A mother and her son from Prince of Peace School enjoy breakfast during Mexican Mother’s Day celebration.

Diana and Jose Mantejano sent their two daughters to St. Roman School in Milwaukee four years ago because Jose’s sister sent her older children there.

Both families live nearby and looked forward to helping each other out more easily with both family’s children — now seven in all — attending one school as the years passed.

But Diana Mantejano got much more than she bargained for — she has found that the St. Roman staff and parents closely work together to create a strong, faith-filled learning environment for children.

“It’s a whole village working together,” Diana said. “My daughters have that support all around them.”

St. Roman is part of Seton Catholic Schools, which offers extra support to 3,000 grade K3-8 children and their parents in 12 parish schools in greater Milwaukee.

It’s been Seton’s mission since 2016 to prepare children to attend high-performing high schools through rigorous, individualized instruction. Seton also understands how important it is for children, their parents, their teachers and other school staff to work together for academic success.

Parishes in the Seton Family of Catholic Schools sponsor their school which is operated by Seton. Major administrative functions such as enrollment, payroll, hiring, accounting, marketing, maintenance and more are handled by the Seton team.

This collaboration frees principals to focus on making academics as strong as possible. In the classroom, new teachers are matched with coaches and mentors and they receive professional development to help them grow their skills. With smaller class sizes, teachers at the 12 Seton Catholic Schools also can offer children more individual attention with the help of intensive testing that is analyzed closely to make sure children are learning. Seton schools use the rigorous MAP (Measures of Academic Progress) assessment three times a year. MAP measures what each child knows by customizing upcoming questions based on how well the student answered test questions. The testing data of each child is analyzed to determine strengths and weaknesses. Teachers create custom learning plans for each child and curriculum adjustments are made if broader needs are noted.

In addition, grade 3-8 children take part in Forward Testing that measures how they perform relative to Wisconsin state standards. Results from the Forward Exam indicate that our students are surpassing their peers.  Seton students score proficient or above on the Forward Exam at nearly twice the rate of public school students in Milwaukee.

The Mantejanos are very pleased with their daughters’ education.

“They’re doing great academically. Communication is a big thing,” Diana said. Teacher conferences are helpful, but Diana also appreciates how frequently teachers communicate with the help of a convenient, collaborative classroom phone app.

Communication, personalized attention and family involvement is stressed. For example, the Mantejanos are Catholic, but not members of St. Roman. The school connected them with the parish staff so their second grader, Elena, could complete First Communion preparation and receive the sacrament at the school’s parish.

“Their faith is something that is a part of them now,” Diana said. “They are learning to serve others as Jesus did.”

For example, when her youngest, Sofia, sees someone doing something kind, the first grader says, “Oh, that’s something Jesus would do.” Sofia also successfully gave up chocolate for all of Lent. “She was proud of herself,” Diana said, adding that she might have expected a first grader not to stick with that sacrifice.

Erika Ramirez and her husband, Jonathan Flores, have two sons who have attended another Seton family school, Prince of Peace School, since grade K4.

“My children are receiving a high-quality education. My family and I are very satisfied with the school because teachers are always willing to support my kids’ education in any possible way,” Ramirez said. “For example, they have programs to help students improve their English communication skills to increase their academic performance.”

Ramirez also is impressed with the school’s above-and-beyond efforts to help families.

Two years ago, Seton received grants to pilot a Family Engagement Collaborative Program at Prince of Peace. The program’s goal is to help students succeed by understanding and confronting the challenges of families. Seton hopes to eventually expand the program to all of its schools.

“The family engagement program led by Ms. Malena Torres has been very beneficial to our school community because it gives access to resources to improve our quality of life,” Ramirez said. “Housing, health and job fairs are just an example of the multiple ways that our families have access to free resources in the community.”

After parents expressed a need to learn English better, Peace of Prince began offering an onsite English as a Second Language program on school days.

“The ESL program has helped me develop my English communication skills to understand the American education system and support my children with homework,” Ramirez said. “For example, I can talk to my children’s teacher without an interpreter.”

At the same time, Ramirez appreciates that some school leaders are Hispanic, speak her family’s first language of Spanish and are good role models for her sons. Nearly all of the 371 children who attend Prince of Peace are Hispanic.

“The teachers and staff are welcoming and celebrate Hispanic culture, which is greatly appreciated because the school makes me feel at home,” Ramirez said.