Monday, February 03, 2020 - Updated: 1:59 pm
Change has not been easy and it didn’t happen overnight, but parents and principals who are working together on the regionalization of Catholic elementary schools in the North Hills say the results are worth it.
Enrollment and tuition have stabilized, academics continue to improve, schools are benefiting from lower costs, and students have made new friends while growing in their faith.
“Our daughters are doing well. They get off the bus smiling every day,” said Nick Colasante, a member of the school advisory council of Holy Cross Academy in Ross Township. “It was tough at first with two schools coming together. But we’re past it now and moving forward, looking for ways to grow.”
In 2017, St. Sebastian and St. Teresa of Avila schools united. Three other mergers involving seven other schools took place in Wexford, Glenshaw, Bellevue and Pittsburgh’s North Side.
The primary goal of regionalization is to continue to provide families with access to Catholic elementary schools that are academically excellent, spiritually vibrant and financially sustainable.
Under the new structure, all parishes in a geographic region share in the operation and support of Catholic elementary schools. The buildings are run by principals under the oversight of a regional administrator and business manager, and governed by a board of clergy and lay leaders who represent every parish and parish grouping, giving them a voice and investment in Catholic education.
“I understand how hard change can be, and it can take time,” said Moira Regan Edmiston, principal of Blessed Trinity Academy in Glenshaw. “Our teachers are feeling more like a team now as we work on building relationships.”
“The regional model is working,” said Matt Petnuch, board president of North Hills Regional Catholic Elementary Schools Inc. “Teachers are enthusiastically engaged in faith-based activities. We’re creating a community where students feel welcome and thrive.
“We are always looking for ways to support the schools,” he said. “We let families know their investment in a Catholic education is worth it.”
Michael Killmeyer, administrator of the North Hills region, said they are continuing to work on collaboration and data-driven instruction, such as analyzing results from the Iowa Tests of Basic Skills in science, social studies, language arts and math.
“While our scores outpaced the national averages, we were able to identify and help students who needed assistance in certain subjects,” he said.
Regional schools are also able to draw from a wider area. “We have students from communities in five public school districts,” said Patricia Osekowski, principal of Holy Cross Academy. “A great group of parents support the school, along with members of the four parishes in our grouping and the staff.”
When St. Raphael School in Pittsburgh’s Morningside neighborhood closed last year, Amy Wienand reached out to Christ the Divine Teacher Catholic Academy in Aspinwall. Her two sons are now enrolled there in fourth and sixth grades.
“It’s been a wonderful experience. Everyone has been so supportive,” she said. “The boys have made new friends, they’re getting good grades and are excelling.”
For parents in other schools affected by regionalization, Wienand suggested they, too, contact neighboring Catholic schools.
Colasante from Holy Cross Academy said it’s important to look ahead as schools merge.
“Get ready for the transition years and be open to change,” he said. “Embrace it and move forward.”