Dreary, soggy weather didn’t dampen the spirits of about 130 Catholic school principals, administrators and guests who gathered for the spring meeting on April 28 in Richfield.
Frank O’Linn, superintendent of Catholic schools in the diocese, began the program with prayer and offering witness to his ongoing ministry in Catholic education.
After brunch, there was plenty of business on the agenda as O’Linn provided an update on the Keeping the Faith initiative aimed at strengthening Catholic elementary schools in the diocese. A series of meetings is planned for 1-3 p.m. Sept. 6 at Our Lady of Victory Parish in Tallmadge; Sept. 13 at Holy Spirit Parish in Avon; Sept. 19 at St. Basil the Great Parish in Brecksville; and Sept. 25 at the Cathedral Square Plaza diocesan offices in downtown Cleveland.
(See a photo gallery from the event above.)
The educators and guests also were updated on a series of upcoming meetings and events dealing with diverse topics such as Angel Scholarship Fund Ambassadors who will help parish and school staffs secure support for the ASF, standards-based learning sessions, new teacher orientation and a special formation day program for parish catechists, volunteers, school faculty and staff.
Among the special guests who attended part of the program were Sister Jane Nesmith, SBS, who leads the diocesan Black Catholic Ministries, and Father Charles Smith, a Society of the Divine Word priest and co-director of the Bowman Francis Ministry of Indianapolis, Indiana, who was in town to present a two-day workshop of African Presence in Scripture at the Jesuit Retreat Center in Parma.
Michael Zelenka of the education office led a table discussion session that focused on several topics, including how to make high school nights more efficient, effective and accessible; possibly regionalizing high school nights; and the most necessary skills to focus on in elementary school to set students up for success in high school. There also was some discussion on high school visitation days.
Zelenka encouraged the educators to continue their worthwhile ministry with a missionary evangelist thrust. “Go out and spread the word. The longer we keep students in Catholic schools the better,” he said, adding the students are the most important thing in the Catholic schools.
The educators also learned in the legislative update that there are some EdChoice changes proposed on the state level that could financially benefit Catholic schools and Catholic school families.
The group was reminded about the Nov. 1 All Saints Day Mass planned for Public Auditorium with Bishop Edward Malesic as the main celebrant. Organizers are hoping to attract 15,000 students to the downtown venue for the liturgy.
The FEST, scheduled for Aug. 6 at the Center for Pastoral Leadership in Wickliffe, is another opportunity for the schools to collaborate and spread their message.
The meeting concluded with recognition by O'Linn and Tracey Arnone, associate superintendent, of three longtime education employees who are retiring this year: Joe Waler, Kathy Friess and Pam Ouzts.
Waler’s education career spans more than 40 years as a teacher and principal at Trinity High School in Garfield Heights and principal at Notre Dame-Cathedral Latin School in Chardon. Although he is leaving his principal’s post at the end of the school year, Waler will step in and fill the NDCL president’s role on an interim basis.
Friess, principal at Immaculate Heart of Mary School in Cuyahoga Falls since 2013, was lauded for helping the school to grow and to improve the school culture. She began her education career as a teacher in South Carolina before coming to the Cleveland Diocese. She taught at St. Bernadette School in Westlake and was a teacher and assistant principal at Seton Catholic School in Hudson.
Ouzts began her career as a Catholic educator before moving downtown to the diocesan education office in 2000, where she serves in a support role as director of government programs. O’Linn said Ouzts is known for her “leave no dollar behind” attitude as she works to help maximize resources available for Catholic schools throughout the diocese.
“We lead and serve and Pam is a great example of leading. She has deep knowledge and service,” he added.
Ouzts plans to retire in July.