Southsider Voice correspondent
Former Archbishop Joseph Tobin laid down a new foundation for Central Catholic School just over a year ago by linking it with the Notre Dame ACE Academies. So far, it’s been a match made in heaven.
ACE Academies, a comprehensive model of urban school transformation focused on Catholic schools in states with publicly funded school choice, provides a Catholic education of the highest quality to as many children as possible in underserved communities.
ACE faculty and staff work closely with school and diocesan leaders in Indianapolis to increase academic achievement, boost enrollment and strengthen the school’s Catholic identity by enhancing school leadership, curriculum, instruction, professional development, financial management and marketing.
The ACE Academies were founded in 2010 as a response to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ call for a “new model of sponsorship and collaboration” between Catholic institutions of higher education and parish schools. The first cluster of academies was established in Tucson, Arizona.
In 2012 the Diocese of St. Petersburg invited Notre Dame to partner with two schools in the Tampa Bay area. In 2015 the Notre Dame ACE Academies network launched a partnership with the Diocese of Orlando, and one school from the Diocese of Palm Beach and five schools from the Archdiocese of Indianapolis joined the network in 2016.
Last summer more than 20 staff members from Central Catholic took a trip to South Bend to learn about the initiative. “We had the opportunity to meet with people from the University of Notre Dame to see what our role is in the program,” Principal Kelly England said.
“The first thing we did as a staff was to discuss why we do this work and what we truly believe about our role in Catholic education. From there we came up with a list of things we want to accomplish.Being an inner-city school we know we now have more resources due to this partnership.”
To achieve the goals it set, Central Catholic follows a set of principles for its program. The five core values of the ACE Academies are seek, persist, excel, love and serve. Staff members of Central Catholic identified a set of root beliefs that serve as the foundation for all they do. Those beliefs include: We believe that all are created in the image and likeness of God. We believe that every minute matters. We believe that excellence happens on purpose. We believe that there is strength in unity. We believe that every child has a unique capacity to learn, and we believe that we are called to be saints.
“We were able to put down what we believe as a group, and that proved to be a powerful tool and valuable experience for all of us,” England said. “If we have to sit down with a parent for any reason, we explain our reason for action and refer back to the list of root beliefs to guide us.”
England said the five core values are rooted in the Gospel and that they are incorporated into class instruction.
She went to on explain how the partnership with Notre Dame is helping the school. “It allows us to rebrand ourselves at Central Catholic School. The first two schools that joined the ACE network are in Tucson, Ariz., and are still part of the network today. You can see where they were and where they are today.
”Our work and ministry is not without its challenges, but we believe that together we can accomplish that which previously may have seemed impossible,” England said. One day in the not-too distant future, a new school will join the network and will measure itself by the progress made by Central Catholic. “We learn from the other schools in the network and will continue to have more and more to offer the current Academies and those that join us in the future.”