I cannot remember a year in Catholic education that holds so much promise and excitement as the 2013-14 school year. The 23 diocesan schools are ready to welcome students back; our diocesan vision statement, the "Covenant to Educate," has kept our focus on six key areas of Catholic identity: teaching, learning, governance, partnerships, Church-school alliance and branding.

With schools located in seven of the Albany Diocese's 14 counties, we meet the needs of families over a wide geographic area. In 2012-13, the diocesan schools had their lowest decrease in enrollment in years, and this coming year promises to show further stabilization.

Marketing efforts have connected our schools in new and imaginative ways, from partnerships with local colleges to diocese-wide professional development for teachers. Our Catholic schools are also well into the new millennium with technology like iPads, SMART Boards, Chromebooks and document cameras.

Modeling that technology is the key to successful implementation. This year, our school administrators will each be provided with a new iPad equipped with a program for teacher development. Teacher Compass software will be used for the principals' daily observations of lessons; the program will allow principals to tailor their observations to the specific teacher and to enhance professional growth by providing web-based professional development.

We are proud of the highly-qualified administrators who lead our diocesan schools. This year, we welcome Kelly Sloan as the new principal at St. Madeleine Sophie School in Schenectady, where she previously served as a teacher. Terri McGraw, former assistant superintendent of schools for the Diocese, is the new principal at St. Ambrose School in Latham. Succeeding Mrs. McGraw in the diocesan Catholic Schools Office is Ernest Casile, formerly assistant principal at Christian Brothers Academy in Albany.

Our greatest challenge remains keeping our schools affordable and available to all who seek the benefits of a Catholic education. Pope Francis has certainly awakened in all of us a calling to assist those most in need.

The Beacon of Hope Scholarship Fund was established a decade ago to meet such needs. This past year, we were able to award $50,000 in scholarships to students in our schools - but there is so much more to do.

Diocesan scholarship applications showed an additional $700,000 in need across our Diocese. These are students who are attending our schools but need assistance to continue, or students who wish they could come, but cannot afford our already-low tuitions.

The schools and parishes of our Diocese make a tremendous effort to provide assistance to the families, but it is still not enough. In the coming months, more information about the Beacon of Hope scholarship will be made available; I ask that you consider helping our students in need.

Youth of today need, more than ever, a quality, Catholic education. To learn more about our diocesan schools or contribute to the Beacon of Hope scholarship fund, visit www.higherpoweredlearning.org.

(Mr. Pizzingrillo is superintendent of schools for the Albany Diocese.)