Notre Dame launches new partnership program in Tucson Catholic schools

Author: Christian Dallavis

Alliance for Catholic Education

The Diocese of Tucson and the University of Notre Dame have agreed to designate three Tucson parish Catholic schools as the nation’s first Notre Dame ACE Academy (NDAA) schools.

The Most Reverend Gerald F. Kicanas, Bishop of the Diocese of Tucson, and Notre Dame representatives will announce the designation on Friday (Jan. 29) at the Diocese of Tucson Pastoral Center.

The NDAA partnership marks a significant deepening of the Notre Dame relationship with the Diocese of Tucson begun in 2001, when the University began providing teachers to Tucson Catholic schools through Notre Dame’s Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE) program.

The NDAA model is oriented around the three pillars of ACE: educational excellence, the experience of community, and faith formation in the Catholic tradition.

By designating St. Ambrose, St. John the Evangelist, and Santa Cruz as NDAA schools, ACE and the diocese seek to achieve comprehensive excellence in these three schools by implementing a unique model of Catholic schooling.

ACE faculty and staff will work closely with NDAA schools and diocesan leaders to boost enrollment and enhance school leadership, curriculum, instruction, professional development, financial management, marketing and Catholic identity.

The Tucson schools are the first NDAA schools in the nation, though ACE hopes to expand the model to other cities in the future. Bishop Kicanas invited ACE to consider Tucson as the inaugural site for the NDAA concept. The city was selected after a comprehensive feasibility study showed strong local support for the partnership and affirmed the schools’ capacity to serve area students effectively, particularly through the opportunities created by Arizona’s private school tax credit.

The NDAA initiative is led at Notre Dame by ACE’s director of university-school partnerships, Rev. Joseph Corpora, C.S.C., a Holy Cross priest and former pastor with nearly 20 years experience in parishes and schools effectively serving Latinos. The director of the NDAA initiative at Notre Dame is Christian Dallavis, a former Catholic school teacher who now prepares teachers for Catholic schools and conducts educational research on faith-based schooling in Latino communities. The project is funded by a generous grant from the Walton Family Foundation, with support from the University and private benefactors as well.

“We are just delighted about deepening our partnership with Bishop Kicanas and the Diocese of Tucson,” said Rev. Timothy R. Scully, C.S.C., founder of ACE and director of the Institute for Educational Initiatives at Notre Dame. “St. John, St. Ambrose and Santa Cruz have served the families of Tucson for many years, and we are thrilled about the increased opportunities this Notre Dame family of schools will offer for years to come.”

“This partnership has the potential to make an important difference in the lives of hundreds of families,” said Rachel Moreno, a faculty member in Notre Dame’s ACE program and advisor to the Notre Dame ACE Academy project who was born in Tucson and still resides there. “Catholic schools do so much to enliven parish and civic communities, and Notre Dame is committed to extending the Catholic school advantage to as many children as possible in our community.”

For more information about the Notre Dame ACE Academies, visit

Contact: Christian Dallavis,, 574-631-4962