Catholic Schools Week
Pupils at St. Cornelius School in Richmond, one of the schools to join the network, perform for their families in June.
ALBERT C. PACCIORINI/THE CATHOLIC VOICE
Network of seven schools to reshape Catholic education
A network that does not yet have a name has a big task ahead of it. It is an opportunity — and a challenge — to reshape Catholic education by sharing resources among the schools and engaging foundations and corporations, as other dioceses have, to bear some of the cost of educating children from low-income families.
The seven schools in the network are:
• Queen of All Saints, Concord
• St. Anthony, Oakland
• St. Catherine of Siena, Martinez
• St. Cornelius, Richmond
• St. Elizabeth, Oakland
• St. Paul, San Pablo
• St. Peter Martyr, Pittsburg
The groundwork has begun, and conversations among principals of schools that will be part of the network are taking place. The network is expected to be in full operation in fall 2018.
The schools were chosen because, despite enrollment and financial challenges they may face, there is opportunity to grow.
Since 2009 the seven schools have received $4,099,315 in subsidies from the Diocese of Oakland. The estimated subsidy for 2016-17 school year is $265,393.
On average, these schools are at 70 percent capacity, while the five diocesan schools being closed have capacity levels between 44 percent and 60 percent.
There is room in all of the network schools to welcome the estimated 642 pupils affected by the closure of Sts. Jarlath, Lawrence O'Toole and Martin de Porres schools in Oakland; Our Lady of the Rosary School in Union City; and St. Jerome School in El Cerrito.
Pupils are also welcome to seek enrollment at other schools in the diocese.
The network includes two Oakland schools that date back to the late 1800s — St. Anthony and St. Elizabeth — as well as five built during the baby boom.
The network will have a board of directors approved by the bishop, and its own president/chief academic officer whose team will provide services and support that each school now provides individually.
The network will have a team to provide academic development, fundraising, school maintenance/capital projects, marketing, outsourced accounting and financial operations, and other administrative support, according to the diocese.
Bishop Michael C. Barber, SJ, said he sees centralized development as "one of the main benefits of the network."
"Right now, they're all chasing the same benefactors, whether you're in Richmond, or East Oakland or Union City or West Oakland, you're chasing the same corporations," he said. "I want to have one development director to get money that will be shared with all the schools."
The pastor will continue to be entrusted with the faith development of pupils and families, but will not be responsible for the operation of the school.
"I want each pastor to have a seat on the board of directors," Bishop Barber said. "I want the pastor there to say: 'This school is here to serve the families in my parish, not to be a foreign entity.'"
While the leadership of the schools moves away from the parishes to the network, the bishop said, "I want the pastors to still feel responsible and part of the faith mission."
Freeing principals from duties such as marketing would allow them to concentrate on day-to-day school life, with a renewed emphasis on academic excellence.
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