The Catholic Diocese of Memphis is moving forward with plans for a significant new initiative to
enhance academics and student life at Memphis Catholic Middle and High School.
"The initiative will enable Memphis Catholic to serve more students and offer greater academic rigor," said Bishop J. Terry Steib, SVD. "Educational standards are rising here in Tennessee and across America. So are expectations of student performance," said Bishop Steib, who taught high school early in his career. "For 90 years, Memphis Catholic has helped students grow physically and intellectually, emotionally and spiritually. Our renewed commitment prepares Memphis Catholic to offer a 21st-century education, informed by our faith, to students for decades to come."
More than 8,000 students, pre-K through high school, attend 28 area Catholic schools, including parish, private and diocesan schools. The school system in the Memphis Diocese includes six local high schools: Bishop Byrne, Christian Brothers High School, Immaculate Conception Cathedral School, Memphis Catholic, St. Agnes Academy and St. Benedict at Auburndale.
As part of the initiative, operations at Bishop Byrne Middle and High School will conclude this spring. Bishop Byrne's Class of 2013 will be the last graduates of the 46-year-old school, and students in grades 7 through 11 will be encouraged to apply to Memphis Catholic or other schools in the system. The decision comes after years of rising costs and decreasing enrollment.
"Our students come first. As educators, we work to help students learn, grow and succeed. As decision- makers, we work to make wise choices about resources," said Catholic Schools Superintendent Janet Donato. "Our focused investments will create a stronger, more vibrant, more competitive Memphis Catholic and will pay far greater dividends for students, our system, our diocese and our whole community than continuing to do what we have always done."
In the near term, Memphis Catholic will work to:
These changes are important," Donato said. "They enhance the academic environment and challenge students to achieve more ambitious goals. They support teachers so they may better prepare students for the future. They reflect rising expectations and require greater accountability. They demonstrate the kind of school we want Memphis Catholic to be."
Donato expressed confidence in Nick Green, MEd, MA, who is in his first year as principal at Memphis Catholic. Green holds graduate degrees in education and education administration and undergraduate degrees in anthropology and theology from the University of Notre Dame. He is responsible for leading the initiative.
"This new commitment will help us accelerate the pace of positive change that our students and their families have seen in recent years," said Green, who started teaching and coaching basketball at Memphis Catholic in 2005.
"I encourage students from Bishop Byrne and other schools to visit our campus and talk with our students. There is a spirit here, something special here. We want others to share in that spirit with us," he said. "Through our Catholic identity, our community life and our academic rigor, we are creating a special place where kids can learn, grow and recognize their potential."
The Memphis Catholic initiative comes at a time when its students have distinguished themselves in the classroom and across the community.
During the past four years, 100 percent of Memphis Catholic graduates have been accepted to colleges and universities, and 65 percent of the most recent graduating class received merit-based scholarships to assist with the expenses of higher education. In addition, students at Memphis Catholic recently earned national Jefferson Award recognition for their community service activities in two consecutive years, making the school one of only three in America to achieve this distinction.
Located at 61 N. McLean, Memphis Catholic operates from a campus in the heart of the city, near the geographical center of the diocesan schools in the Catholic school system.
Memphis Catholic is intended for students who plan to attend college. Although the school is part of the Catholic school system, it is open to students of all faiths. Admission decisions are based on results from the student's admissions test, previous academic performance, teacher recommendations and student/family interviews.
"We are focused on doing what is best for our students," Donato said. "That means we must look at what we do and how we do it. And sometimes, that means we have to make changes to achieve what is best for our students, our system and our community in the long run."