Mary Queen of Saints kindergarten teacher Patty Springer works one-on-one with students to help them develop reading skills.
Faith and family are at the heart of Seton Catholic Schools. Both are vital to creating a vibrant learning environment for students that allows them to grow and flourish to reach their God-given potential.
When Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki and Dr. Kathleen Cepelka, Emeritus Superintendent of Schools, first laid the foundation for Seton Catholic Schools, the community was at the heart of their vision, Kristen Foster, Chief Schools Officer for Seton Catholic Schools, explained.
“They knew that if a Catholic school or parish was flourishing in a neighborhood, those communities thrived,” Foster said. “That sense of community drives us each day. Family engagement is important, and we try to ensure families have access to resources to meet those most basic needs, such as housing, food and second language classes when needed. If we can help our community and help uplift them, the children are uplifted in response.”
First and foremost is helping students understand God’s love for them through the Catholic faith, and in turn grow in love of God and others. Each of Seton’s 12 schools are supported by parishes. The connection between parish and school is crucial to the sustainability of Catholic parish schools.
According to Foster, hiring a Director of Mission and Catholic Identity helped solidify the integration of faith with education inside and outside the classroom.
“We have Spark teachers who fully embrace our Catholic faith and who focus on igniting the Holy Spirit to make sure it comes alive in the schools,” she said. “We celebrate weekly Mass, holy days (and) incorporate religion into the curriculum. And we teach students what it means to be faith leaders.”
In addition to instilling faith-based education, Seton schools offer high-quality education tailored to the needs of each student. Student test scores are a testament to the rigorous curriculum. A 33-percent increase in reading scores over the past two years and a 50-percent increase in math scores demonstrates Seton’s commitment to academic excellence for its 3,000 students. That dedication has resulted in some of the top schools in the city, with six five-star schools.
Academic growth begins with a team leader at each school who focuses on assisting first-year teachers. “The leader makes sure new teachers receive coaching, understand how to educate students in small groups, read data, differentiate instruction and are committed to aligning our education across all 12 schools,” said Foster. “All of our great teachers collaborate monthly and each has a partner teacher. This enables a teacher to share materials or strategies that have helped them with their partner.”
Each campus also has a master teacher who takes on extra academic leadership roles, helps coach teachers and serves as the next candidates for leadership in Seton. “We are looking to grow from within and when a leadership position opens, we’ll have a strong educator ready to move into these positions,” said Foster.
Each Seton school participates in the Wisconsin or Milwaukee Parental Choice Program, which offers parents the chance to choose a Catholic education for their children.
Long term, Seton plans to grow to 20 schools, Foster said. St. Adalbert is the newest Seton School and will join in the fall of 2023.
“We are excited to have 12 schools and grow in our mission and beauty of Seton. We have schools in all four corners of Milwaukee — there is no other organization or family of schools like this,” she said. “We recently had an all-school Mass this year with Archbishop Listecki at the Al McGuire Center and had 19 concelebrants. This helped the children see they are part of something much larger and are all connected in God’s love. The love of God is in everything we do, from academics to communities, to social well-being, to faith celebration and, all combined, has made us a successful and beautiful vision.”