Consortium plans for success with unified fundraiser

From piloting educational initiatives such as balanced literacy and blended learning to collaborating on professional development, academic and administrative programs, the five-school Omaha Catholic School Consortium has broken new ground since it opened in 2013.

Celebrating those achievements while paving the way for future success is part of a second annual appeal for the consortium – and another example of unity among the five schools, said Kara Wesely, the consortium’s director of advancement.

"We operate under one governance model, so it makes sense to have one large development effort that covers all five schools," Wesely said.

Graduates, parents and past donors are receiving information in the mail and an opportunity to offer financial help to the consortium – which includes Holy Cross, Our Lady of Lourdes, Ss. Peter and Paul and St. Thomas More schools in Omaha and St. Bernadette School in Bellevue.

Titled "Together in Christ Annual Fund," the appeal last year raised $115,000 over about four months ending in June, with a goal of $200,000, Wesely said. This year’s goal is the same, but it will run longer, about nine months, again ending in June.

Money raised will go into operating costs at the schools, Wesely said.

The consortium opened in the fall of 2013 as part of a parish and school realignment in east Omaha. St. Stanislaus, Holy Ghost and Assumption-Guadalupe schools were closed, and students from those schools were encouraged to enroll in the consortium. Alumni of the closed schools also are being contacted for the "Together in Christ" effort, Wesely said.

"People have fond memories of going to these schools, and they are excited to see the growth that we’ve (experienced)," Wesely said.

One example of growth: Enrollment has increased every year since the consortium opened, Wesely said, and now stands at 1,793 students. That is up 28 percent from 1,401 students when the consortium first formed.

Enrollment increases can be attributed in part to Beatriz Arellanes, coordinator of Latino School Enrollment for the archdiocese, whose efforts include visiting with Hispanic families and holding welcome nights and information sessions.

"Beatriz and her staff have done some amazing work with the Latino community," said Gary Davis, principal of St. Thomas More School.

Consortium-backed programs such as transitional kindergarten, which gives an extra year of instruction for students who aren’t quite ready for school academically or socially, and balanced literacy and blended learning, which closely track students’ progress and stress individualized learning, also have helped his school, Davis said.

Support from the community, including principals, teachers, parishes, pastors, parents and donors have placed the consortium in a strong position, Wesely said.

"All these people make the consortium’s successes possible," she said.

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