Catholic schools focus on strategic plan

As the 2014-2015 school year rolls to a start, the big news for education in the Diocese of Charleston is the upcoming comprehensive strategic plan to tackle school improvement.

Sandra Leatherwood, director of Catholic education, said a task force has been formed and will hold its first meeting on Sept. 30 at Christ Our King-Stella Maris School. It consists of 15 school, church and community leaders, with John Palms, former president of the University of South Carolina, as chairman.

In the first phase, the task force will spend about a year gathering information and developing a plan to revitalize and strengthen schools. They will meet with principals and pastors on Oct. 15 in Myrtle Beach to receive their input, and then hold input sessions in all the deaneries, Leatherwood said.

Once the comprehensive plan is developed, a second board will be created to devise an implementation process.

It’s a wrap
In other school news, several projects wrapped up this past year, including the opening of John Paul II Catholic School in Ridgeland, which currently serves seventh through 10th grades. They will advance a grade each year until they are a full high school.

Up and coming
Across the state in the Pee Dee, another high school continues to develop.

St. Elizabeth Ann Seton High School in Myrtle Beach is close to reaching its fundraising goal of $3.5 million and is still working toward the challenge goal of $5 million. Leatherwood said a projected opening date is set for the 2016-2017 school year. Visit the school’s webpage at

New principals
Schools in the diocese held steady this year, with only two leadership changes.
JOHN PAUL II—As previously reported, Sister Pamela Smith, SSCM, agreed to take on the role as principal of John Paul II in Ridgeland. She took the reins in December 2013 and will continue to offer spiritual and academic leadership into the future. Sister Pam also serves as secretary education and faith formation for the diocese, overseeing all of the education departments.
ST. JOSEPH SCHOOL—Donavan Yarnall was chosen for the top spot at St. Joseph in Columbia. He served as an elementary principal for seven years, most recently at Saint Simon the Apostle in Indianapolis, Ind., which received the state’s highest recognition as a four-star school. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree, plus Master of Education and Specialist in Education degrees.

Cardinal Newman began site work on its new campus on Alpine Road in June, which includes grading and leveling the land, putting in roads and driveways and preparing athletic fields. Construction is expected to begin once site work is completed.

School choice
The St. Thomas Aquinas Scholarship Fund is a huge success, collecting $1.2 million as of June 30, said Michael Acquilano, director of the South Carolina Catholic Conference. So far, the organization has disbursed and allocated for future years over $1.15 million, with more scholarships still to come. The fund was created to serve children designated by the state’s school choice legislation, which at this time serves only special needs children. Acquilano said they are pushing to include low-income children in the school choice legislation.

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