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Teachers share expertise, opportunities for development

The Omaha Catholic School Consortium is driving academic excellence and efficiently managing resources in several ways: Sharing expertise in maintenance, technology, faith-building – and teaching.

One example of pooling resources, said Donna Bishop, assistant superintendent of schools and executive director of the five-school consortium, is a Spanish teacher at Holy Cross in Omaha, Susanna Henkel, offering instruction through the Internet last semester to students at St. Bernadette in Bellevue.

The consortium also has one technology trainer – Sara Hood – working with teachers in all five schools to bring technology into the classroom. Chrome books will be shared by three children to one device at all five schools by 2017-2018, and by 2018-2019 the plan is to have one device per student in grades five through eight, Bishop said.

The organization also has become something of an incubator for innovative learning. Two years ago, the consortium introduced a balanced literacy program that now is in various stages of implementation at 24 schools across the archdiocese, Bishop said. Designed to strike a balance between whole language and phonics-based teaching, the program assesses students at least three times during the school year to track progress, and assignments can be progressively difficult to meet individual needs. Guided reading is one element, as well as writing, vocabulary and grammar.

That kind of approach will be expanded into math and other subjects, Bishop said.

"We are using data to verify our instruction," she said. "We are doing everything possible to meet children where they are academically."

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