NewSignOne of the most genuine expression of thanks is when one of our grads speaks to a current class of students.  In this spirit of heartfelt gratitude, an alum from St. Andrew Nativity School in Portland, OR returned to address the graduating class last year:

First, I want to say thank you to Mr. Chambers for giving me the opportunity to share all the wisdom that I now possess at age 24. I’ve attended tons of graduations and I never once considered the idea that someday, someone would want me to talk to students advancing to another level of education. Today is the day. As Drake says, I’m way too young to be feeling this old.

I am before you today as a true St. Andrew veteran. I graduated from St. Andrew in 2005. I came to St. Andrew unwillingly because signing up for uniforms and school chores did not sound appealing to the 11 year old me. To be honest, dress clothes and chores still don’t sound appealing to me now. With that being said, if I could go back in time, I wouldn’t change a thing. Nothing got me more excited than academic challenges between the classes. If there was ever a situation where the boys had to go against the girls in an academic competition, like LeBron James, I did everything I could to put the team on my back. Ten years ago, my classmates and I were part of early St. Andrew history and we had no clue. I’m getting married in two months and 1/3 of my groomsmen are guys that I met 13 years ago, at St. Andrew. Looking back at my experience, all of my time at St. Andrew was with a group of guys who truly felt like my brothers.

When I got to Jesuit my life changed. I was no longer in a school where everyone looked like me or shared my struggles. I went from a school of minorities to literally being THE minority in every class. I was raised to be a leader, but at age 14, I had no idea what I was doing. As time went on, I realized that I was at that particular high school for a reason. I realized that I had something to offer the world and I just didn’t know it yet. By the time we reach high school, we are unlike any of our peers. You did not go to a public middle school and you didn’t go to a private school of middle-class families. You’re unlike other minorities and you’re definitely not like those in the suburbs. While this may sound scary, you must embrace it. Each day that you experience something uncomfortable at your new high school, think about your St. Andrew community. This small school has truly given you the tools to conquer the world. I know it seems easy for me to say it considering where I am now in life. Let me remind you, when I came to St. Andrew, I was barely taller than Ms. Roberts, I liked chocolate lucky charms, I wanted to be in the NBA and I truly believed  I was going to be a movie director. I’m talking to you know as a former college football player and future attorney. St. Andrew gave me the foundation to have confidence in myself and realize that anything is possible if I work hard. There are lots of people in this world who know about St. Andrew, but there are only a few who can say they lived it.

You only get one life. If you say you have dreams, then follow them. You will be in classrooms and offices amongst some of the smartest people in the world. You will build relationships with professional people who have never met a young person like you. You will face situations where all you want to do is turn around and go be with the people who understand you. But you must understand, because of where you come from, and how you were raised, you represent more than just yourself. Show the world that our brown and black faces are full of passion and positivity. Use awkward situations as moments where you can educate others and demonstrate that who you are goes much deeper than the way you look. My freshman year of high school was uncomfortable and intimidating. However, if I would’ve transferred and let fear get the best of me, I wouldn’t be here today as proof that you can do it too. I focused on what mattered to me and I got to work. You say you want to be an athlete or an astronaut, start making professional athlete or astronaut decisions. I remember I was so determined to play basketball at Jesuit that I would film myself play basketball for hours and then go home and watch the footage when I was done. Fast forward to college, I stopped playing football so I could become a lawyer. Because of how badly I wanted to go to law school, I studied for the Law School Admissions Test, in the library each morning, for months, on top of my actual college classes. I tell you this because each of you is just like me. Each of you is meant to do something. Each of you is capable of hard work. St. Andrew groomed me to show the world what I had to offer.  

Although it’s 2015, because of St. Andrew, you get to become a pioneer of success for your family and your community. Not many people get the opportunities that we do. Nothing that I accomplish means anything if I don’t bring my friends and family with me. It’s the reason I brought all of you to Lewis & Clark this past March. Each of you has a unique talent that will someday make this world a better place. Along the way, make sure to tell your families and teachers thank you for helping you become great. All of these adults are here because they care about one thing, and that is you. If you’re bored right now, it’s okay, I’m almost done.

Before I leave, please remember these three things: First, work hard now and live the rest of your life like a champion. Second, have fun. Third, never forget where you came from when you finally get to where you’re going.

Thank you.


What problem do you want to solve?


Poverty disrupts education.  Since this disruption exists at all levels of education from early childhood through higher education, we can not become complacent as our graduates mature that the trauma of poverty will just fade away.  With this mindset, NativityMiguel Schools develop a college-going identity in our students in which college is the plan, not just a dream, and our Graduate Support program continues to counter the effects of poverty with intentional and purposeful supports.

Always learning to become better, several Graduate Support Directors attended the National College Access Network (NCAN) conference in Detroit this fall and offer the following takeaways for how we best serve and advocate for our graduates:

Reading is everything.  More and more, young people have disengaged from literature and Graduate Support can provide another opportunity to improve reading fluency.  Also, re-engaging graduates with material they like to read allows our graduates to define who they are, reinforces their resiliency, and  enables them to help others succeed.

Future Problem Solvers:  As society and technology rapidly changes, Jaime Casap from Google suggested asking graduates “What problem do you want to solve?” rather than “What do you want to be when you grow up?”  The challenge is to ambitiously think big.

Remedial Prior to College: Statistically, putting students in remedial classes in college is setting them up for not completing a degree program.  Graduate Support needs to proactively inform curriculum and instruction in the middle and high school years so students aren’t faced with remedial classes later.

Invite Parents on the Bus: Graduate Support needs to educate parents on the college process as well.   If families have not been asked to accompany their children on college trips, what messages are we sending?  Parents may be uncomfortable sending their children to places they have never been themselves.  College visits can also be an opportune time to familiarize them with the entire process such as understanding the purpose and importance of an ACT Prep classes for our graduates or why we need to give your financial information to a stranger.

Survey Seniors: It is recommended that Graduate Support survey seniors every year by late April or early May or even earlier if the intention is to do any intervention.  This information will be helpful to developing individualized post-secondary plans.  For example, if a senior indicates that he/she is enrolling in a 2 year college, the survey would ask if he/she plans to transfer to a 4 year college.

Know the Right Questions to Ask Colleges: Utilize college admissions offices to better understand a breakdown of their success, and be strategic in forming partnerships.  Where do our students go most often?  Where is there already a critical mass of students similar to our graduates?  Who else at the college will have a vested interest in our graduates’ success?  Knowing the right details, such as whether there is a shared advising space at a college, is critical.

Measure Up: Be consistent in measuring outcomes that align with your narrative of student success.  How do we define and measure persistence?  For example, do we know what percentage of graduates persist to the second year of college? Is graduation within 150% of program length valid (ie. 3 years for a 2-year program, 6 years for a 4-year program)?

Become a FAFSA Expert: Federal Student Aid has a power point presentation for seniors and parents called the FSA Toolkit online.  When applying for a FSA ID, click on “show password” and have a student take a picture of the screen along with the challenge questions.  This eliminates students and parents forgetting passwords/logins and having to re-set.  Completion rate is much better when the FSA ID was done at the same time as the FAFSA.

In order to break the cycle of poverty through faith-based education, our grads need to access and complete post-secondary opportunities that lead them to their professional and personal ambitions. With this aim, Graduate Support is staffed with the right people implementing high-leverage supports and proven solutions.  This will be our focus as Graduate Support Professionals from across the NativityMiguel Coalition gather in Tucson in January 2017.




We are the We

Throughout the National Summit on Catholic Schools Serving Hispanic Families*, many proclamations started with “We should …” and a follow up question was often, “Who is the We?”  In order for any idea to become a reality, that is, if this program is to be initiated or that priority is to be addressed, it needs to be clearly stated who will own it, who will be responsible for it, and who will be accountable for its progress.  NativityMiguel schools were founded by individuals who stepped up and said ‘Yes’ to the idea that all students deserve a quality education, that faith-based education is uniquely positioned to deliver this education and that our schools need to remain accessible to the economically poor.  Building on this founding spirit, NativityMiguel Schools have an important stake in the ‘We’ and we are charged with strategizing how we can best use available time and resources to address challenges and leverage opportunities in order to fulfill our responsibility and accountability.

To this pursuit, I offer the following takeaways from the National Summit for all those who are responsible and accountable for the educational mission of NativityMiguel Schools:

Never Stop Learning. The terms Cultural Competency and Cultural Proficiency imply some acceptable standard.  Rather than aspiring to a certain bar, the standard should be always learning to be more understanding of how culture shapes our identity.  Our aim should be that we, each individual and our entire extended school community, are culturally aware at all times and engaging all representative cultures in our mission.

Value Diversity: At 39% Latino and 47% African-American, NativityMiguel Schools collectively educate a diverse population.  Over 2/3 of our schools, however, serve either a predominantly (defined as >70%) Latino or African-American population.  While we deliver an education that is accessible to the students we serve, if we believe in the value of diversity, how can all of our students learn, respect and be in relationship with students from other cultures as well?

Advocate for Our Students: Many of our graduates may enroll in high schools with school cultures that reflect a predominantly Anglo population.  Our Graduate Support Directors advocate for our graduates by informing these high schools how to become more welcoming, culturally-aware and adaptive to the needs and identity of all students.

Excellence is a Priority for all families.  Regardless of variances in curriculum, instructional approaches, school culture, parent engagement and other systems, our education must begin with a commitment to excellence and lead to excellence in academic achievement and student formation.

Invest in adults.  The best way to animate long-term change is to invest in adults.  Our schools understand the dispositions necessary to be successful educators in our mission.  By spending the time and resources to mature these dispositions, we are developing teachers, care-givers, leaders and board members who will become invested in and build toward our vision.

It all starts with an invitation. In order to increase the number of faculty, board members or leaders who are persons of color, we need to extend a personal invitation to grads, community members, or students on campus of our higher education partners.  Is there a student graduating from college who would be great as a teacher?  Extend an invitation.  Is there a teacher in our schools who would be a great leader?  Extend an invitation to a leadership pipeline program such as Ready to Lead within the Coalition or the Remick Leadership Program at the University of Notre Dame or a similar program at one of many at our universities and college.

Seamless System of Education.  Our higher education institutions are willing and able partners to continue our K-12 educational mission.  Many, like St. Mary’s University in Winona, MN, are increasing the enrollment of underrepresented students by designing programs specifically targeted to meet the needs of the whole student.   Additionally, higher education is committed to linking the expertise and research priorities of their faculty to study what is working and apply their expertise to improve outcomes for more students and families. Schools of education at Boston College, Loyola Marymount University and Loyola Chicago have created centers to be directly engaged in this work.

Set goals and be accountable to them.  This is true at all levels: individual schools, diocesan schools office and national associations.  What is our goal for enrollment?  For high school graduation?  For college graduates who have come through a Catholic school system?  Have we been successful for all students or for particular student profiles? What are our goals for training and forming Latinos to be teachers and leaders?  As the National Catholic Educational Association (NCEA) rethinks and redefines its role, could a set of national strategic goals drive our work at the diocesan and school level?  Set the goals, ask for each diocese and sponsoring congregation to devise a plan as to how they will contribute toward the goals, and then act.

We all have a share.  We can not get stuck in our silos, even in our Coalition.  We are stronger together, learning from one another, determining the best use of resources to have the greatest impact with the maximum number of students and families.  By working together, in 5 years, 10 years and 25 years, we can realize a positive trajectory of a growing number of Latino families and children receiving a Catholic education.

Think abundance not deficit.  The National Summit is testament that there is much happening already for us to build upon.   This is not about what we are not doing.  It is about what we are doing well and being more efficient with resources, time and knowledge to do better for more students and families who deserve and desire a quality, Catholic education.

* The National Summit on Catholic Schools Serving Hispanic Families was sponsored by the Roche Center for Catholic Education of the Lynch School of Education at Boston College on September 19-21, 2016 in Boston.  Tad Smith, Executive Director of the San Miguel School of Chicago, and Sonya Arriola, President at Sacred Heart Nativity School in San Jose, CA represented their schools and the NativityMiguel Coalition.  Terry Shields, Director of the Coalition also participated in the Summit.


Bringing the Light

nora6Ten years ago, Nora Cronin Presentation Academy opened its doors to young women in Newburgh, NY who are entering 5th grade.  I attended a celebration at the school a couple of weeks ago to commemorate the founding Sisters who met the challenge of starting the school and to retell the founding story of the dream and the people who mobilized the resources and partners to make it happen.  Students and alumni represented the school and community members read proclamations to honor the Sisters.  Several students guided visitors on a tour of the school afterward and one student was asked what this celebration meant to her: “It is amazing to know that these women want the best for us.”

While the story of Nora Cronin Presentation Academy is ten years old, the tradition in which it is rooted dates back to the mid-1700s.  Nano Nagle was the founder of the Presentation Sisters, and her story is foundational to the education and the school community:

Defying the Penal Laws [which denied Catholics the right to property, to education, to entry into the professions], Nano Nagle secretly set up a school in Cork, initially enrolling a class of thirty-five girls. From there the project grew.  Soon she had schools in other parts of Cork city. She employed teachers at her own expense to teach basic literacy and life-skills, while she travelled each day on foot to teach the catechism and to prepare her pupils for the sacraments. At night she would visit the poor in their homes, travelling the unlit lanes and dangerous, unprotected quays, offering what help she could. Her biographer tells us that ‘there was not a garret in Cork that she did not know’. Nano became affectionately known in the city as ‘The Lady of the Lantern’. (From the website

nora1There is an icon that is displayed in several places in the school – a poster in the meeting room, a large painting in the entry and a student-drawn banner on the third floor – that recalls this story, including one image of Nano Nagle carrying her lantern through the streets of Ireland.  This year, the school will honor the first two recipients of the Lantern Awards. It is a powerful metaphor to counter the poverty of Newburgh:  Let your light shine, and illuminate the way for your future and the community.   Even the school building reflects this tradition.  What was once a graffiti-ridden, decrepit house has been beautifully renovated as a bright space for learning.

Change and tradition are often seen as opposing forces; change threatens tradition and tradition blocks change.  For NativityMiguel Schools, however, these two forces have a collaborative relationship.   Tradition is the source of educational change that has impacted a generation of students and families in so many communities, and this change has only revived, strengthened, and animated the educational tradition of religious congregations and communities.  Our schools are firmly rooted in the past yet always looking forward to the future.

nora3Effective school leaders understand how to balance these two forces as a healthy synergy.  We do need to create new ways of delivering instruction, new curriculum for 21st century skills, new formative assessments that identify strengths and areas of growth, and new technology tools that support all of these.  Schools and school leaders, however, that are constantly introducing initiatives and rotating programs risk systems that are not aligned, confusion from faculty and staff and a fragmented educational vision overall.   These risks are mitigated when we know and stay rooted in what has worked in the past, and effective school leaders pay careful attention to the evidence that supports how the school is achieving what it set out to achieve and how the schools needs to improve.  In this environment, change is an opportunity to do more better without distracting from what we do well.

Like Nora Cronin Presentation Academy, our biggest breakthroughs, when we bring the brightest light, are anchored by tradition AND fueled by change.


Opting to Love and Care

optionsAnyone involved with one of our schools knows how powerful professional development and retreat experiences can be for a school community prior to the start of the school year.  Everything is fresh and new. Possibilities abound.  Aspirations and dreams are fueled by a prayerful imagination. Concerns and fears are countered with a shameless audacity. Most importantly, we know we are not alone as we are emboldened by seasoned colleagues and joined by new colleagues.

In preparation for the school year now underway, I facilitated retreats for faculty and staff of two member schools. At the St. James School in Philadelphia, we gathered in the chapel for morning prayer led by Andrew Kellner, the school’s chaplain, who read from the end of Chapter 6 of the Gospel of John:

Jesus knew from the beginning the ones who would not believe and the one who would betray him.  And he said, “For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by my Father.” As a result of this, many [of] his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him.

Jesus then said to the Twelve, “Do you also want to leave?”

Simon Peter answered him, “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God.”

Jesus answered them, “Did I not choose you twelve? Yet is not one of you a devil?” He was referring to Judas, son of Simon the Iscariot; it was he who would betray him, one of the Twelve.

This reading led into an interesting reflection as to what “options” Judas had in this situation.  Could Judas have shed the ‘devil’ label and surprised Jesus later by not betraying him?  Could he have weighed his options and chosen differently?

Now it can be well-argued that Jesus had deep insight into Judas’ heart, mind and soul that we do not have with those we encounter on an almost daily basis, such as students in the classroom, teachers in the school, or partners in the greater community.  We also may not know the full account of the conversations and redirects that Jesus may already have had with Judas over time to alter his ‘fixed mindset.’  Most likely, Jesus knew personally that neither he nor others could persuade Judas any differently at this point and that what was to unfold was the only route forward.

Nonetheless, Jesus’ response and message to the Twelve is perplexing. As educators, especially as we begin a new year with a clean slate, we think the best of each person even when we know there is much to focus on otherwise.  Even when it seems inevitable that an individual will make a disastrous decision with tough consequences, we continue to narrate a different possibility and offer and encourage positive, redeeming, dignified options that lead to growth and liberation rather than decay and defeat.

Unfortunately our students and families are often stuck in failed systems and faced with hopeless situations in which all options are unjust.  At the retreats we read an excerpt from Matthew Desmond’s book Evicted in which he depicts families who are caught in the vicious cycle of eviction: “First, the landlord would summon the sheriff, who would arrive with a gun, a team of movers, and a judge’s order saying the house was no longer hers. Then [the tenant] would be given two options: ‘truck’ or ‘curb.’  ‘Truck’ meant that her things would be loaded into an eighteen footer and checked into bonded storage. …  ‘Curb’ meant that the movers would pile everything onto the sidewalk.”   It should not be an option for our society to accept these options for our children and our response should be immediate and urgent or another generation of children will be trapped in defeat.

We can advocate for a more just society with systems that serve the best interest of families and children by modelling this in our schools  In NativityMiguel Schools, we take the time to understand the options that comprise each moment, day, week and year for our faculty, staff, students and families and the impact that those options have on their growth, learning and development.   We are determined that each educated person is capable of making the right decision if given reasonable options and the appropriate love and care.

Each year, a new class of students is welcomed into our schools, and in many ways, each new class is similar to ‘The Twelve.’  We know there will be difficult days of doubt and frustration with one of the Twelve or even all of the Twelve when our perception and our heart is most tested.  On these days Jesus’ human response may resonate with us as we take comfort by faulting ‘the devil.’ Yet, we are also reminded that all are invited into a world that is graced by the holy presence of God. We do not exist in a world of decay and defeat, we exist in God’s love and  it is through that love that our next step, word and action  flows if we are to bear the good news that each one of us is capable of our best self in a just world.

Representative Democracy

TNAA friend who teaches 5th grade on Cape Cod told me about a student who sat next to him on the bus on a field trip in Boston, a little over an hour away.  As they shared excitement about the day ahead, my friend asked, “Do you get to Boston often?”  Amazingly the response was, “Mr. —-, I have never been to Boston before, in fact, I have never even been off Cape before.”  There are two bridges that take you from Cape Cod to the rest of Massachusetts and until then this 5th grader had never been over either one.

We all may recall similar conversations with students in our school who rarely if ever leave their immediate neighborhoods.  Some have never been downtown, or to the art museum, science museum or children’s museum, or to the stadium to root on their favorite team, and fewer have been outside of the city for more than hour radius.  (Granted that some of our students have travelled far to reach our city and perhaps have travelled home to see family and relatives at different times.)

As Director of the NativityMiguel Coalition, I have the opportunity to visit and be welcomed into communities in 18 states, the District of Columbia and two Canadian provinces. On one particular flight en route to Pittsburgh from Boston through Newark, I was taken by the views upon approach, the open spaces of the Northern New Jersey suburbs with schools, parks and golf courses melding with the more densely populated neighborhoods with the row houses and corner stores and schools and parks. From this viewpoint you see the roofs of all the building, viewpoints that you don’t see on a regular basis (though as one school leader said, the roof is a view that he has seen more than he’d like to). It is pure brilliance when you consider all the systems that needed to be constructed to make this work, and the minds that planned it and the hands that executed that plan.

Continuing on with fresh eyes, I was amazed as you come upon the entrance to the Hudson River with New York City in the background.  Massive ships are docked with stacked containers of goods coming from or going to another destination.  Large oil containers and refineries sit next to them ready to fuel the movement of people heading out in buses and cars to urgent appointments or casual fun.   When you arrive to the airport, the daily operations of our country is equally pronounced with flights heading out across the country filled with travelers, each with a story of something to do and someone to see.

The energy that is required to move forward each day is incredible; the minds that make the decisions that keep the systems running most days without incident, the sweat of those who work tirelessly on the ground, and the hearts that are required to do so with love and trust.   Perhaps we take all of this for granted as we age and mature.  Yet, as educators, perhaps we need to see again with the awesome eyes of a child to understand the critical role of our educational mission.

This is what our schools do.  Our students know absolutely that they belong and that they are valued. Our students are awakened to the opportunities that lie ahead within this grand, complex system and understand that with the right mindset and investment now they will be positioned to achieve and contribute in a positive way in the future.

On that trip to Pittsburgh, I was heading to visit The Neighborhood Academy.  The Rev. Thomas Johnson, Co-founder and Principal of the school, led Prayer and Worship that morning in the chapel.  The Rev., as the students call him, spoke to the students about the paradox of “I am Responsible” and “We are not Fully in Control.”  This is challenging for all of us to accept no matter what age or maturity and this tension exists in formation and development of our students.

It is because of this tension that prayer and community are so meaningful.   The Rev. recalled the words of CS Lewis in his reflection that morning: “Prayer does not change the situation, prayer changes me.”  This also refers to positive change in the community when voices are amplified in prayerful harmony.  Later, Tom will capture the value of the congregation in one succinct statement:  “I am because we are.”  The “I” can be read as the strength that an individual finds in community and also as the powerful presence of God that is revealed when we come together.  That afternoon, prior to the Orange-Blue Games, the entire school community gathered around a staff member to bless her new endeavors as she was departing for another position .   This image (above) is affirmation to the NativityMiguel Schools belief that each of us belongs and is vital to this world.

To advance the academic application of this spiritual foundation, The Rev. teaches a humanities course to sophomores at the school entitled Ethics, Origins of the Law, the Constitution & Capitalism.  The goal is to inform students of how society has organized itself and to confirm their place in a Representative Democracy. The aim is to give them the social capital, knowledge and skills to participate in our economic, political and judicial systems and to know the vision for a just society so they can speak out against injustice.  The class that I observed engaged students in thinking about the individual’s role in the circular system of lending and borrowing money.    Any homeowner with a mortgage likely understands the paradox “I am Responsible” yet “I am not Fully in Control.”

evictedDuring my visit, I was reading the book Evicted by Matthew Desmond that examines the downward spiral of eviction in our society.  I strongly recommend the read for any board member, leader, faculty or staff member in our schools.  Many of our families may likely have been evicted or know friends and families that have been in this situation.  Unfortunately the loss of home can negatively impact health, jobs and education which only increases the likelihood of further instability in the home.  While students living in poverty are more familiar with these systems and may be resigned that this is the world to which they belong, NativityMiguel Schools counter that view with a mindset, a lens, a voice and a heart that offers a more just and hopeful vision of their place in the world.

A very fitting, happy 4th of July!

Networked Improvement Communities


Three questions guide improvement science in schools and organizations:

  1. 1. What specifically are we trying to accomplish?
    2. What change might we introduce and why?
    3. How will we know that a change is actually an improvement?

While many organizations are engaged in this work on their own, improvement spreads much more rapidly through networked communities.

This is the final principle of improvement science; improvement is accelerated when organizations are connected and sharing success and challenges.  If one organization is able to learn from the improvement (or obstacles that impaired improvement) of another organizations, then they are able to apply that understanding and build from those lessons learned.

This is naturally the purpose, aim and work of the NativityMiguel Coalition.  We are stronger together than we are as a single school because we are able to learn from one another, adapt practice for our own use, and then advance the conversation by contributing our own learnings.

As I have stated before, the NativityMiguel Coalition is essentially a group of crowd-sourcing school leaders.  Each NativityMiguel school is independently governed as we believe that students are best served when each school has the autonomy and ability to deliver an education based on local need, resources and personnel.  Instead of being accountable to a detailed set of standards that define our educational model, schools commit to a set of four core beliefs and share successful practices with other schools around these core beliefs.  The Graduate Support Program has been developed over many years not as a mandate that was prescribed from a national office but through on-going discussion and learning by networked Graduate Support Directors.   Similarly, our schools continue to learn how to operate and thrive as a private, faith-based school with a non-tuition-driven financial model and look to one another for guidance and support.   As testament to sharing that learning, many of our schools have been operating for 15+ and 20+ years.

Within this structure, schools are able to maximize local growth and national learning.  This networking and exchange of ideas is only helpful if we know that we are learning from and building on academic achievement and excellence in formation.   As a Coalition of schools, we need to know where we are excelling and then equip our schools with the necessary tools and knowledge to improve on our mission to break the cycle of poverty through faith-based education for each student and family in our community.