, Frassati Catholic Academy. Frassati is a classical educational environment for kids in grades kindergarten through five that will open this fall.

We’re also looking at other academic opportunities for schools to pursue apart from the traditional educational model, including what we’re calling “faith and reason schools” that have a focus on the sciences and mathematics but also have a faith component.

And we hired an instructional effectiveness specialist (IES), which is like a teacher coach. Abriana Chilelli is working with a handful our schools, specifically principals and teachers, to ensure that instruction is brought to the next level, that we have individualized instruction, and that every child receives a top-notch education.

DENVER, CO, 2015: Kevin Kijewski is the Superintendent of Archdiocese of Denver Catholic Schools. Photo by Jason Taylor

Kevin Kijewski is the Superintendent of Archdiocese of Denver Catholic Schools. (Photo by Jason Taylor)

DC: How are you improving accessibility to Catholic schools?

KK: We hired a director of Latino enrollment and engagement, Carlos Hernandez. He’s working with about 10 schools and is making great progress. He’s working hand-in-hand with Bishop Rodriguez and with the University of Notre Dame. Over half the people attending Mass on Sundays in the archdiocese are Latino but only about 20 percent of our [Catholic school] students are Latino. We’re going to catch up!

We are developing leadership within our schools, specifically principals and pastors, to be more culturally in tune with the Latino community. So we have good things in terms of accessibility happening from the chancery with Hernandez and at the local level, too.

DC: What is being done to make Catholic schools sustainable for the future?

KK: We are on track for the 2018-2019 academic year to have a variable or needs-based economic system where all Catholics can send their kids to a Catholic school should they desire. It doesn’t matter if you make $30,000 or $300,000, we’re going to make sure you can afford tuition. Everyone is going to pay a different rate. We’re going to be the first Catholic school system in the country—in the country—that has this particular kind of pricing. We’re really looking forward to doing this. We’re working with a focus group of priests and business managers for this project. We’re on track.

DC: Name the biggest challenge bringing the goals to completion.

KK: We’re working with a vast network of Catholic education advocates and supporters: principals, pastors, philanthropists and parents. There are many moving parts but we’re determined to succeed.

DC: What are you most proud of thus far related to efforts on the goals?

KK: The work effort, determination and tenacity of the stakeholders. They care about Catholic schools and they’re willing to share in the work to get the goals accomplished.