Charleston, W.Va.— West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin signed a proclamation recognizing Catholic Schools Week in West Virginia, which will be held Jan. 31-Feb. 6. This year’s theme is “Catholic Schools: Communities of Faith, Knowledge and Service.”
“I hereby support the goals of Catholic Schools Week and recognize the vital contributions of Catholic elementary and secondary schools,” Tomblin states in the proclamation. The governor also affirmed the contributions Catholic schools make to West Virginia, as well as their “academic excellence.” The schools were commended for having a graduation rate near 99 percent and for encouraging students to pursue higher levels of education after graduation. More than 98 percent of Catholic school graduates enter a post-secondary education institution, attending more than 60 colleges and universities. As the largest private education system in West Virginia, Catholic schools in the state offer a viable alternative to public education and attract families and businesses to the state, according to diocesan officials.
“I congratulate the Catholic schools, students, parents and teachers across the Mountain State for their ongoing contributions to education and for the key role they play in promoting and ensuring a brighter and stronger future for West Virginia and the nation,” Tomblin states in the proclamation.
Dr. Vincent de Paul Schmidt, superintendent of Catholic schools for the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston, said that the diocese’s 20 Catholic elementary schools and seven Catholic high schools across the state are steadfast in their commitment of providing academic excellence in a Christ-centered environment.
“We must remain mission focused on bringing lived gospel values into every relationship we cultivate in our Catholic schools,” Schmidt said. “Furthermore, Catholic schools must focus on the Catholic identity of our schools, academic excellence in our educational programming and our ability to sustain financially our schools not only for the students we currently serve but the generations of West Virginia Catholics to come.”
Catholic schools in West Virginia are older than the state itself. The first Catholic school was established in Martinsburg, W.Va., in 1838. Presently, there are 28 Catholic schools in 13 counties of West Virginia, which includes the diocese’s 20 elementary schools and seven high schools and Wheeling Jesuit University, the state’s only Catholic institution of higher education. According to enrollment data provided by the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston, there are more than 5,660 students in 27 Catholic elementary and secondary schools, and approximately 1,500 undergraduate and graduate students are enrolled at Wheeling Jesuit University.
“Catholic schools provide quality education in a Christ-centered environment that nurtures faith development and involves families as partners in education,” Schmidt said. “In the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston, Catholic schools have established a reputation of excellence in numerous areas, including academics, service, athletics, co-curricular programs, graduation rates, college acceptances and scholarship awards.”
Students and teachers in Catholic schools utilize the latest technology, and many schools are implementing mobile technologies into their classrooms. Bishop Donahue Memorial High School in McMechen, W.Va., and Notre Dame High School in Clarksburg, W.Va., have implemented a 1:1 iPad program; Central Catholic High School in Wheeling, W.Va., has implemented a 1:1 Chromebook program; and several elementary schools have 1:1 iPad or 1:1 Chromebook initiatives in the middle school grades.
Many Catholic school students participate in numerous activities, ranging from drama productions, quiz bowls, debates, trips abroad, musical ensembles as well as numerous academic competitions, including math, science, history, writing and foreign language. Three schools in the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston have been nationally recognized as Blue Ribbon Schools of Excellence. All 20 Catholic elementary schools provide preschool programs and many provide before- and after-school care. Financial assistance is available at both the local and diocesan level. More than $850,000 in tuition assistance will be distributed to families in need from the Diocesan Tuition Assistance Program during the 2015-2016 school year.
Students in Catholic schools reach out to those in need within and beyond their communities in numerous ways. In addition to raising funds to assist local agencies in each city, students are involved with global issues, such as sending care packages, cards and letters to service men and women, and participating in social justice issues, like working to ban landmines and responding to the need for aid as a result of natural disasters. Faculty, administrators and parents assist students who work with the elderly and disabled, collect food and clothing for the needy, tutor children in need of academic assistance, participate in building and repairing homes and respond to needs of others, especially in times of emergency. A number of these projects are done in partnership and support of Catholic Charities West Virginia.
Nationally, there are nearly 2 million students enrolled in the 6,594 elementary and secondary Catholic schools in the United States. The National Catholic Education Association in Washington annually sponsors Catholic Schools Week in January to recognize and promote the vital contribution Catholic schools make to the country. Graduates of Catholic schools can be found in all fields of endeavor, including education, politics, finance, entertainment, military services, technology, sports, et cetera, where they contribute with skill and commitment to their professions and their communities.
Copies of the governor’s proclamation will be distributed to all schools during Catholic Schools Week. To learn more about Catholic schools in the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston, call (toll free) 1-888-434-6237 or visit www.wvcatholicschools.org.