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March 30, 2006 • Volume 14 Number 14

A collaboration with Boston College will enable the St. Columbkille School to continue offering Catholic, parish-based education to Allston-Brighton children.

BC to Aid Parochial School

Partnership with parish, archdiocese is first of its kind in United States

By Jack Dunn
Director of Public Affairs

A groundbreaking partnership between Boston College, the Archdiocese of Boston and St. Columbkille Parish will allow the financially troubled St. Columbkille School to continue offering a Catholic, parish-based education for children in the Allston-Brighton section of Boston.

The agreement, announced last week by University President William P. Leahy, SJ, and Boston Cardinal Sean O'Malley, OFM, Cap., represents the first such collaboration between a Catholic university and a parochial school in the United States.

Fr. Leahy and Cardinal O'Malley described the partnership, which formally begins this September, as "a collaborative effort to strengthen the existing St. Columbkille School by drawing on the resources of the Lynch School of Education at Boston College, best practices of American elementary education and the guidance of Catholic educational, social and religious principles."

Supported through a collaboration of Boston College, the Archdiocese of Boston and St. Columbkille Parish, the school will continue to provide pre-kindergarten through 8th grade education at its present site on Arlington Street in Brighton. St. Columbkille will maintain its Catholic mission and character with opportunities for prayer, retreats, Mass and service learning, and will focus particularly on serving children from the Allston-Brighton area.

Fr. Leahy, who conceived the idea after conversations with local pastors, said he hoped the partnership will help to create the best Catholic school in the Commonwealth, while establishing a model for Catholic universities nationwide to assist Catholic elementary schools.

"With a total of 277 Catholic elementary schools closing nationally in 2004-2005, we wanted to create a partnership that utilizes the resources of Boston College and its Lynch School of Education to assist a local, Catholic elementary school in need," said Fr. Leahy. "Given Boston College's longstanding outreach to St. Columbkille and the historic neighborhood ties between the schools, St. Columbkille School seemed an ideal fit."

"Without this agreement, St. Columbkille School could not stay open in the coming years," said Rev. Richard J. Shmaruk, pastor of St. Columbkille Parish. "We are very excited about the future of our school."

The school will be governed by a board of members and a board of trustees comprising representatives from the Archdiocese of Boston, Boston College, St. Columbkille Parish and the greater Boston community.

Under the agreement, the soon-to-be-formed board of trustees will authorize an audit of the school's curriculum, faculty, finances and facilities before creating a strategic plan to guide the school in the future.

Lynch School of Education faculty will work directly with the school's teachers on faculty and curriculum development, presenting new approaches to education and working to establish best practices in the classroom.

"We look forward to expanding our existing outreach to St. Columbkille by combining our researchers and practitioners to develop best practices for the school," said Kearns Professor of Education and Innovative Leadership Mary Walsh (LSOE), a St. Columbkille alumna who is director of BC's Center for Child, Family and Community Partnerships and a leader in BC's outreach efforts to Allston-Brighton schools.

"St. Columbkille will serve as a model for how Catholic universities and Catholic schools can partner to develop best practices in Catholic education," said Walsh. "In public education across the country, universities and schools have collaborated in forming professional development schools to improve educational practice and thereby better prepare teachers, administrators and counselors.

"Using a similar model, St. Columbkille School will engage university and school faculty and students in research and practice-based collaborations that lead to cutting-edge approaches in curriculum and instruction, educational leadership and extended supports for learning and healthy development. The evidence-based best practices that emerge from this collaboration will have clear potential to strengthen Catholic education across the country."

Said LSOE Dean Rev. Joseph O'Keefe, SJ, one of the nation's leading experts in Catholic education, "This partnership will provide an important new dimension to the existing relationship with local schools, public and private, which we value so highly at the Lynch School. Moreover, it will build on our wide array of initiatives that support Catholic education and will ultimately benefit educators around the nation."

Since its inception in 1901, St. Columbkille School and Parish have had a strong relationship with Boston College, with thousands of its graduates and parishioners having attended the University. Over the years, the Lynch School has been actively involved in St. Columbkille through its Extended Services Program, which offers after-school and summer programs for children and families focused on learning and healthy development, and its Carnegie Foundation-sponsored "Teachers for a New Era" program, which provides professional development and teacher training at the school.

In addition, Boston College students tutor at St. Columbkille on a weekly basis and teach confirmation classes throughout the school year. BC employees also volunteer in the Read Aloud Program at St. Columbkille, reading to kindergarten, first and second grade pupils during their lunch breaks.

St. Columbkille School currently enrolls 275 students, 60 percent of whom are from St. Columbkille Parish, according to school Principal Mary Battles. Tuition for parish-enrolled students is $2,650 per year.

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