A partnership between Central Catholic High School and elementary schools will strengthen the communication between the schools.
When building a partnership, each side hopes to gain value from the joint venture.
That’s the goal of a new partnership between Central Catholic High School and Holy Cross Academy.
The new program — the Central Catholic Ambassadors — is designed to develop a dialogue between the high school and its partner schools, including St. Barbara and St. Mary in Massillon, to ensure that students receive a faith-based education from kindergarten through 12th grade, said Central Catholic board member Anthony Olivieri.
Seven campuses of Holy Cross Academy and Canton Country Day School have been assigned a goodwill ambassador to serve as a conduit of information between the schools and Central, he said.
Olivieri said each ambassador is familiar with the partner school and parish.
“We are reaching out to build a spirit of partnership,” Olivieri said. “We are all working together. Hopefully, each side will get something out of the partnership.”
That something, he said, is attracting students to continue their education at a Catholic high school while retaining students at the elementary level.
Many parents and students make the decision to move to a public school in sixth through eighth grades, Olivieri said.
Central Catholic president, the Rev. Robert Kaylor, said the future success of the high school is dependent on the partner schools.
“The stronger they are, the stronger we will be in the future,” he said.
Lack of communication
While he is only in his second year as Central’s principal, David Oates knows it is difficult to communicate with the elementary schools.
“I don’t think we do a great job (of communicating),” he said. “We hear a lot of the time that they didn’t know about this or parents had questions and they didn’t know who to talk to.”
The ambassadors, Oates said, gives elementary school principals, pastors and parents a direct contact.
Ambassadors will meet with school representatives about five times a year — about every seven weeks, Olivieri said.
The sides have met once, and already the meetings have highlighted concerns including bussing to the high school, he said.
“It was something we weren’t aware of, but now we can address the issue,” Olivieri said. “It just underlines the lack of communication.
Keeping enrollment on track
Central’s enrollment during the past five years has held steady, Oates said. The school has 410 students in grades nine through 12 this year.
Typically, the high school receives 85 to 90 percent of its freshman class from partner schools, he said.
Olivieri said there is a significant amount of competition for students at the high school level from private, Catholic and public schools.
“A lot of kids when they get to sixth, seventh, eighth grade, they don’t feel they want to go on to Central or that it is a place for them and they jump ship,” he said. “We want to show them reasons to go to Central.
Central can stand on its performance and its values, he said.
Olivieri said a Catholic education focuses on meeting the religious, academic, personal and social needs of a student.
On average, he said, test scores are higher than public schools.
St. Barbara Principal Matt Creamer said the ambassador program will build a worthwhile partnership.
As the Central boys basketball coach and a parent of a student, he knows what Central has to offer.
“It is a good way for everyone at the parochial schools to understand what Central has to offer and how they would benefit from a Catholic-based education (in high school),” he said. “If we can acclimate even our youngest students to what they have to look forward to, they can get an opportunity to understand you can improve the quality of your education and life as a Catholic.
“We want them to identify with Central when they are in kindergarten.”
Olivieri said Bishop George V. Murry and Msgr. Lewis Gaetano, president of Holy Cross Academy, support the efforts of the ambassador program.
“Bishop Murry is really leading the charge that a Catholic education is an important part of our Catholic identity and plays an important part in the future of our parishes,” Olivieri said.
The diocese, he said, is showing a unified effort to strengthen the Catholic schools.
“At this point, enrollment is such that it is time to proclaim the news about Catholic schools more publicly,” he said. “We need to be more vocal about why we think our school is the best place for your child.”
Olivieri said the ambassadors can provide a unique perspective about an education at Central Catholic.
“They are proponents of Central,” he said. “They are able to give a perspective to parents wanting to send their kids to the school. They can validate their choice and answer questions that an administrator might not be able to.”
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