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Bishop McNamara High School launched this year the St. Andre Program whose mission is to support students with intellectual disabilities in an inclusive setting. The St. Andre program believes that all students deserve opportunities to maximize their academic, social and spiritual potential that supports Bishop McNamara's wider mission to educate hearts and minds in a dynamic, inclusive Catholic school community rooted in the Holy Cross tradition. To become a fully inclusive school, educational leaders at Bishop McNamara have sought through partners such as the Catholic Coalition for Special Education, this year's recipient of the Elizabeth Ann Seton Award for Excellence in Catholic Education from the National Catholic Education Association, to institute best practices and learn from other school leaders who have made their school fully inclusive through the entry of students with intellectual disabilities.
A Catholic leader in inclusive education that has partnered with and made an impact here at Bishop McNamara is Dr. Raul Escarpio, who is one of the nation's leading experts in inclusive Catholic education. Dr. Escarpio is the director of Shepherd Educational Consulting (CatholicEd4All), a faith-based consulting company that works with Catholic dioceses, schools, and families nationwide to help develop and implement systems in schools where students with disabilities can thrive and succeed. He is a product of Catholic schools and served as an educator in the public-school system with students of all ability levels for over 13 years. He later made the transition to the college level where he now prepares special education teachers. During his current time as a college professor, he has become involved with community groups that support families of children with special needs including as chairman of the board for a parent resource center in Miami that services parents of children and adults with disabilities.
As a member of the National Catholic Education Association's (NCEA) Exceptional Learners Committee, he hosts a weekly podcast on Catholic special education (CatholicEd4All) where he interviews nationwide leaders in Catholic special education including archbishops, superintendents, directors, teachers, and students. These guests share best practices in creating inclusive schoolwide programs. This year, three people from Bishop McNamara - Mrs. Abigail Greer, Director of Student Support, Dr. Marco Clark, President/CEO, and Mrs. Michelle Tetschner, parent of Raymond Tetschner '21 and author of Fully Included-Stories to Inspire Inclusion, have each been guests on Dr. Escarpio's show. Each program focused around the individual's area of expertise and experience of leading the way forward toward becoming a fully inclusive learning community here at Bishop McNamara (to listen to these three Podcasts (74, 80, and 81) as well as the full set of interviews conducted by Dr. Escarpio on the topic of inclusive education in Catholic schools, please visit this link).
Bishop McNamara is grateful to Dr. Raul Escarpio and Shepherd Educational Consulting for their important and pioneering work in Catholic inclusive education and to our own leaders in the St. Andre Program who make the dream of a Bishop McNamara education possible for children with intellectual disabilities, a program worthy of our vision to form empowered leaders, inspired by the Gospel, who transform the world.