Back-to-School season applies to adult group too

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Volunteers on Diocesan School Board work to maintain Catholic identity in schools

Besides parents, teachers and other campus staff, it’s also back-to-school time for another group of adults: the Diocesan School Board.

Members of the Diocesan School Board pose in this fall 2015 file photo. Three new members joined this year to fill seats vacated by expiring terms. The advisory board supports the superintendent in promotions and fundraising. (courtesy photo)
Members of the Diocesan School Board pose in this fall 2015 file photo. Three new members joined this year to fill seats vacated by expiring terms. The advisory board supports the superintendent in promotions and fundraising. (courtesy photo)

The group of 17 men and women from throughout the Diocese of Phoenix officially kick off their new school year when monthly meetings resume Aug. 24. Homework assignments are sure to follow.

The task: advise and support the superintendent in matters of Catholic identity, marketing, strategic planning, legislative issues and fundraising. Each member also plays a key role in supporting local school boards, especially through the in-service held each fall, and personal networking with the diocese’s 28 elementary and five high school campuses.

Many Diocesan School Board members seek a three-year term following a stint serving local school boards. David Roney, who has spent five years on the school board at St. Thomas the Apostle, is entering his freshman year on the Diocesan School Board. His said it’s important to have parents partner with school leaders to ensure environments remain authentically Catholic. Academics alone provide an incomplete education, he said.

“If we haven’t prepared kids for a relationship with Christ, and set them on the road to an eternity with Him, we haven’t really succeeded at all,” Roney said. “A relationship with Christ and His Church is the most important gift a parent can give a child.”

Andy Stramiello, also a newcomer, joined after discerning a new volunteer role in the Church. He highly values a quality education and sees Catholic education as offering a solid balance of academics, faith and citizenship.

“Setting the right goals and ideals for the children are what I see needs to be supported and help to grow,” Stramiello said. He hopes to serve on the board’s financial committee and network with legislators to ensure current school choice legislation remains.

Expanding the opportunity for new students to enroll is also a top concern. That means filling empty seats and building new classrooms, especially the forthcoming St. John Paul II High School in Avondale.

A new committee is underway to support exceptional learners too. Jeff Glenn, incoming board president, expressed excitement for improving their educational experience. He cited inclusiveness and support for each student as a child of God, independent of background, as one strength of local Catholic schools.

“It is through the eyes of faith that I judge each child is supported in order for them to recognize and fully utilize the gifts and talents they have received,” Glenn said.

His middle son chose to enroll in a Catholic school as a means of beginning discernment for the priesthood, but Glenn stressed its value for everyone, since it forms the whole child.

“I judge that all students benefit from the faith-based atmosphere that helps quiet the noise of the secular world,”

“I judge that all students benefit from the faith-based atmosphere that helps quiet the noise of the secular world,” Glenn said. “They can build mutually supportive relationships with other students and their community through service and charitable camaraderie.”

The Diocesan School Board proved itself charitable. The National Catholic Education Association presented Phoenix’s board with the “Lead. Learn. Proclaim.” award at its latest convention. Efforts throughout the year included Night of Hope, Catholic Schools Week activities, service projects and a pamphlet for families on the importance of Mass.

Kristen Cole, who is entering her sixth and final year on the board, called local Catholic schools faith-filed, close-knit, welcoming communities that care about one another and their community.

“It is such a joy to hear their stories, see and feel their love for their school community and to hear about their contributions to the community,” Cole said.

She immersed herself in the St. John XXIII and Notre Dame Preparatory communities in Scottsdale while her children were there. Now, Cole supports Catholic education on a broader level through the Diocesan School Board.

“It has become one of my ministries,” Cole said.

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