Catholic Schools Week 2017

New Initiatives Underway in Diocesan Academies and Schools

By Dr. Elizabeth Frangella

Exciting things are happening this year within the Catholic elementary academy and parish school system in the Diocese of Brooklyn.

In Williamsburg, a new venture is underway with The Mount Carmel Early Childhood Center. The center opened in September 2016 and will serve 2-, 3- and 4-year-old students. It is housed at Our Lady of Mount Carmel parish. The center offers classes for little ones in a contemporary, value-inspired community. Children are encouraged to learn and grow through collaboration, exploration and play through their natural environment and in community. Visit the newly remodeled site at 10 Withers Street, Brooklyn; call to speak with the director, Maura Lorenzen at 917-993-1330, or visit the website at

Another initiative, Response to Intervention (RTI), allows teachers to intervene in the learning process before a child fails. This initiative involves training of teachers and principals to teach in different ways, based on the needs of each child in their class. One of the components of RTI is a system of benchmark assessments in grades kindergarten, first and second. The diocese is partnering with Renaissance Learning and using STAR 360 as the benchmark assessment provider in approximately 20 pilot academies and parish schools. Teachers will be able to have a better understanding of their students through online computer assessments using games that give instant information and resources to help those students in their learning.

Diocesan elementary academies and parish schools are also partnering with an international accreditation system called AdvancEd. Through this accreditation, academies and parish schools assure that they are meeting the mandates that the diocese and the AdvancEd protocol requires. Those mandates are based on Mission and Vision, Catholic Identity, Governance, Academic Excellence and Operational Vitality of the parish school or academy. The diocese wants to foster strong, viable, Catholic institutions of learning that will meet the needs of the many diverse populations across Brooklyn and Queens. Partnering with AdvancEd allows parents and other constituents to know that there is a standard of excellence adhered to in each of the areas mentioned.

LabLearner is another exciting initiative for 2017. Currently, the diocese has three academies opening state-of-the-art science labs. They are: Incarnation, Queens Village; St. Edmund, Sheepshead Bay, and Salve Regina, East New York. Faculties receive two days of training in the use of the lab, equipment and in the curriculum for science. The labs will also be available for workshops and training opportunities for other diocesan teachers in STEM. A STEM institute is anticipated in early summer. Principals will also participate in training on supervision, what the principal should look for when observing a science/STEM class.

St. Edmund School will have its lab blessed during Catholic Schools Week by Bishop James Massa.

Advancing Excellence by Design is a program that has been started to allow for real dialogue between the academy/ school principal and the Office of Catholic Education~Support Staff. Through a process of reflection on all areas of academic performance, student population and teacher preparedness, as well as finances and board support, the two work together to find the best way to assist the academies and schools to become stronger. This process has allowed the diocesan Schools Office to give more focused assistance to a school or groups of schools, as well as encourage partnerships with other agencies.

One additional initiative is a collaboration with New York Learns. PLS3rd Learning was initiated by a group of educators at the University of Buffalo in response to New York State teacher needs for resources, curriculum maps and learning communities for the new standards. Pilot schools in the Diocese of Brooklyn are using NYLearns in collaboration with DeSales Media to bring technology into the classroom in a whole new way. Teachers plan for and assess standards-based lessons and can join professional learning communities throughout the state.

Generous benefactors and dedicated colleagues provide financial assistance through The Catholic Foundation for Brooklyn and Queens, the St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Trust and Fidelis Care.

Dr. Frangella is associate superintendent for curriculum in the diocesan Office of the Superintendent ~ Catholic School Support Services.