Pacelli Column: The Real Catholic Schools
Common myths about Catholic schools dispelled
By Gregg Hansel, Director of Education, Pacelli Catholic Schools
Fake news has gotten a lot of press in the last 12 months. People have created stories to influence others’ opinions.
Certainly this is nothing new. All of us have stereotypes and thoughts that we believe about any number of things. They may come from an off-hand comment someone made, a one-time experience, or handed down from family.
Education is no different. I hear things about post-secondary education, public schools, and Catholic schools that, at times, just boggle my mind. While I would never presume to speak for all institutions, I can speak for Catholic schools. Here is some real news about Catholic schools.
Teachers – The teachers in Catholic schools are not only licensed and certified by state of Wisconsin, they are also certified in religion instruction through the Diocese of La Crosse. Pacelli Catholic School teachers have earned many Herb Kohl Teacher Fellowship Awards, recognizing their great quality as educators.
Quality – The quality of Catholic schools is outstanding. ACT scores at Pacelli High School this year averaged 24.7, the highest in the area. Pacelli elementary and middle schools have earned numerous national awards including 3 US Department of Education National Blue Ribbon School Awards. We are one of very few schools systems in the entire state that teaches computer coding in every grade beginning in kindergarten, skills that our students will need in our ever-changing world. Our commitment to small class sizes means that every child gets individual attention and challenges.
Affordability – I can’t tell you how often I have heard that Catholic schools are not affordable; that we are only for the wealthy. Talk about fake news! Many families can attend Catholic schools at no cost to them through the Wisconsin Parental Choice Program, or school choice program. Thanks to the generosity of community members, we are able to provide tens of thousands of dollars in tuition assistance annually, not to mention our countless scholarships awarded annually too. Work study programs are available at the high school level for students. Regardless of your income, Catholic schools can be affordable for you and your family.
Faith and Values –The cornerstone of Catholic education has always been making sure that students not only learn their faith, but put it into practice. The Catholic faith is infused throughout the day, and application takes it to an entire new level. Students take leadership roles in prayer, projects, and citizenship activities. Last year alone, our students of all grades contributed more than 12,000 hours of community service.
You don’t have to be Catholic to attend. – All are welcome in Catholic schools, regardless of their faith. In my thirty-three years, we have had families of almost every faith imaginable, and continue to welcome a diverse group of students today.
Opportunity – The opportunity to participate is tremendous. If a student wants to participate in a sport or drama, they can and do. Extra-curricular programs are not only high quality, but inclusive. Fourteen sports are available and the fine arts offering is quite diverse including everything from Destination Imagination to multiple choirs and bands, musicals and plays abound. The beauty of a small schools system is if you want to participate, you have every opportunity to do so.
Our area is blessed with options for so many things, and as you can see, Catholic schools are a great option. Don’t let the myths and fake news out there get to you. Take a minute to reflect on the “real news” here and realize what a gem Catholic schools are in our community.