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Office of Catholic Schools restructures for ‘service’

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A major restructuring of the Office of Catholic Schools aims to make the office more proactive and nimble in advancing the mission of Catholic education by assigning special areas of focus to six new associate superintendents and two administrative veterans.

Formerly, associate superintendents were responsible for overseeing all aspects of school operation in a given geographical area, or “region,” of the archdiocese. The new configuration, which went into effect July 1, makes each associate superintendent responsible for two to three specialty areas, expertise that he or she will then offer to schools across the whole archdiocese.

‘Servant-leader’ philosophy“The number-one goal is that we are here as servant-leaders – that parents, pastors, principals and teachers really see us as servant-leaders helping them to become the best school they can possibly be,” said Dr. Jan Lancaster, superintendent of Catholic schools since 2011. “We want to be visible. We want to be there to support the people in our schools,” she said. “This Office of Catholic Schools is so incredibly strong. We have the best, the brightest – not only the new hires, but those who have stayed. We want people to know, ‘This office is here to help us and the ministry of Catholic education.’”

The six new associate superintendents and their areas of focus are:

Stephenie Aubert (part-time): early childhood education; liaison for the Louisiana Department of Education’s “Student Scholarships for

Educational Excellence” program.

Jane Baker (part-time): government projects; special education.

Kevin Calkins: central office liaison for high schools; Catholic identity in high schools; school facilities; liaison to the Louisiana High School Athletic Association (LHSAA) and the Catholic Schools Athletic League (CSAL).

Dr. RaeNell Houston: elementary curriculum; school and student assessment, including facilitating TerraNova testing and analyzing the data to inform instructional decisions; professional development for teachers and principals.

Dr. Rebecca Maloney: high school curriculum and instruction; technology; supporting schools as they undergo the accreditation process.

Jack Truxillo: high school admissions; school finance and budgeting.

In addition, two veteran associate superintendents have had their roles redefined:

Carole Elliot, an associate superintendent since 2005, is the Office of Catholic Schools’ new central office liaison for elementary schools. Elliot’s other responsibilities will include supporting elementary school principals as they strive to live out their schools’ mission, and helping principals and pastors to collaborate on ways to ensure that their schools are authentically Catholic.

Joseph Rosolino, a 27-year office veteran, will be the liaison for Catholic identity at elementary schools. He will also be the office’s liaison with the Louisiana Department of Education on non-public school policies, and on matters related to school personnel.

“This truly is a new era in Catholic education,” said  Lancaster, who recently attended a three-day workshop at the Lumen Christi Retreat Center in Schriever, La., with her staff of 12 to discuss how their various strengths could best be used as a team.

“The most important thing that I saw was their true commitment to Catholic education, because it truly is a ministry,” Lancaster said. “It’s very important to me that everyone in the Office of Catholic Schools, no matter what their role is, perceives Catholic education as a ministry, and not a job. We see ourselves as a group of servant-leaders coming together to help both Catholic educators and parents, who are the primary educators of their children.”

An emphasis on proactivity

Lancaster said she wants her office to be an enthusiastic advocate of Catholic education and helpful resource for teachers, principals, pastors and parents.

“We don’t just want to help schools with their concerns; we want to help them to grow and to launch new initiatives,” she said. “For example, we want to show them how to monitor, prioritize and map their curriculum, so that each year we’re using data to determine how to best service kids.”

Lancaster noted that Maloney will be the point person on improving curriculum on the high school level. Houston, the associate superintendent overseeing elementary curriculum and a literacy specialist, recently met with school librarians to see how their expertise can assist classroom achievement and support all areas of classroom study.

“We really want to facilitate opportunities like these so that educators can share their craft knowledge,” Lancaster said.

Realizing that some parents and Catholic educators might not know whom to contact  in her office – even with its streamlined set-up – Lancaster has designated two of her associate superintendents as “general office liaisons” who will channel queries to the correct Office of Catholic Schools staff member. Elliot will be the general office liaison for questions related to elementary schools, while Calkins will serve in the same capacity for high schools.

“The whole structure of the Catholic schools office is different now,” Lancaster notes. “Previously, an associate superintendent was assigned to a region and he or she was responsible for everything pertaining to that region – the curriculum, the finances – everything. Now, we have one person who is the liaison between all the elementary schools and this office, but what we also have is someone who is going to handle finances for all the schools if they need help with that. We have someone who is handling curriculum for schools that need help with that.

We have someone who is going to handle Catholic identity in the schools, someone who is going to look at the admissions process and help schools stay on their budget. We have another person who will focus on working with pastors. We have people who are going to work in speciality areas.”

Collaboration with ORE

Another change will have the Office of Catholic Schools meeting at least monthly with the Office of Religious Education (ORE) to collaborate on areas such as religion curriculum and Catholic identity. Given that the two offices are located along the same hallway in the archdiocesan building on Walmsley Avenue, Lancaster said the collaboration was a no-brainer.

“We want to ensure that Catholicity is primary in all that we do – and I mean in everything we do, down to how people are greeted when they walk into our schools,” she said.

Lancaster also has assembled an advisory council, open to all Catholic school principals, that will meet monthly to discuss its ideas on 10 educational topics: student involvement in parish life; grade-level configuration; the operations manual; core standards; the admissions process; an evaluation instrument for teachers and principals; leadership formation; coordination between elementary and high schools; special needs; and communication between the Office of Catholic Schools and schools.

Three additional staff members are lending their talents to the Office of Catholic Schools, one of them a new hire.

Melissa Gurdian, assistant to the superintendent since August 2011, has been named the office’s director of development, marketing and administrative services. Gurdian, 25, is a graduate of Ascension of Our Lord Elementary, Mount Carmel Academy and Tulane University, where she earned a degree in international relations. She will begin the MBA program at Loyola University this fall as a part-time student.

Misty Luminais, who has worked at the office since 2007, will continue in her role as administrative assistant.

Lindsey Stiller recently joined the staff as an administrative assistant, joining Luminais in that role. Stiller, 24, is a graduate of St. Mary Magdalen Elementary, Archbishop Chapelle High and Loyola University of New Orleans, where she majored in criminal justice and minored in forensic science.

To contact the Office of Catholic Schools, call 866-7916. During the school year, an administrative assistant will personally answer all calls Monday through Friday during the extended hours of 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. The office’s website is www.anocs.org.

Beth Donze can be reached at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

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