CHARLESTON—On Jan. 5, West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin signed a proclamation recognizing Catholic Schools Week in West Virginia, which began Jan. 25 and ended Jan. 31. This national celebration has a long history of support in West Virginia.
Paul J. Derico, principal at St. Patrick School in Weston, center, and 12 of his students stand with Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin and Vincent de Paul Schmidt, superintendent of Catholic schools, left. Tomblin signed a proclamation recognizing Catholic Schools Week Jan. 25-31.
In the text of the proclamation, Tomblin states, “I hereby support the goals of Catholic Schools Week and recognize the vital contributions of Catholic elementary and secondary schools.”
In the proclamation, Tomblin also affirmed the valuable contributions Catholic schools make to West Virginia, as well as their academic excellence. The schools were commended for having a graduation rate near 99 percent and for encouraging students to pursue higher levels of education after graduation. Over 98 percent of Catholic school graduates enter a post-secondary education institution, attending over 60 colleges and universities. As the largest private education system in West Virginia, Catholic schools in the state offer a viable alternative to public education and attract families and businesses to the state.
“I congratulate the Catholic schools, students, parents and teachers across the Mountain State for their ongoing contributions to education and for the key role they play in promoting and ensuring a brighter and stronger future for West Virginia and the nation,” Tomblin said.
Vincent de Paul Schmidt, superintendent of Catholic schools, said, “we must remain mission focused on bringing lived Gospel values into every relationship we cultivate in our Catholic schools,” he said.
“Furthermore, Catholic schools must focus on the Catholic identity of our schools, academic excellence in our educational programming and our ability to sustain financially our schools not only for the students we currently serve but the generations of West Virginia Catholics to come.”
Catholic schools in West Virginia are older than the state itself. The first Catholic school was established in Martinsburg, in 1838. Presently, there are 28 Catholic schools, which include 20 elementary schools, seven diocesan high schools and Wheeling Jesuit University, the state’s only Catholic institution of higher education, in 13 counties in West Virginia. According to enrollment data provided by the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston, there are 5,640 students in 27 Catholic elementary and secondary schools, and approximately 1,500 undergraduate and graduate students are enrolled at Wheeling Jesuit University.
Catholic schools provide quality education in a Christ-centered environment that nurtures faith development and involves families as partners in education. In the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston, Catholic schools have established a reputation of excellence in numerous areas, including academics, service, athletics, co-curricular programs, graduation rates, college acceptances and scholarship awards.
In order to prepare students with essential skills needed for the 21st century, teachers and students in Catholic schools utilize the latest technology. Many schools are implementing mobile technologies into their classrooms. Bishop Donahue Memorial High School in McMechen and Notre Dame High School in Clarksburg have implemented a 1:1 iPad program; Central Catholic High School in Wheeling has implemented a 1:1 Chromebook program; and several elementary schools have 1:1 iPad or 1:1 Chromebook initiatives in the middle school grades. The first TEAL lab in West Virginia, modeled after the lab at MIT, is located at Central Catholic. This active learning lab, dedicated in October, includes new technology tools and resources for both teachers and students.
Many Catholic school students participate in numerous activities, ranging from drama productions, quiz bowls, debates, trips abroad, musical ensembles as well as numerous academic competitions, including math, science, history, writing and foreign language. Three schools in the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston have been nationally recognized as Blue Ribbon Schools of Excellence. All 20 Catholic elementary schools provide preschool programs and many provide before- and after-school care. Financial assistance is available at both the local and diocesan level. Over $850,000 in tuition assistance will be distributed to families in need from the Diocesan Tuition Assistance Program during the 2014-2015 school year.
Students in Catholic schools reach out to those in need within and beyond their communities in numerous ways. In addition to raising funds to assist local agencies in each city, students are involved with global issues, such as sending care packages, cards and letters to service men and women, and participating in social justice issues, like working to ban landmines and responding to the need for aid as a result of natural disasters. Faculty, administrators and parents assist students who work with the elderly and disabled, collect food and clothing for the needy, tutor children in need of academic assistance, participate in building and repairing homes and respond to needs of others, especially in times of emergency.
To learn more about Catholic schools in the diocese, call 1-888-434-6237 or visit www.wvcatholicschools.org.