GOSPEL in mosaic tile

Institute for Catholic Schools

99%

of Catholic school students graduate

86%

attend 4-year colleges

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The Institute for Catholic Schools was established in 2009 when, consistent with its Mission to serve the local Church, St. John’s University’s Office of the President and The School of Education collaborated and gave birth to The Institute.  It is marked by the distinguishing quality of actually going into the schools and continually soliciting their needs from principals and superintendents themselves. We meet regularly with the superintendents of our three local dioceses: Brooklyn, Rockville Centre, and the Archdiocese of New York, as well as with the principals, listen to their needs and then create conferences, meetings, programs, and in-school workshops that meet those specific needs.  The Institute is an active member and participant in Catholic Higher Education Supporting Catholic Schools (CHESCS) under the auspices of the National Catholic Educational Association (NCEA). 

picture of Margaret Moss, P.D.

Margaret Moss, P.D., Director, Institute for Catholic Schools
718-990-1301
[email protected] 

Mission

Catholic elementary and secondary education in New York and across the nation has long made great contributions to society and to the Church.  While this continues to be the case, Catholic education is also facing unprecedented challenges today.  At this critical time, St. John’s University-consistent with its mission to serve the local Church-establishes this Institute in a desire to serve as a valuable resource in collaborating with local dioceses to support and enhance Catholic primary and secondary education. 

Purpose

The overarching purpose of the Institute is to foster the long-term sustainability, growth, and excellence of Catholic education by assisting the local dioceses in enhancing the administrative and academic infrastructure of schools.  This would consist of improving communication and collaboration between elementary and high schools in order to facilitate creation of a seamless, integrated K-12 Catholic education system for students. 

ICS Success with Catholic Schools

100

staff collaborated to meet common core series

250

Leaders were provided support to ensure academic success

650

teachers and principals were assisted with CCLS

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Additional Information

In Spring of 2019, the Institute for Catholic Schools (ICS) was contacted by the Department of Education of the Diocese of Brooklyn, NY, about the possibility of forming a program of study for a group of their teachers so they could pursue their Master of Science in Education degrees in Childhood Education and TESOL at St. John’s University.

Mary Jane Krebbs, Ph.D., and Steven Neier, Codirectors of ICS at that time, worked with The School of Education to design a program of study that would allow these teachers to earn their degrees in two years. Initially, the cohort consisted of 14 educators who were scheduled to take two graduate courses per semester for two years—a Herculean task during the best of circumstances—while still teaching full time. The cohort embarked on this degree journey during the summer semester of 2019, meeting as a group and taking classes in person.  

As if the demands of working full time, running a home, and taking two graduate courses were not enough, this group also was challenged by the pandemic in the middle of their third semester.  A determined dozen persevered under the advisement and supervision of Yvonne Pratt-Johnson, Ed.D., Chair and Professor, Department of Education Specialties, and Audrey F. Murphy, Ed.D., TESOL Coordinator. 

Eight of those teachers have completed their program of study and will earn their M.S. in Childhood Education and TESOL at the Graduate-Level Virtual Commencement and Degree Conferral Ceremony on May 19. (The remaining four are on track to finish in the next academic year!) 

We are grateful that the Diocese of Brooklyn guided these extraordinary teachers to St. John’s and acknowledge the support of the Education Department and their building principals. We are grateful for the financial support provided by the Diocese of Brooklyn, St. John’s University, and the Institute for Catholic Schools, to allow this journey to reach a happy conclusion.  

Of course, no degree would be possible without the professors and members of The School of Education; thanks to all of you. 

Congratulations to the following graduates in the Brooklyn M.S. cohort!

Veronica Boggiano
Sue Jo Feeley
Claudia La Rocca
Lauren Leone
Yazmin Martinez
Giuseppina Maruca
Dani McAdam
Jessica Russo

To date, Institute for Catholic Schools programs have included:

 Curriculum Leadership Teams: CLT's

In the early years of the Institute of Catholic Schools, Curriculum Leadership Teams (CLT) were formed in the elementary schools in the Archdiocese of New York and in the Dioceses of Brooklyn and Rockville Centre, NY. 

The original intent was to prepare educators in Catholic schools for the roll out of the Common Core state learning standards. The educators trained during these professional development sessions would then be turnkey trainers who would facilitate the transition to the Common Core in their buildings. This effort of pursuing more rigorous academic standards included the integration of Catholic identity as part of the daily curriculum. CLT sessions were implemented over 10 interactive sessions.

Over the years, the CLT sessions have adapted to meet the needs of the principals and teachers of the dioceses. CLT professional development sessions focus on a particular topic to explore over the course of a year. Topics have included assessment and essential questions; STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) or, in our case, STREAM (science, technology, religion, engineering, and mathematics); cross-curricula unit planning; and data analysis. 

During the most current year, 2020–21, the CLT sessions focused on digital engagement in order to meet the needs of teachers who needed skills and tools to teach both to their in-person students and those who were remote.  

Not only have the topics of professional development changed—so has the implementation of the Curriculum Leadership Teams. Sessions were originally conducted in person at St. John’s University. There were 10 sessions scheduled, but once per month was a difficult pace to sustain for the teachers. After a few years, the implementation of topics was redesigned to four, four-hour session. 

Due to the restrictions imposed because of the pandemic, the CLT sessions in 2020–21 were conducted via a digital platform on Saturday mornings. The digital engagement CLT series had more than 140 participants in total, representing 62 different schools from the three dioceses.  Although a few educators attended only one session, the majority of participants (84) attended two or more. Although meeting in person is the ideal, the digital nature of the material was able to be presented online. The modeling of teaching digitally was also part of the design.  

The following is feedback received from these sessions.

  • “I have attended these classes for many, many years and they have all been beneficial in some way. I hope that they continue to offer more Zoom classes in the coming years, focused on technology.”
     
  • “I was highly satisfied with how the sessions were planned and how they were rolled out through Zoom during this time. The presenters were very knowledgeable and explained the materials in a way everyone could follow and understand.” 
     
  • “I really liked this year. We all know that the past year has been challenging in education for all of us. I really liked how you showed how to use the free versions of each of the programs you demonstrated. I think that technology in the classroom is important, and will continue to be important, with or without complete in-person. I think just continuing to keep us up to date on the latest programs is great. It keeps students motivated to want to learn more, especially if we use new things. It keeps them more engaged.” 
     
  • “I attended all CLT sessions this year and they were AMAZING! Thank you for offering them. I came away with so much knowledge that I will implement in the classroom. If possible, I would like more future sessions to be geared toward early childhood.
     
  • “I expect that my students will be more engaged in their learning processes. I was excited to utilize some of the technologies and applications presented.” 

Digital professional development can be an effective means of strengthening skills, as well as building a professional network beyond one’s school or even one’s neighborhood. We look forward to other opportunities in the coming year.

Assistant Principals’ Program 

This professional development program was designed by a team of assistant principals and based on the results of surveys administered to those in this position in early 2020 throughout the three local dioceses, the Archdiocese of New York, and the Dioceses of Brooklyn and Rockville Centre.

Four full-day sessions of professional development that blended theory and practice to be implemented on site were scheduled during the Spring of 2020. They were designed so participants would have time to collaborate to work through the objectives of the theories presented. However, only the first session was held in 2020 due to the pandemic.  

The sessions were re-imagined, and during the Spring of 2021, the program began anew. Three topics of concern to administrators were presented through a digital platform: supervision and evaluation, strategic decision-making and leadership, and legal issues and school responsibility regarding technology and social media. Each topic was covered in two, two-hour sessions and the lead presenters were members of St. John’s faculty.   

Each webinar topic had approximately 15 participants. Throughout the spring sessions, 19 different Catholic high schools participated in these informative and practical sessions.  

Master of Science Certification Cohort 

Two years ago, the Office of the Superintendent of the Diocese of Brooklyn, through the Institute for Catholic Schools, partnered with St. John’s University to assist its teachers on the pathway to New York State certification.     

Over the past six semesters, a dozen dedicated educators have been working diligently on this path as they take classes for their dual major of Childhood Education and TESOL. The hard work and grit of these teachers has been an inspiration to all who have been part of their journey. It has been a very rewarding experience for ICS, the Brooklyn diocese, and the teachers.

We are grateful that the Diocese of Brooklyn contacted ICS and that The School of Education accepted this challenge. It is our hope that this cohort is the first of many.  

Here is what some of the teachers had to say about their experience as part of the cohort.

  • Yazmin Martinez: “For me, St. John’s was an unreachable dream, so being able to take any courses from it was a gift. Getting my master’s from St. John’s is like touching the moon and the stars. I am very grateful to the Diocese of Brooklyn, to all of those who made this possible, and to St. John’s for helping me achieve this journey.”
     
  • Giuseppina Maruca: “Two years ago, I had the opportunity to join the cohort at St. John’s University. It was a coincidence that besides Childhood Education, grades 1–6, it was also a dual major that included the TESOL program. It brought me back to my childhood when I started kindergarten in New York only speaking Italian. I am glad and thankful to have been a part of this cohort. It wasn’t always easy, especially when we went to remote teaching because of the pandemic and then had graduate classes also go remote. It was definitely hectic most of the time, but I wouldn’t change a thing. I never thought I could do it, but I did!”
     
  • Diana Meaney: “Since 2019, I myself have been the beneficiary of the ICS’s generous support, first in the institute’s guidance of myself and 13 other veteran Catholic school teachers along the pathway to state certification in Childhood Education/TESOL, and currently in its provision of actual tuition subsidies. After 40+ years in the classroom, I can honestly say I would never have been able to take on this new challenge so late in my career without the ICS’s stewardship. The ICS staff has always been there for us Brooklyn diocese cohort members, in terms of creating a program that works within our schedules (even including an intensive three-week kick-off summer semester); ironing out issues with the Registrar or Bursar; shepherding us through New York State certification requirements (which have changed so much since many of us began teaching); and now, helping us procure additional financial support. 

The course work I have taken in our cohort program has challenged me to really re-evaluate my teaching practice in light of current research into how to best meet the needs of the diverse student populations in a city such as ours. This will hopefully impact in a positive way the hundreds of children I teach each week. 

During these stressful pandemic times, the institute provided Zoom webinars and professional development designed to nourish teachers’ oftentimes drooping spirits. As someone who has spent her entire life in Catholic education (from one side of the desk or the other), I am so thankful for the encouragement and resources provided by the ICS, and know very intimately how vitally important its mission is in helping Catholic schools not just survive, but really flourish, in this new millennium.”

St. Vincent de Paul Program

This program is a partnership between the Diocese of Brooklyn and St. John’s Institute for Catholic Schools.  A two-year in-service program for principals, board chairs and board directors in the Diocese of Brooklyn focusing on the roll-out of the new governance structure for its elementary schools. Schools with this new governance model are called "Academies." An annual all-day symposium is planned for the "graduates" as well as current participants in the program. The Institute also partners with the Diocese of Brooklyn’s semi-annual convocation.  To date, we have provided in-service for the boards and principals of 57 academies.  Cohort VI which commenced in September 2015 includes 19 academies.  The curriculum has been revised to mirror the National Standards and Benchmarks for Effective Catholic Elementary and Secondary Schools.  2014 marked the deepening of the partnership when the University began participating in fall and spring convocations coordinated by the Diocese, as well as coordination of the spring convocation.   

Management Seminars for Catholic School Leaders 

This two-fold program is a collaborative venture between the Vincentian Center for Church and Society and the Peter J. Tobin College of Business, both at St. John’s University. It provides a three-day seminar in the key aspects of running a Catholic school effectively including Catholic Identity and Servant Leadership; mission, vision and values; marketing and development; budgeting; time management; recruitment and retention; and strategic planning.  121 educators from three dioceses have participated.  An intensive one-day symposium in Marketing the Mission was developed at the request of Management Seminar participants, and subsequently completed by fifty-seven individuals.  As of this year, 426 schools from the three dioceses have completed the Management Seminar, including four Catholic high schools.