Brady Lessard of Sacred Heart Catholic Church in New Smyrna Beach feels blessed by the Catholic education he received as a child. He knew he wanted to give the same gift to his children. Today, the father of five sons is doing just that, with two of his sons enrolled at Father Lopez Catholic High School in Daytona Beach and the three younger boys at Sacred Heart Catholic School.
“The education, not only academically, but spiritually, is incredible,” Lessard said. “There is a genuine commitment to shaping not just good students, but good kids.”
Brady and his wife, Lisa, are not alone in their desire to give their children an education based on high academic standards and steeped in the love of God and the faith of our Church. Henry Fortier, secretary of the Education Secretariat and superintendent of Catholic schools in the Diocese of Orlando, said many parents throughout the diocese are choosing Catholic schools for their sons and daughters.
In fact, enrollment in the diocese’s 37 schools is up 273 students – a 2.5 percent increase — from the 2013-2014 academic year. Elementary schools noted an increase of 81 students, while high schools numbers were up 193 students, and pre-K programs up 38 students.
“I am very pleased that for the fourth year in a row we have had enrollment gains,” Fortier said. “Although some schools lost students while others noted significant gains, overall it shows that there is a need in our communities not just for quality education, because there are other schools that provide quality education, but education that is rooted in our faith and in our values.”
Nationally, enrollment during the 2013-2014 academic year declined 1.4 percent from the previous year, according to the United States Catholic Elementary & Secondary Schools 2013-2014 report, the most recent annual statistical account of school enrollment and staffing, published by the National Catholic Educational Association (NCEA). Since 2003, enrollment has decreased 22.7 percent overall across all regions of the country, with the largest declines being felt in the Midwest and Great Lakes areas.
Fortier credits the teachers and administrators with keeping the diocesan schools strong.
“I cannot speak highly enough about our principals for their passion in the ministry and our teachers’ dedication,” Fortier said. “We strive to set a foundation of excellence. To me, the increase in enrollment is validation that we are doing is making a difference.”
“My family and I feel blessed to be part of the Catholic school system here in the diocese,” Lessard said. “We look forward to many more years of learning and shaping by the wonderful staff we have in our schools. We’re also very excited to see our kids go out into the world as they graduate and become young adults.
“The Catholic education that they are receiving is a gift that will last a lifetime, and we’re confident that someday, they will pass it along to their children,” he added.
Did you know? According to National Catholic Educational Association, in 2013-2014, the Diocese of Orlando ranked 44th out of 176 dioceses in the nation for the number of students enrolled, and the state of Florida ranked 7th among the states.