||January 23, 2012 • VOL. 50, NO. 2 • Oakland, CA|
Schools develop six-point plan to secure future
Catholic Schools Superintendent
Sister Barbara Bray, SNJM, on the state of education:
Over the past year the Department of Catholic Schools leadership team and I have worked with the bishop, clergy, diocesan leaders, school principals and presidents, parishioners, business leaders and funders to develop and vet strategic priorities and recommendations for Catholic schools.
This diverse group of leaders identified six strategic priorities and corresponding actions to ensure the excellence, long-term sustainability and growth of our Catholic schools. The six priorities are:
• Catholic Identity: Cultivate and sustain the distinctively unique Catholic identity of our schools and infuse Catholic values and practices in all aspects of academic and community life.
• Clergy Leadership and Education: Unite clergy and school leaders in their commitment to the shared ministry of Catholic schools.
• Academics: Achieve excellence in standards, equity, and accountability in academics in all Catholic schools.
• Finances: Adopt a new comprehensive financial plan to ensure the long-term viability, accessibility, and growth of Catholic schools.
• Governance: Build new models of organizing, operating and decision-making to enhance the quality, efficiency, and sustainability of a community of Catholic schools.
• Marketing, Communications and Outreach: Communicate the value of Catholic schools to prospective families and the broader community, so that schools are fully enrolled and supported.
What specific steps will we see regarding the strategic plan in 2012?
Actions are being taken on multiple fronts regarding our six strategic priorities for Catholic schools.
We are in the process of refining the strategic recommendations, with specific attention to finances, based on input we received from the Bishop, clergy, Diocesan leaders and school principals and presidents.
Progress is already being made with schools throughout the diocese implementing and evaluating the goals for Catholic identity and academic equity and excellence, through Catholic Identity standards and curriculum mapping
Plans are underway to engage in dialogue with the Bishop and clergy about Catholic schools with a Clergy Dialogue Day scheduled for Feb. 3.
We are also developing plans to dialogue with parishes about the plans for our schools.
I want to specifically share important progress that is being made with our seven urban Catholic schools — St. Anthony, St. Cornelius, St. Jarlath, St. Martin de Porres and Our Lady of the Rosary, St. Elizabeth Elementary and St. Elizabeth High School. As directed by our bishop when we launched strategic planning, a plan has been developed to explore a potential restructuring of the way we provide Catholic education to children of low-income families in our diocese.
With financial support from a major funder, we are currently recruiting an executive director for Urban Catholic Schools who in partnership with the Department of Catholic Schools and urban principals and pastors will lead fund development and institutional advancement. This is a significant first step in ensuring the long-term sustainability and growth of our urban Catholic schools. Learnings from our urban Catholic schools will help inform strategies we put in place to sustain and grow all Catholic schools in the diocese.
Catholic schools in New York and Pennsylvania have announced many school closures? Are there any plans to close any diocesan schools in 2012?
There is no plan to close any Catholic schools in the Diocese of Oakland at this time. Through expanded and improved marketing and outreach efforts, our strategic goal is to increase enrollment across the Diocese.
Is the long-lasting economic downturn the cause of declining Catholic school enrollment? What are some other factors?
We are happy to report that in the Diocese of Oakland our enrollment for 2011-12 has slightly increased!
In general, a family’s ability to pay tuition is the most significant cause of declining Catholic school enrollment with the economic downturn exacerbating the situation.
One of the primary strategic recommendations for Catholic schools is to develop a financial model that enables families across the economic spectrum to have access to Catholic schools in the diocese. I agree with the conclusion of our finance strategic task force that noted if tuition were not an issue, all Catholic schools in the Diocese of Oakland would be full. A new financial model for Catholic schools is essential.
We believe that increased marketing and outreach combined with growth in financial assistance will also contribute to increasing enrollment. The Department of Catholic Schools is currently working in partnership with FACE (Family Aid Catholic Education) to increase the availability of financial support for families.
There is no question Catholic schools do a better job educating children. But public schools are funded with taxes; parents must pay tuition for Catholic education. We hear a lot about financial aid. How much and what is available?
In the Diocese of Oakland there are multiple sources of financial aid for families, distributed based on need. The largest and primary provider of financial aid is FACE (Family Aid Catholic Education). [Note: The Catholic Voice will explore these alternatives in an upcoming issue.]
What is your vision for Catholic schools in the East Bay in 10 years — in 2022?
Each and every aspect of my vision for Catholic schools is rooted in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the good of the Church and in support of the children and families we serve.
My vision in 10 years and beyond is that Catholic schools in the diocese are fulfilling our mission to educate children in the Catholic faith and nurture their minds, bodies, and souls, inspiring them to live the Gospel of Jesus Christ, achieve their highest academic and creative potential, and actively serve and enrich the community.
To fulfill this mission I envision our Diocese providing a 21st century Catholic education in which all schools fully achieve diocesanwide standards for excellence in Catholic identity, academics, safety, technology, facilities and human resource administration. We have the right schools in the right places, fully enrolled and financially viable. All children are welcome and no child is turned away because of financial need. Our Catholic schools are culturally responsive to all in the community. And the entire community of the Diocese of Oakland shares responsibility for Catholic schools so that all children flourish and reach their God-given potential.
This is the future of our schools, and most importantly, our Church.
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