Providing the more than 14,000 students attending Catholic schools throughout the Diocese of Orlando the best education in a safe environment is at the forefront of Henry Fortier’s vision as superintendent of schools for the diocese. This academic year, the central office staff, in collaboration with the faculty and administration of the various diocesan schools, is undertaking three major projects to bring this vision to life: continued professional development on the Common Core State Standards, a standards-based report card, and a centralized information system.
Pictured: Teachers attend Professional Development Day.
“There are many new and exciting things going on in the Diocese of Orlando,” Fortier said. “When you are given the responsibility of God’s most vulnerable, you can’t rest on your laurels.”
Common Core State Standards
Teachers have begun their second year of intensive professional development in the nationally adopted Common Core State Standards of teaching, a method of teaching students how to use and apply multiple sources of information. This year’s training focuses on mathematics. The first in-service training session was held Aug. 7 and three additional professional development sessions will be held throughout the school year.
“Math on a national level is probably the most challenging subject. It is the area that all schools probably score the lowest in so we want to make sure our math teachers are in-serviced very heavily,” Fortier said. “What we want to focus on with our teachers is the application of knowledge.”
“I remember as a student, learning a formula and thinking, am I ever going to use this again,” he continued. “It is critical for our students to apply their math lessons. How is this relevant? How do we take a real world issue and use what we have learned? The more students understand why it is important, the more they are going to retain it,” he said.
Standards-based Report Card
Fortier said another goal is to standardize the school system’s report cards. Currently, each school’s administration determines how students’ grades will be reported. Fortier said he hopes to have one standards-based report card that assesses the many different skills within a subject in place for all schools by the next school year.
“For example, if I am giving a student a grade in math, if I just give them an A, that doesn’t tell the parent a lot,” Fortier said. “Do they know their number facts? Do they know problem solving? Can they do fractions? When you look at a new style of report cards, you want the grade to clearly reflect the skills of each of the areas because there may be strengths and weaknesses in that composite grade.”
The Office of Schools is implementing a two-year roll out on a centralized information system. Currently about 10 different information systems are being used. While these systems allow schools to send messages about emergency situations, school closings, announcements, reminders and such to their parents, they do not allow them to communicate with each other or the central office.
This year, a group of schools is testing a system from Rediker Software, based in Hampden, Mass. If it proves to meet the needs of the diocese, it will be installed in all schools for the 2014-15 academic year.
In addition to student demographic and emergency information, the information system will also house pertinent information about the faculty, staff and administration. In addition, it will allow authorized users to send alerts to the entire school system, a region of schools or one school as well as contact parents, teachers, coaches, etc. through various electronic devices.
“With one click of a button, all families within our system can be contacted, sent a text message, a phone message, an email or all three at the same time within a matter of seconds,” he said.
Fortier said he looks forward to working with the schools in implementing these and other goals.
“We are one body in Christ,” he said. “All of the schools in the Diocese of Orlando are part of our bishop’s ministry. We are stewards of his vision as our shepherd and as our leader.”