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Several diocesan educators participate in the NCEA Convention in Cincinnati

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The National Catholic Educational Association Convention and Expo took place at the Duke Energy Convention Center in Cincinnati April 3-5, bringing together nearly 5,000 educators and administrators from across the country. Cardinal Giuseppe Versaldi, prefect of the Vatican Congregation for Catholic Education, celebrated the opening Mass. Bishop Frank J. Caggiano of Bridgeport, Conn., gave a keynote address.

Several educators from the Diocese of Arlington attended the conference and participated in presentations.

Renee White, assistant superintendent for the Office of Catholic Schools, presented on enrollment and viability. She said attending the conference is uplifting. “You’re all together and focused on the mission to spread the Gospel of Christ in the context of Catholic education,” she said.  

Diane Elliott, special services coordinator for diocesan Catholic schools, participated in a panel discussion on the role of the state ombudsman and a diocesan counterpart on the topic of equitable services under the Elementary and Secondary Schools Act.

Elliott said the energy from other Catholic educators around the country is contagious. “You get new ideas and learn new ways to implement strategies. This energy excites me and gets me thinking of next steps for the diocese,” she said.

Elliott also attended sessions on the inclusion of students with intellectual disabilities in the general education classroom.

“The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops called for the inclusion of persons with disabilities in 1978,” said Elliott. “Forty years later the movement is finally spreading across the nation.” 

Dan Curtin, diocesan consultant for Catholic education, attended several sessions on the topic of the National Standards and Benchmarks for Excellence in Catholic Schools, which was developed a few years ago jointly with the NCEA, Boston College and Loyola University Chicago. “It is an excellent document (that) is based on five key areas for successful Catholic schools and can be used as a guide for developing strategic plans for individual Catholic schools to ensure continued success,” said Curtin. “It has been well-received and a document I encourage and promote for our schools as they plan for the future.”

From Bishop O'Connell High School in Arlington, Carl Patton, assistant head of school and director of curriculum and instruction, and John Meehan, teacher and school professional development program coordinator, gave a presentation titled, “Living Your Mission: Designing Curriculum for Everyday Discipleship In Every Classroom.”

The presentation outlined a step-by-step method through which O’Connell redesigned a schoolwide curriculum to enhance faith education in every content area.

“We had the honor of presenting the results of our efforts to Bishop Michael F. Burbidge when he visited O'Connell last fall, and his response to our curriculum review team was so enthusiastic that we simply knew that this was something that needed to be shared with the broader community of Catholic schools around the country,” said Patton. 

Patton said they learned there are no silver bullets for professional development and recognized that even the highest performing schools need ongoing systems of job-embedded support. “We were so impressed with the number of teachers and administrators who we've connected with through NCEA who are looking forward to continuing their working relationships with O'Connell and the diocese, as we work together to strengthen, support and improve Catholic education in schools around the country for many years to come,” said Patton. 

The participation at NCEA resulted in a connection with Katie McKnight, a distinguished professor of research at National Louis University in Chicago, who will visit O’Connell next month to learn about the school’s adolescent literacy program and expanded services for students with intellectual and cognitive delays, according to Patton.

O'Connell will host a free half-day teacher professional development Edcamp for interested Catholic high school teachers from the greater Washington area May 5, said Patton. “We currently have more than 20 organizations who have generously signed on as sponsors for this event and attendees from about a half a dozen area institutions area already scheduled to attend.”

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2018