SCRANTON — The Diocese of Scranton heralded in the new 2022-23 academic year two weeks ago when it enthusiastically welcomed back 4,430 students enrolled in 19 Catholic schools. There are four high schools and 15 elementary schools in the Diocesan educational system.

“Each school year we look forward to the excitement of new beginnings. This is especially true this year as we are able to enjoy more activities and celebrate the many successes of our students together,” Diocesan Secretary of Catholic Education/ Superintendent of Schools Kristen Donohue expressed. “We are looking forward to sharing these positive experiences with our school families.

With the start of a new school year, Donohue said, there is a renewed focus on the spiritual, academic and emotional growth of students. On a daily basis, Diocesan schools strive to strengthen their connection with Christ, as well as provide ways for students to collaborate, think critically and demonstrate their creativity.

“As we work with our students on these 21st-century skills, we do so as Christ would, with kind hearts and an awareness of the social and emotional needs of all involved,” the superintendent remarked. “We are blessed to have the most dedicated and compassionate administrators, teachers and staff.”

New Principal at Holy Family

On the administrative level, the Diocese welcomed a new principal to the helm of Holy Family Academy elementary school in Hazleton.

Thomas Kostic, a U.S. Air Force veteran with extensive experience in Catholic education, was recently appointed to the position after serving as a longtime faculty member at the former Bishop Hafey High School in Hazleton, where he was also director of religious formation.

Since then, Kostic, who is on track to be ordained a Permanent Deacon for the Diocese in November, has filled the roles of DRE and athletic director at Holy Family Academy. He has also served as acting principal on three occasions during his 32 years with Diocesan schools.

“Catholic education is different than public education, (and) that difference makes all the difference,” Kostic noted. “I would not be in the school business if I was not in the Catholic system.”

The new principal envisions a steady progression toward normalcy since the COVID-19 outbreak.

“We just celebrated our opening school liturgy with all grades in attendance. This was the first time in three years,” he said.

Social, Emotional Skills Learning

One of the many initiatives Scranton Diocesan schools are extremely proud of as the new academic year begins is the implementation of Social Emotional Learning (SEL) programs in Catholic schools.

According to Kara Kennedy Ware, principal of Saint Clare/Saint Paul School, Scranton, SEL is the process by which young people and adults acquire and apply the knowledge, skills and attitudes to develop healthy identities, manage emotions and achieve personal and collective goals.

“SEL emphasizes empathy for others, while establishing and maintaining supportive relationships and making responsible and caring decisions,” Ware explained.

She continued by highlighting four major points to cite why SEL is a crucial part of a school’s curriculum: relationships provide a foundation for learning; emotions affect how and what we learn; social and emotional skills can be taught; and SEL has a positive impact on academic performance, health, relationships and citizenship.

“SEL programming has truly become a focal point at Saint Clare/Saint Paul School,” Ware said. “We know that if we address the SEL pieces first, then true learning can occur with all of our students at every grade level.”