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Principal Robin Jo Jensen's Catholic Schools Week Presentation

In celebration of Catholic Schools Week, Holy Cross Catholic School Principal Robin Jo Jensen addressed the parish family at all Masses. Below is the text of her presentation.

Thank you Father Tom, for allowing me the privilege of addressing our Parish Family, as we begin our celebration of Catholic Schools Week, 2011. The theme of Catholic School’s week this year is “A+ for America”.

For those of you that do not know me, I am Robin Jo Jensen, the Principal of Holy Cross Catholic School. I am blessed to have been called by God to serve in my educational ministry here at Holy Cross for the past 15 years. My husband Jeff and I have been members of this parish for 20 years. Our children, Ashley and Marty, are graduates of Holy Cross Catholic School.

Holy Cross Catholic School began “teaching as Jesus did” in 1868. On Saturday, February 12th we will mark 143 years of Catholic education at Holy Cross! It is an awesome opportunity to reflect on the many children that have received a Catholic education because of the love, support and generosity of Holy Cross Parish members, like you. The Parish support of our school continues to be vital, especially as we make a full transition to the GRACE System in Green Bay. Your continued monetary support through sacrificial giving to the Parish makes continuing Catholic education here at Holy Cross possible.

This year, we are quickly approaching our full transition from “parish” school to “system” school as Holy Cross joins with the nine other schools in the Green Bay area to form “GRACE”, the “Green Bay Area Catholic Education System”. The GRACE System will be fully operational on July 1, 2011. Steps are underway for the transition of the over 250 teachers and staff from Parish employees to GRACE System employees.

Although the system brings some administrative and operational changes at the system level, the day to day operation of the school will appear very much the same as you see it today.

This past week, registration for the 11-12 school year began. Because of the work and accomplishments of the GRACE Team, all registration is now able to be done electronically, via a web based system. This is a good example of the kind of changes that the system offers us; the streamlining and coordination of processes and services, which we would not be able to offer our families and students as an individual school.

Other examples of these benefits include our ability to be a member of CESA 7, our local cooperative education agency. Joining CESA as a GRACE System school allows us “district” rates; without being a part of GRACE, we could not even begin to afford the membership fees. This membership allows us to offer incredible professional development opportunities for our faculty and staff members, which we could not offer prior to being a part of the system.

Another example is the implementation of the MAP Assessment. Our teachers can now utilize real-time student achievement data to individualize and guide instruction. In addition, we have been able to participate in a system wide data retreat to analyze student data across the system and identify strengths and areas for improvement in our schools. In analyzing our 2009-10 data, our students demonstrate exceptional academic performance. Through comparison with other students’ scores in northeast Wisconsin and the State by using a correlation between MAP the WKCE, we know that our GRACE students demonstrate 86% - 99% proficient or advanced scores in reading, language arts and math.

The GRACE system offers us stability and growth, opportunities and support for our Catholic early childhood through grade 8 students by following its mission to engage ALL Green Bay area parishes, NOT just those with schools, in a thriving, collaborative ministry for Catholic schools where all children grow in Catholic faith, reach their potential, serve the community, and are prepared for life.

Within GRACE, the primary goal of the Holy Cross Catholic School Community continues to announce the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and to educate the WHOLE child, Spiritually, Intellectually, Physically, Socially and Emotionally. The Spiritual education of our children is the focus of all we do. Simply stated, the CATHOLIC education of our students is the reason we exist. We work to instill the virtues and values of our Catholic faith into all disciplines of the curriculum through our Catholic Virtue and Value Program.

Our Catholic school provides a daily experience that aligns with the Beatitudes, as reflected in today’s Gospel reading. The Beatitudes that Jesus taught us are a perfect reflection of the Catholic morals and values that we strive to teach our students each and every day, throughout all aspects of the educational program, through Faith Integration. This program creates a learning community where each student is taught that he or she is created in God’s image and is a beloved child of God. We expect our students to put their faith into action by loving, caring and serving others.

Our school strives to share our gifts by reaching out through a focus on service. There are five different service projects this year, which assist people and organizations here in the Holy Cross community, locally in Green Bay, nationally and globally. Our November/December Service project created a relationship with students in the Afghanistan village of Kunduz. Thanks to the generosity of our FAST parent organization, private donors and families, we have sent over 100 handmade blankets and many school supplies to help the children there. We have used 21st Century skills to take a global view by “connecting” with people on the other side of the world, “face to face and voice to voice” through the use of Skype and technology; creating a virtual global classroom for our students.

Another endeavor supporting our global view will be once again hosting five Japanese Exchange Students this spring. These students will spend time learning about our school and education in the US. Our students will in turn learn about Japan and its culture.

Holy Cross and all of the GRACE schools are more than educational institutions. They are communities and extended families. They nurture our children’s Catholic Faith and promote the faith filled morals, values and character that families work to instill at home. High academic standards and high expectations challenge every student. We push our students to excel; especially in the Middle School. As you can imagine with students of this age group, this can be a challenge! Our students graduate from HCCS very well prepared for high school, college and the professional world. Our graduates consistently “come back” to HCCS and thank us for pushing them academically. This past fall, one of our graduates came back after her second week at NDA to say, “Thank you! I get it now! I get why you pushed us so hard, I get why you taught us and made us learn! The 7th and 8th graders need to know this; I need to tell them to listen, pay attention, work hard and appreciate everything you teachers are trying to do!”

While our students do excel, we do not simply “educate” academically, but rather we work to form students to become good Catholic citizens who serve God and serve others. These children are our future and the future of our Catholic Church!

I am pleased to share once again this year that our school continues to contradict the national trend of declining enrollment in Catholic schools, as we continue to thrive and grow! Last year, our enrollment was 197 students. This year we have 206. We continue to make technology advances a priority; we have five SMART interactive boards, approximately 70 student laptops, document cameras, media projectors as well as video monitors and permanent computer workstations in each classroom.

If you were or are a Catholic School parent, thank you for allowing us to be part of your family and contribute to your child’s academic and faith based education. If your children are not in a Catholic school, please consider this GRACE and Holy Cross’ invitation to stop in, have your child spend a day with us and experience the Catholic school difference for yourself.

Our Open House is tomorrow from 9AM to Noon. This is a GREAT time to check out and tour the school, meet the faculty and staff, and learn about all the great things happening! It is also a great time to support our Parish Athletic Program as they are having their annual Chili and Bake Sale before and after all of this weekend’s masses! Stop over to the Gym to pick-up tonight’s supper!

The success of our school is the direct result of our dedicated, certified faculty and staff, who create a safe and quality learning environment that helps students meet and exceed our high standards. This outstanding TEAM of educators dedicate their lives to the mission of Catholic education and make great financial and personal sacrifices to do so. We are grateful to them as they continue to serve selflessly as ministers of Catholic education. If there are any Faculty or Staff members here, would you please stand? Thank you for your service and ministry to Holy Cross Catholic School!

I would like to thank Fr. Tom, our Parish Business Manager, the Parish Trustees, and our Parish leadership committees, for their ongoing support and commitment to the success of our school.

I would like to thank the families of the students of our school for the choice you have made to provide a Catholic Education for your children. This is not an easy choice, given the financial demands of society. Many of you make significant sacrifices to provide a Catholic education for your children.

Thank you to our school parents and parish members, for the hours and hours of volunteer work that you do to help our school. Our school simply could not function, without all of our wonderful volunteers.

Thank YOU, each of our Faithful Parish Members, for your support of our school, through your annual Sacrificial Giving and your generous donations of time, talent and treasure. Although we will now be a school within the GRACE system, your parish support and sacrificial giving remains critical to the future of our school. If you have questions about the school, the GRACE system, or if you would like to get involved, or donate your time, talent or treasure, please contact me!

Please stop over to the Open House. We are accepting new student registrations and showcasing our beautiful school.

Please know that the Holy Cross Catholic School Students, Faculty and Staff will continue to pray and give thanks for you, our faithful Parish members, for your ongoing support of Catholic Education.

Peace and May God bless you!

About Holy Cross Catholic School
Located on the growing northeast side of Green Bay at the historic crossroads of Church and Bay Settlement Roads, Holy Cross Catholic School is the point at which faith, community and education converge. The school educates children within the Catholic faith and provides them with opportunities to develop the values, attitudes and skills that will enable them to become vital members of the community. Holy Cross Catholic School has been in existence for 142 years and has an enrollment of 200 students in grades EC3 to 8th grade. For more information, please visit the school's website: http://www.holycrossfamily.org/.

About GRACE
The Green Bay Area Catholic Education (GRACE) system is the largest Catholic school system in Wisconsin. A collaborative school ministry of the 23 Green Bay area Catholic parishes, GRACE was formed in 2008 to provide affordable, high quality Catholic early childhood, elementary and middle-school education. It serves 2728 students at ten neighborhood school sites located throughout the Green Bay area. Over 125 students of other faith denominations attend the GRACE schools. The GRACE system employs over 250 people with a total annual community investment of $10.5 million. The system has just completed a three-year planning and consolidation process that involved the 23 faith communities, parents and staff. It will assume full school operations on July 1, 2011.

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