Dear Friends of Catholic Education in the Archdiocese of Baltimore,
These are unprecedented times for education and schools everywhere, and dealing with the extraordinary challenges we face calls for thoughtful, innovative approaches to instruction and classroom management. After much planning and careful preparation to ensure that students, faculty and staff remain safe and healthy, Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of Baltimore will reopen to students on August 31st. In addition to providing an update on the Partners in Excellence (PIE) Scholarship Program, this report offers a summary of plans for our schools and other important matters impacting our school communities.
For the PIE Program, the start of the school year is normally a very busy time. Aside from the process of finalizing awards, we traditionally take the opportunity to kick-off the school year with the PIE Back-to-School Breakfast and Giving Day. This breakfast affords our partners an opportunity to come together in celebration and hope. Unfortunately, due to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, what would have been our 8th Annual Back-to-School Breakfast will not take place this fall. This does not mean, however, that there is no cause for celebration or hope! In fact, we are starting this school year with new leadership that promises to help guide PIE toward a greater community impact in the years to come.
Joining the PIE Board of Advisors as our new Chair is Tom Geddes (Partner, Brown Advisory). Tom has been a great supporter and friend to PIE over the past five years. Additionally, Christine Chandler (SVP, M&T Realty Capital Corp) has agreed to become Vice-Chair of the Board. Christine joined the board in 2017 and has been a strong advocate for the program and our PIE Scholars since. In addition, Bishop Adam Parker, Vicar General for the Archdiocese, is joining the PIE Leadership Team, and his willingness to become more closely involved with PIE speaks to the Archdiocese’s overall commitment to the program. With over 90% of children who receive a PIE award being children of color, Bishop Parker’s participation also reinforces the Archdiocese’s commitment to strengthening awareness of and support for racial and social justice by providing superior educational opportunities for all children, regardless of means.
As a part of internal strategic planning conversations, the PIE staff, board, and Archdiocesan leadership are examining ways that PIE can further promote racial justice in our communities. With Archbishop Lori’s recent article regarding the connection between Catholic social teaching and Black Lives Matter (America Magazine, July 27, 2020) serving as a framework, we hope PIE will be viewed as an example of how our community can work toward achieving greater equity among all people. At its heart, the PIE Program seeks to support the mission of our Baltimore City Catholic schools – particularly our Community Schools – which is to help level the academic playing field for underserved students.
PIE Scholarships – During the 2019-20 school year, PIE distributed 760 scholarships representing over $1.56 million in tuition aid. These scholarships represent the highest number of awards PIE had made in the past 10 years. Additionally, the $1.56 million in aid represents the second highest dollar amount awarded during the same period. Because of the consistent support of our generous funders like you, many families have been able to provide a Catholic school education for their children through elementary and middle school and, for some, even high school. As we look to the 2020-21 school year, the number of tuition assistance applications received through our third-party vendor, FACTS Management, has been consistent with previous years. As of June, we had received applications from over 1,500 PIE-eligible families, representing nearly 1,800 students. The combined tuition assistance need of these families is calculated to be about $14 million.
By the end of June 2020, 664 students (or about 1/3 of eligible applicants) were notified that they were being offered a PIE scholarship for the new school year, for a combined $1.26 awarded. The final tally of PIE Scholars and awards for the 2020-21 school year will be known and made available to our partners during the school year.
Schools Re-opening on August 31 for 2020-21 – A survey of more than 700 guardians, faculty and staff, representing 42 Catholic schools, found that families and others favored in-person instruction, but that distance learning should be provided as an option too. Consequently, when archdiocesan schools reopen for the new school year, remote learning will remain an option for families that do not wish to send their children to school, but who want to continue their Catholic education. To assist teachers with this hybrid learning model, the Archdiocese has purchased and installed more than 1,000 AMX Acendo Vibe camera/sound bar units, which support simultaneous classroom and at-home instruction.
Our plan for in-person instruction is designed to maximize safety and requires strict adherence to best practices, including social distancing and wearing of face masks. These measures were developed by a task force and subcommittees with representation from parents, principals, health care professionals, counselors, educators and other experts. Direct technical support also came from the CDC, and from the American Academy of Pediatrics, which noted that, from a social- emotional perspective, a face-to-face learning environment is beneficial. Catholic school systems in New York, New Jersey and Chicago are opening under similar guidelines.
Online Summer Learning to Stave off Summer Slide – To prevent the educational slide that normally comes during summer vacation, and which has been compounded by the months-long stay-at-home order, the Archdiocese’s Department of Schools offered a six-week online learning program focused on English Language Arts and Math. This free program, designed to be fun and engaging and to act as a bridge to the new academic year, was fully subscribed in a matter of hours. Instruction was led by outstanding teachers from across the Archdiocese. A total of 1,500 students were highly enthusiastic, eager to learn and craving interaction. Chief Academic Officer, Eric Watts, believes this learning program has showed promise, and may well become a regular summer education offering.
Education Stabilization Fund Program Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER) Fund Award – The Archdiocese’s Department of Schools applied for and is being awarded at least a portion of our $375,000 grant request from the state’s GEER Fund. Funding will provide for strengthening math literacy and reading skills, summer learning activities, and student and family support services at eight urban Catholic schools. We are awaiting word of the size of the award.
Mother Mary Lange Catholic School – Mrs. Alisha Jordan has been named the founding principal of the new Catholic school in downtown Baltimore. Mrs. Jordan has three master’s degrees in education and is expected to complete her doctorate in urban educational leadership from Morgan State University later this year. With her background in urban education as a teacher and principal, she was the unanimous choice of the search committee. “When we open the school,” Mrs. Jordan said upon her appointment, “it is important that the school has a leader who believes and loves and cares for children and wants to educate them. And, that’s me.” Mrs. Jordan is excited about the facilities the school will offer students and the community, and said she plans on hiring innovative educators “ready to rock and roll, and roll up their sleeves.” Mother Mary Lange Catholic School is set to open in the fall of 2021 for the 2021- 22 school year.
Catholic Church Teaching and Black Lives Matter – Archbishop William Lori penned a recent article for America Magazine titled, “How Church Teaching can help explain Why “Black Lives Matter” (July 27, 2020). In it he says that the Church’s social teaching offers important insights into the meaning of the phrase “Black Lives Matter.” Specifically, it is because of God’s love for each person and for the entire human family that the Church speaks about matters such as economic and racial justice, the economy and the environment, the plight of immigrants and refugees, and a host of other social issues. The words “Black Lives Matter,” he notes, should prompt us to examine our own consciences with regard to racism and spur us to advocate and work for racial justice. Archbishop goes on to call on the Catholic community to build bridges of understanding so that we can join other voices in wisdom, truth and love in saying that “Black Lives Matter.”
New Initiative: “The Journey to Racial Justice: Repentance, Healing and Action” – The Catholic Church in Baltimore, while being at the forefront of providing social, community, health and educational services for most of its history, still has troublesome roots in our country’s original sin- slavery. While we cannot change the past, we can take up the charge of making life better for children and families in our own time, expending our religious and moral equity as a Church to help right injustice. To help find the best and most impactful way forward in addressing systemic injustice in the Church and in the broader community, the Archdiocese is embarking on a sweeping initiative to bring together its members and those who have suffered the ill effects of racism. This dialogue, which will also serve as an instrument of healing, will be an initial step in building and implementing a plan to promote greater racial and social justice in our communities. In order to conduct this effort with expert guidance, Archbishop Lori has engaged a team of consultants. We are seeking private support for this planning initiative.
To assist in directing this project, Archbishop Lori has appointed as Interim Director of the Office of Black Catholic Ministry, Sherita Thomas, who leads community engagement work in West Baltimore for the T. Rowe Price Foundation, and who has developed a diversity and inclusion framework for the company. Ms. Thomas brings her lived experience and considerable skills to this initiative, which Archbishop hopes will “shake us out of complacency over the pandemic of racism and fill us with fiery determination to defeat this evil and to do so with love.”
We are profoundly grateful for your generous investments in the Partners In Excellence Scholarship Program and Catholic education. Your support is helping to ensure that young people growing up in poverty receive an academically excellent, values-based education that will put them on a path toward bright, hopeful futures as students, workers, entrepreneurs and socially responsible citizens who care for one another and the world around them.
At a time when racial and social justice issues are rightly at the forefront of our collective consciousness and civic discourse, your support for Mother Mary Lange School Catholic School will provide underserved children of color the knowledge and tools they need to build prosperous and generous lives.
On behalf of our students and families, thank you!
Matt Anthony Jennifer Hammand
Director, Partners In Excellence Director, Corporate and Foundation Relations
Archbishop William E. Lori
Jim Sellinger, Chancellor of Catholic Schools
Dr. Donna Hargens, Superintendent of Schools
*Photos at the top are (L-R): Cardinal Shehan students enjoying PE class, A Ss. James & John Catholic School student enjoying snack time, and the Archbishop Borders School Class of 2020 trying on their graduation gowns (prior to the pandemic!)