Regional schools’ successes

Keeping students safe and learning in school remains a priority this year, but the board president of the North Hills Regional Catholic Elementary Schools sees another big challenge—engaging the community.

“We need to be strategic and answer some important questions,” Matt Petnuch told Father Tom Burke on the diocesan radio program Catholic Education Plus. “Why are our schools important? How do they enhance our parish communities? Why should parents continue to invest in Catholic education? What seeds can we plant now that will bear fruit later?”

Catholic Education Plus airs Sunday, November 22 at 6:30 a.m. on KDKA-AM 1020. Podcasts are available at

The North Hills region is now in its fourth school year of existence, and to date, Petnuch says the new structure of governance is working. Enrollment and tuition have stabilized, academics continue to improve, and students are growing in their faith and making new friends.

All parishes in the region share in the operation and support of Catholic elementary schools, which are run by principals under the oversight of a regional administrator and business manager. Schools are governed by a board of clergy and volunteer lay leaders who represent all the parishes in the area, giving them a voice and investment in Catholic education.

The primary purpose of regionalization is to continue to provide families with access to Catholic elementary schools that are academically excellent, spiritually vibrant and financially sustainable.

Petnuch also is focused on strengthening their schools’ Catholic identity.

“There are two parts to our Catholic identity,” Petnuch said. “The first is the school year following the liturgical calendar, and also participating in the initiation of sacraments. It’s important that our students understand both—what it means to be Catholic, including service to family and community, and allegiance to God and parents.

“We need to regularly communicate how are children are doing because of their Catholic education,” Petnuch said. “Our schools need to make sure their experiences are significant and remembered, and communicate that to the community.”

Five elementary schools are located in the North Hills region: Blessed Francis Seelos Academy in Wexford; Holy Cross Academy in Ross Township; Blessed Trinity Academy in Glenshaw; Christ the Divine Teacher Catholic Academy in Aspinwall; and St. James Catholic School in Sewickley.

“The discipline I received in Catholic school was consistent with what I experienced at home,” Petnuch said. “We enrolled our twin sons and daughter in Catholic schools based on what was best for them over the long haul. They became part of a community, and look back on those years fondly.”

Seventh graders in reading class at Blessed Francis Seelos Academy
A statue of the Blessed Mother watches over Seelos 8th graders in the computer lab.