Catholic educators award St. Madeleine Sophie's Dan Sherman for inclusive curriculum

A Factoria Catholic school's principal was awarded honors this summer for policies fostering an inclusive campus.

Dan Sherman is the principal of St. Madeleine Sophie, a campus opened in 2005 with a mission to welcome a diverse student populace: ethnically, economically and academically.

The perception, Sherman said, was that Catholic and private school students on the Eastside were a homogenous group of white and privileged children who came into school with academic advantages.

“If you apply to some schools and have an academic need, you’re the equivalent of a square peg in a round hole,” Sherman said.

But the founders of St. Madeleine Sophie knew the area was more diverse than people might realize. For example, Factoria was a hub for Korean Catholics on the Eastside.

The school was opened with smaller classrooms, teachers trained in special education, and a “pay what you’re able” tuition model. Sherman estimated 80 percent of his school’s 200 students pay less than full tuition, with the deficit made up by donations and archdiocese contributions.

Forty percent of the student body, developmentally challenged and highly capable alike, study under a personalized education plan.

The Edward M. Shaughnessy III Serving All God's Children Award was given to Sherman at the National Catholic Educational Association's Education Law Symposium in Kentucky.

Additionally, social entrepreneurs nonprofit Ashoka International has recognized Sherman's St. Madeleine Sophie School as one of its first 10 "Changemaker" schools for its social skills curriculum.

St. Madeleine Sophie is a participant in the Roots of Empathy program, developed in Toronto, Canada in 1996. The program demonstrates empathic principles to students by encouraging them to recognize emotional reactions and development in a baby brought into the classroom over the course of an academic year.

Ashoka will continue to watch its early Changemaker schools to monitor results and recommend best practices for other institutions.

Sherman said his school has been able to implement new programs because it’s relatively young.

"With other Catholic schools, a lot of the time I think its a fear thing that keeps them from trying different methods," Sherman said. "‘We don’t know how to do this so we won’t try.’ That’s not a knock against them though. It’s only been possible for us because we started fresh with the intent to try new things."



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