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Local Catholic schools participate in STEM initiatives

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BOSTON -- Lieutenant Governor Timothy Murray and state education leaders hosted the four Catholic School Superintendents of Massachusetts at the State House, March 28, to discuss advancing the participation of students in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics initiatives (STEM).

Dr. Mary Grassa O'Neill, secretary of education for the Archdiocese of Boston; Dr. Delma Josephson of the Diocese of Worcester; Sister Andrea Ciszewski, FSSJ, of the Diocese of Springfield; and Dr. Michael Griffin of the Diocese of Fall River met with the lieutenant governor and Massachusetts education officials in the Governor's Conference Room in the Executive Office Suite at the State House in Boston.

O'Neill said the meeting initiated a process to create awareness between the state, public schools, and charter schools that Catholic schools will be participating in STEM initiatives in Massachusetts.

She said the next step will be that state educational leaders will notify regional STEM offices in Massachusetts.

O'Neill said the meeting established a precedent for the archdiocese to participate in STEM related meetings and initiatives on that level.

"STEM is a very important initiative in Massachusetts. For my entire career, I have known how important engineering, technology, math and science are to the curriculum. Those are the emerging fields. Those are the places where there are jobs," she said.

O'Neill said advancing STEM in Massachusetts Catholic schools remains crucial in preparing students for careers and interactions as technology advances.

"Life is always changing (and) rapidly changing in those particular areas. So for our students, we are very, very interested in those areas of the curriculum. We have many initiatives going on to improve kids' understanding of science, technology, engineering and math," said O'Neill.

She pointed to the Archdiocese of Boston Catholic schools as innovators in such technology focused educational methods as one-to-one educational programs.

"We work with young people. We have to engage them, and they learn digitally," she said.

She said she attended a workshop for high school principals and presidents about technology in education at Cardinal Spellman High School in Brockton, which has a one-to-one technology educational program.

O'Neill said the teacher of an ancient history class presented the audience with a picture of the coliseum in a textbook and on a mobile device, to demonstrate the importance of interactive technology in the classroom.

"The picture is the same, but then I can say to the students, 'Would you like to walk around the coliseum?'" she said, recalling the teacher's description.

The training and support for the initiative in the archdiocese extends beyond just teaching students and beyond just technology initiatives according to O'Neill.

"We also have a donor who has stepped up and offered us training for our math teachers. Our math teachers this summer are going to get to go to an Exeter math program taught by teachers at Phillips Exeter Academy," she said.

But O'Neill also stated the importance of the technology focus in the broader context of STEM.

"The whole world seems to be going digital. Science, technology, engineering and math are more important than ever to our society. We need to make sure our youngsters are really well trained, and they are prepared to enter into this very rapidly changing world," O'Neill said.

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