New committee begins school sustainability study

| June 18, 2014 | 0 Comments

Amid rising costs and enrollment challenges, a new committee is examining the issues and needs of the archdiocese’s Catholic schools in order to enhance academic excellence and provide access to all families that desire a Catholic education for their children.

Ultimately, the goal of the committee, Vision 2020, is to incorporate new educational and governance models that will strengthen local Catholic schools and attract more students. The committee will meet monthly, with subcommittees meeting in between through the end of the year.

“We want to provide a strong Catholic educational school system in this archdiocese, and we have to look at a new way to make that financially sustainable and help it grow,” said Karen Rauenhorst, who co-chairs the committee with John McMahon. (See the below for a full list of committee members.) “We want to serve all people in our community — people of all ethnicities, socio-economic backgrounds and locations.”

Nationwide, Catholic school enrollment has declined. According to the National Catholic Educational Association, since 2003, elementary school enrollment in the largest dioceses has declined by 30 percent, and by almost 19 percent in the rest of the U.S.

“We feel we need to reverse this trend of declining enrollment,” said Rauenhorst, a parishioner at Holy Name of Jesus in Wayzata. “We need to address the core issues that will result in [permanent] changes.”

At its first meeting June 10, the committee heard from educational consultant Erik Goldschmidt of Boston College who has worked extensively with Catholic school viability by examining governance models and funding strategies. Vision 2020 will consult other experts throughout the course of its work, which it hopes to conclude in time to implement a new program by fall 2015 and roll out over two years.

“We really want to find what has been working and what will work in our archdiocese,” Rauenhorst said. “It’s best practices — what are the pros and cons of some of these new models that are out there? People are looking at different ways of delivering Catholic education.”

Rauenhorst points to innovative trends of new educational models in the dioceses of Philadelphia, San Jose, Calif., New Orleans, New York, Memphis, Boston and Camden, N.J.

The work is not about evaluating curriculum, Rauenhorst said. Rather, it will focus on a governance model that will best position the system to increase enrollment, provide leadership development, engage parish priests and enhance educational excellence.

“We know we have to do something different,” Rauenhorst said. “This committee has the expertise of the business community, philanthropic community, priests and educators.”

One possibility is establishing a separate 501c3 that will support the core function of Catholic schools.

“This will be a whole new approach to keep our schools sustainable,” Rauenhorst said. “But we want to make sure these schools continue to have a strong Catholic identity and remain a part of our faith community.”

Once the committee completes its research, it will take its recommendations to Archbishop John Nienstedt.

“We are working very closely with Bishop [Andrew] Cozzens, vicar of education, to make sure we meet the needs of all of our students, parish priests and parents,” she said. “This is really about providing quality education to our kids.”

Vision 20/20 committee members

John Banovetz – board chairman of Risen Christ School in Minneapolis
Bishop Andrew Cozzens – Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis
Dr. Marilou Eldred – past president of Catholic Community Foundation
Steve Hoeppner – Schulze Family Foundation
Father Charles Lachowitzer – vicar general and moderator of the curia for the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis
Father Timothy Manatt – president of Cristo Rey Jesuit High School board of directors
John McMahon – Ernst & Young
Anne Miller – president of Catholic Community Foundation
Karen Rauenhorst – community volunteer
Mark Rauenhorst – GHR Foundation
Jill Reilly – archdiocesan Office of Schools
Michael Rogers – principal of Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary School in Maplewood
Father Ralph Talbot – St. Mary of the Lake in White Bear Lake
Father Steve Ulrick – Holy Name of Jesus in Wayzata
Bill Wacker – former headmaster and educator
Gary Wilmer – archdiocesan Office of Schools

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