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Magnetic Catholic Schools (02/24/2010)
From: Will Gibson

Winona is blessed with a strong network of Catholic schools which provides families faith-based, academically rigorous, and culturally enriching opportunities to grow in mind, body and spirit. This month began with Catholic Schools Week, culminating in Bishop Quinn leading an all-city Mass. We followed that with Fr. Colletti’s tremendous WACS Mardi Gras dinner, student fun nights, open houses, Ash Wednesday services and the beginnings of Lent. At Cotter, we have reflected upon and celebrated the significant impact our schools have in this community.

Rightfully, local education is currently receiving significant attention. Recent dialogue has mentioned the benefits of a challenging, intensive focus on math and science curriculum in Winona, a conversation we applaud. At Cotter, our curriculum offers just this focus. Today, Cotter offers 18 honors level and Advanced Placement courses, with particular emphasis on challenging math and science classes. The strength of these programs has indeed acted as a magnet, helping to draw 90 international students to our campus and, through daily interaction with them, all of our students gain better understanding of world cultures.

We are Cotter. This phrase embodies our school’s essence; Cotter is foremost a caring community. Students know and are known by their peers, teachers, and school administrators. Students belong at Cotter. Our size allows students to participate in sports, service, and the arts without compromising their academics. Cotter students enjoy learning, with many arriving more than an hour before classes begin and staying long after school lets out. In a letter to the editor, Kim Schmidt showed the correlation to small school size and student success rate, encouraging readers to visit www.smallschoolsproject.org. Our strong test scores, highly involved students and parents, and positive energy lend credibility to that research.

It is true that today, like our public school system, Cotter’s enrollment is smaller than it was ten years ago. While this is dictated by smaller families and demographic trends, as small Catholic schools we continually seek to develop active thinkers and informed difference makers. With a spirit of innovation, next year Cotter will teach an additional eighth class period per day, beginning school earlier each morning to do so. We are constantly seeking to improve, and our faculty has accepted this increased workload for the benefit of our students. Our families make significant financial commitments towards tuition, and generous benefactors continually fund scholarships making Catholic education affordable for all who seek it.

Cotter Schools is proud to join with Saint Mary’s Primary, Saint Stanislaus Elementary, and Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota to provide a Catholic educational choice in Winona. As National Catholic Schools Week’s organizer Karen Ristau, says, “Catholic schools provide good things for students and families—high expectations and daily experience of faith. In these challenging times, we remind parents that the dividends of a Catholic school education—students prepared in faith, knowledge, morals and discipline—last a lifetime. There is no better way to invest in a child’s future—or the future of our world.” At Cotter, we agree wholeheartedly.



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