Diocesan school unity continues to grow stronger with creation of new website

By Dave Jolivet
Anchor Editor

FALL RIVER, Mass. — Matthew “Mattie” Stepanek was a lad who grew up in the 1990s, living with a rare genetic disorder that eventually took his life at age 13. In his short life Mattie authored seven books of poetry and peace essays.

Mattie once said, “Unity is strength — when there is teamwork and collaboration, wonderful things can be achieved.”

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Unity has been extolled since Biblical times. It is with this philosophy in mind that the Diocese of Fall River, through the Task Force on Catholic Education, established the Catholic Schools Alliance comprised of administrators, teachers, staff, parents and clergy joined in partnership to educate the children of the diocese in Catholic faith and values. In short, its mission is “Nurturing the Mind and the Soul.”

In its continuing efforts to strengthen and enhance the 22 Catholic schools in the Fall River Diocese, the Catholic Schools Alliance recently launched a new website, www.CatholicSchoolsAlliance.org, to highlight the many new and exciting academic changes and enhancements benefiting more than 6,300 students.

“I’m very excited that the Catholic School Alliance has a website that is easy for parents to use on personal computers or mobile devices, and that will help them quickly gain access to great things happening in our schools every day,” Sarah Heaton told The Anchor. Heaton is director of Enrollment and Marketing, part of the diocesan Catholic Schools Office Leadership Team.

According to an alliance press release, the new website, “Provides information about why families choose to send their students to Catholic schools, testimonies from current students, parents, and faculty, as well as information about financial aid available to help families afford tuition.”

Heaton said that it’s important to realize that Catholic education in the Fall River Diocese is “larger than just one school.”

The smartly-designed website offers visitors a plethora of options to utilize to gain a deeper understanding of what the Diocese of Fall River’s school system is all about.

Three of the main avenues of information users will find most helpful are: locating a nearby diocesan school; how and where to apply for financial assistance; and the many benefits a Catholic education offers young people and their families.

“One of our main goals is to increase enrollment and provide greater visibility of our wonderful schools,” added Heaton.

In the “Find a School,” option the user is brought to a Google Map that can be enlarged to be area-specific, showing bullets of the 22 diocesan schools and contact information.

The “Why Catholic Eduction” offers a litany of reasons for choosing a diocesan school, such as: offering students the opportunity to grow and prosper Spiritually, academically, emotionally and socially; a demanding educational culture with state-of-the-art technology and a curriculum which meets and often exceeds national guidelines; an atmosphere centered around Christ, where faith is the cornerstone of all that is done in the schools and the school communities; providing a safe, welcoming and loving environment for each student, regardless of race or creed; faculties who not only teach but who are outstanding role models of the Catholic faith in action; and the importance of fostering a love of learning, of others and of oneself through academics, Spirituality and service, as evidenced by the 66,000 service hours performed by diocesan students during the 2016-17 academic year.

With regards to information about financial assistance, the new website offers myriad resources and recommendations, as well as an extensive question-and-answer section for parents and grandparents to utilize when opting to choose a Catholic education for their youngsters.

The site also offers an up-to-date calendar of events; school news and stories; and resources for families and faculty members.

Heaton told The Anchor that creating a website was one of her top priorities when she was brought on as director of Enrollment and Marketing. “I did an extensive amount of research looking at all diocesan websites across the country,” she said. “I was drawn to the website of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. It was new-edge and had some great successes.”

Heaton contacted folks from the archdiocese as well as those from the Diocese of Grand Rapids, Mich., which also had a successful site. She said the people at both locations were very helpful and shared their best practices.

She also solicited information within the Fall River Diocese, meeting with parents, school staff members, and students to discuss why a Catholic education is so important.

She sought the services of a web-designer and the current site is the fruit of those labors.

“The Catholic School Office recently sent out an email to parents inviting them to visit the site,” Heaton told The Anchor. Sixty percent of the parents contacted opted to visit the site. “There were 800 unique visitors to the site. That was exciting,” she said.

As part of the Catholic School Alliance’s push to increase visibility, it is embarking on a Facebook campaign, as well as on Instagram and Pinterest.

From the time the website idea took off in May until its recent October launching, the Catholic School Alliance’s website has spawned eight other new websites for schools in the diocese. “Some schools needed help in setting up an attractive and useful website and we helped them do that,” said Heaton.

Such cooperation only strengthens the diocesan school community.

In its press release, the alliance said, “The website highlights the impressive numbers that make our schools stand out; like families receiving more than $5 million in financial aid for the 2017-18 school year; that 74 percent of our high school AP students score a three or better on their AP exams and how 51 percent of our teachers have advanced degrees. Our schools are more than just numbers. Our schools are made up of people who make every student feel safe, welcome and loved. We want to use this platform to tell their stories and to recognize them for what they give to our communities.”

Heaton told The Anchor that, “The Catholic School Alliance is launching a series of blog posts that will highlight the members of our school communities who are dedicated to making our schools the best they can be. Each month we will highlight one person on our blog and in the community.”

As a brilliant young mind, taken way too soon, once said, “Unity is strength — where there is teamwork and collaboration, wonderful things can be achieved.”

For more information about the Catholic Schools Alliance, contact Sarah Heaton at 508-678-2828 or sheaton@catholicsa.org.

© 2019 The Anchor and Anchor Publishing    †    Fall River, Massachusetts