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CISE Celebrates Catholic Schools’ Week

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By Cynthia Kenny and Joe Bride

The 2020 Catholic Schools Week theme reflects the current time: “Learn. Serve. Lead. Succeed.”

Nationally recognized Catholic school teachers and administrators have been employed at CISE (Catholic Inner-city Schools Education Fund) schools since 1974. Our teachers exemplify flexibility, passion and fortitude – attributes even more vital when educating children during a pandemic.

United in Mission. Tailored in Approach.

The CISE staff, as well as the archdiocese, understand that when the CISE schools have a degree of autonomy, they can better address the needs of their students and the community. From the start, all involved have been ready to learn from one another. Multiple perspectives and expertise have enabled multi-faceted solutions. Still, all 10 principals operate under the same vision and mission.

Jenny O’Brien, St. William School principal said, “Although Catholic Schools Week will look different this year, we still plan to follow our school’s traditions to celebrate the support of our community. This year has been a time of adjustment and great faith as teachers worked to implement protocols that work at St. William.”

“We are staying open until either we are forced to close, or we don’t have enough staff coverage,” O’Brien confirmed. “Our students do not need to be home unsupervised. Our parents can’t afford to take off work to stay home with the kids.”

Joanne Browarsky, Principal of St. Francis de Sales School shared, “So much of our school culture is rooted in family spirit, physical gatherings and celebrations. We are always looking for ways to unify our community and still remain six-feet apart. Our staff has employed a ‘where there’s a will there’s a way’ attitude from the very beginning of COVID-19.”

“Catholic Schools week allows us to celebrate the very best of being Catholic and Catholic Education. This school year it will be even more special because we are taking greater measures to make sure each moment and day are as impactful as possible,” said St. Joseph principal, Ashley Toney.

She continued, “COVID-19 has changed much, but one thing hasn’t changed: our appreciation and admiration for the generosity of those who believe in CISE and our schools. It is that generosity that allows St. Joseph Catholic School to remain open five days a week in person. Your generosity pays for an amazing nurse who helps keep students healthy and safe, Beech Acres staff, who provide services to ensure the mental health of students and families and a math coach who equips our teachers with a well-supplied toolbox to give our students the best education possible.”

Partnership: It Takes a Village

A formidable piece of support has come from many caring CISE partners.

Beech Acres supplies mental health services in each school. Beech Acres program manager, Amanda McDermott, said, “The CISE schools have fared well amidst the pandemic. Although this school year has taken some creativity, CISE schools have responded with grace and ingenuity. Families feel supported and students are learning!”

Friars Club provides an after-school sports program. Executive Director, Annie Timmons explained, “Faculty, students and administrators in the CISE schools have committed to go the extra mile. Teachers find themselves teaching both remote and face-to-face learners at the same time. Safe distance practices are visible all during the school day. Classrooms are set up to eliminate widespread contact and allow for better contact tracing. It takes a village to survive COVID-19. CISE is proving to be quite a village. Love, safety and sacrifice have made it happen.”

Veronica, a math coach from Hamilton County Education Services said, “CISE teachers continue to exceed expectations by their willingness to be available for students throughout the day and into the evening as well. Teachers and students continue to grow in their online expertise and demonstrate the desire to persevere and move forward by using technology.”

“I look back on the last 12 months with gratefulness” said Mabe Rodriguez, executive director of CISE. “Our first reaction to COVID-19 restrictions was fear that our schools would experience lasting harm. We worked arduously and didn’t let that happen. The heroic actions of our school principals, staffs and the fantastic support of our donors and community groups enabled CISE schools to get the job done. My thanks go out a thousand-fold to the great individuals and organizations who cared powerfully about these CISE children. While we always stood strong in Catholic Schools Week, we are able to stand stronger with wonderful accomplishments behind us because of all the help we received. The work continues with God’s help.”

CISE serves 2,600 scholars at 10 inner-city Catholic grade schools and Catholic high schools. Ninety-four percent of CISE students are from low-income families; 85 percent are minorities; 70 percent are non-Catholic. Ninety-four percent of CISE graduates are accepted into college.

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