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Network schools
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placeholder May 22, 2017   •   VOL. 55, NO. 10   •   Oakland, CA
Network schools will build on good work

When I read "Laudato Si," Pope Francis' encyclical on climate justice, I was really struck by his clear message that we need to renew our commitment to working together. He reminded us that we are one family and he asked us to cooperate generously, focusing on solidarity.

We are in a common home and we need to actively resist the tendency to separate ourselves from each other. Pope Francis asks us to be open to personal transformation, so that we can begin to remember, honor and act in accordance with our connectedness.

The new Catholic schools network is an example of moving back toward connectedness. I'm excited to help support this initiative, because I care deeply about the children and families in the Diocese of Oakland, and I love the people who work in the schools. I also believe that this is a great idea.

The network is a positive innovation and a demonstration of Bishop Michael C. Barber, SJ's, commitment to mission-centered, effectively governed, operationally sustainable and academically excellent schools for the children and families in the Oakland diocese.

I am deeply familiar with these schools, and they are excellent. They have strong leaders and folks who are committed to the mission of Catholic education. They already demonstrate amazing academic growth for children.

Many have experienced enrollment growth due to the exceptional work of their leaders and communities. They are healthy. But they could be stronger together. When we approach the common good with courage and faith, we can engage in our work of teaching children and changing lives in a more powerful way.

I'm excited to build upon the good work that has been done for years — to collaborate with principals, pastors, teachers, parents, students, alumni, community organizations, benefactors and friends — anyone who is willing to come to the table in a spirit of renewing our commitment to and investment in our Catholic schools.

These schools already work. This new model will provide the organizational shift and strength to sustain them and allow them to serve even more children and families.

It's an innovative new model that facilitates shared resources. We can leverage what each school is doing really well to strengthen the whole group. We will have greater tech support, and more focused professional development.

Principals will still be the faith models and instructional leaders of their school, but they will have additional support with some of the aspects of school administration that can be centralized. This model has worked in other dioceses to sustain excellent Catholic schools, and it can work for us. We need to learn from others and innovate — and not just say that where we are right now is OK.

If we can work together to modify our governance and strengthen our funding model — always staying focused on our mission — and always focusing on improving student learning — why wouldn't we?

These schools are staying who they are, and they are also becoming something more. Change can be difficult, but isn't transformation part of our story? And solidarity is our game. Strength in numbers — was that Coach Kerr or Pope Francis?

We will keep you posted with lots more details and opportunities to support this initiative in the future … and we thank you for your support!

(Liz Guneratne is the project lead and diocesan liaison for the network schools of the Diocese of Oakland.)

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