As our state continues to discuss reforming the public education system, it is worth looking at a system that is working today in educating and developing students prepared for college and a lifetime quest to achieve excellence in learning, service and life. That system is our Catholic schools.
Our Catholic schools began in Boise in 1877 with St. Josephs School, followed in 1889 with St. Teresas Academy. Over the years, St. Josephs has been joined by four additional Catholic elementary schools, serving students in pre-K through 8th grade: Sacred Heart, St. Marys, St. Marks and St. Pauls in Nampa. In 1964, St. Teresas became Bishop Kelly High School.
Treasure Valley Catholic schools today enroll nearly 2,000 students in pre-K through 12th grade. Our schools serve a diverse population with more than 25 percent of Catholic school families receiving some form of need-based tuition assistance and more than 20 percent from other faiths.
As we celebrate Catholic Schools Week nationwide, the theme of Faith. Academics. Service highlights the fact that Catholic schools are significant contributors to our American society with high academic standards, high graduation and high college go on and completion rates.
Our mission in our Catholic schools is to educate and develop the whole student in the Catholic tradition spirit, mind and body. In the spirit, we focus on developing a relationship with Jesus Christ which manifests itself through service; a knowledge of the teachings of the Catholic Church; an ability to evaluate moral choices and issues based on a well-formed conscience; and, an appropriate respect for the beliefs of others.
In the mind part of our mission, through small class sizes, personalized attention, and exceptional teachers, we focus on developing a capacity for creativity, critical thinking, questioning, and reflective problem solving; an ability to effectively communicate in both written and oral forms; a firm grasp of technology; and, an appreciation for the power of positive self-expression through the arts and literature.
Finally, in the body portion of our mission, we help develop a recognition that ones body is a gift from God; the responsibility to treat ones own body with modesty and respect; an ability to establish physical, social, and emotional boundaries; a lifetime commitment to healthful nutrition and physical activity; and, a dedication to physical balance, harmony, and self-control.
The results of this preparation and focus are that more than 98 percent of our high school graduates go on to college. In addition, more than 80 percent of our 150 graduates of 2012 received merit-based scholarships that totaled $14 million. Our average test scores put us in the top 10 percent of the country and make up the top scores in Idaho. More than 70 percent of our students are involved in extracurricular activities. And they have won numerous state and national championships. Finally, our students are learning to be compassionate and involved citizens through service hours to deserving projects and programs in our community.
Catholic schools are preparing students to be the future leaders in our communities, businesses and professions. Catholic schools really are the choice you can believe in.
Rich Raimondi is president of Bishop Kelly High School, and Bob Sobotta is superintendent of the Diocese of Boise Catholic Schools.