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Another Voice: Catholic schools are about more than academics

By Jean H. Comer

While this Catholic school gal was on a consulting gig with a small faith-based private school, the conversation would often circle back to budgets and excellence in education. They called upon my knowledge and experience within the Catholic schools model quite frequently and listened – often in amazement.

The headmaster, a wonderful educator and man of deep faith, would routinely shake his head, pull at his beard and claim he knew with certainty that the title of a book on Catholic Schools would be, “Never Has So Much Been Done with So Little.” This is who we are as Catholic schools. We find ways to get things done with a lean budget and a record of routinely outperforming all surrounding learning institutions.

We believe in rigorous academics. We knew all children could learn long before any state handed over a list of standards and tests. No shortcuts. No excuses. We have excellence and devotion in our leadership and in our classrooms.

Our recent STREAM (STEM plus religion and the arts) Initiative reflects our commitment to prepare our students for their future in our revitalized Buffalo.

Catholic education is more than solid academics; it is the development of a deep and abiding sense of faith, and the realization of the value of moral character. These drive and support the academic and cultural structure of our schools day in and day out.

Have you ever toured a charter school or high-performing public school? To their credit, those who lead the way at these learning institutions took copious notes on Catholic education as they developed their school models.

Their models often seek to replace the very pillars of excellence in Catholic education with secular substitutes. The result – at the start of the day, they have “morning program” instead of prayer. They do not practice faith in community or have religion class, but they instead have character education assemblies and an honor code. They don’t weave the Ten Commandments into the school day, but they have “core values” and study the “7 Habits of Highly Effective Students.” They sign commitments to support their school and students. With Catholic schools, this is unspoken.

Do we see a pattern here? They are in search of the very elements that our schools are rooted in.

Let’s take a fresh look at the Catholic schools we have right here in Western New York. We open our doors from Niagara Falls to Olean, from Batavia to Black Rock. All are welcome.

In a world grown increasingly cold and harsh, a community of faith and warmth is an immeasurably important springboard.

Parents, come and see what we are all about. And if this bright future feels out of reach, the BISON Fund can help make ends meet. Take a tour of a nearby Catholic school. Enter a building where conviction, faith and service help all children to learn.

Jean H. Comer is a mother and a teacher and administrator for the Diocese of Buffalo Department of Catholic Schools.

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