Catholic schools leadership day highlights progress made

| August 15, 2012 | 0 Comments

By Bob Zyskowski

The Catholic Spirit

Catholic schools across the United States face challenges in financing, competition from charter schools, changing pupil learning habits and changing roles for teachers, to name a few.

But the educator who led the compilation of national standards for Catholic schools and who listed the challenges also cited as a sign of hope the strategic planning that’s been done in support of Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, the Reinvesting in Our Future initiatives announced a year ago by Archbishop John Nien­stedt.

Lorraine Ozar, who was project chair for the lengthily titled National Standards and Benchmarks for Effective Catholic Elementary and Secondary Schools, affirmed what she termed “bold initiatives” the archdiocese is taking.

Ozar praised the archdiocese for “shaking up the status quo, making us feel uncomfortable . . . but inviting collaboration . . . in order to make wise decisions about what’s really happening.”

Ozar was the keynote speaker at the annual Opening Leadership Day for Catholic schools, attended by 116 principals, pastors and leaders of Catholic schools in the archdiocese Aug. 9 at St. Peter in Mendota.

State of the Schools

The half-day event gave Catholic Schools superintendent Martie Frauen­­heim an opportunity to welcome nine new principals and a handful of new pastors and to give her “state of the schools” report.

That report referred extensively to the progress made on the recom­men­dations of the “Reinvesting” initiatives and the goals for this year in the initiatives’ four focus areas: governance, educational excellence, advancement and funding models.

Progress included:

  • The Aim Higher branding project with its “champion camps” and marketing-kit-in-a-box.
  • Establishment of the Archdiocesan Catholic School Advisory Council (ALSAC), what chair John McMahon described as an oversight group “pulling together all the resources to work together on the Reinvesting initiatives.”
  • Collection of models of best practices in school governance and a well-attended governance conference.
  • Workshops for professional development offered during the school year.
  • Some 400 Catholic educators took part in summer school programs offered this year by the archdiocesan Schools Office.
  • Launch of the Aim Higher Fund. Fund chair Karen Rauenhorst reported that grants for tuition were being awarded this fall to between 480-500 students.

Much yet to do

Frauenheim said the plan going forward is to continue working on Reinvesting’s recommendations.

She briefly ticked off a list of goals, including working on governance models particularly with schools involved in consolidations; developing standard budgeting templates; making recommendations to secure licensure for the 4-to-6 percent of Catholic schools teachers without teaching licenses; using national standards as a framework for academic excellence, and developing assessment plans and tools that will aid Catholic schools and educators in both professional and faith development.

Father John Mitchell, pastor of Immaculate Conception in Columbia Heights, said that from a pastor’s point of view he appreciated the support the archdiocese is giving to each parish and school.

“The whole marketing piece gave us a road map on best practices for marketing our school,” he said. The models for school governance and the vision for Catholic education that the Reinvesting initiative offered were “very helpful to have,” he added.

Measuring up

Ozar, director of the Center for Catholic School Effectiveness at Loyola University in Chicago, took local leaders through the new national standards for Catholic schools. Launched in March of this year, the project is rolling out now as the new school year begins.

The standards include nine “defining characteristics of Catholic schools” (See box, this page), 13 “standards” that describe policies, programs, structures, and processes that should be present in “mission- driven, program-effective, well-managed, and responsibly-governed Catholic schools,” and 70 “benchmarks” that provide “observable, measurable” descriptions for each standard and a basis for development of many tools required to meet them.

All of the material is available at the project website, http://www.catholicschoolstandards.org, and includes resources, how-to-use suggestions, and samples of tools for educators to measure their schools and their programs.

Promising future

“I found the information stimulating,” said Mary Ann Pearson, president of Annunciation School in south Minneapolis. “I’m anxious to go to the website.

She thought the new national standards seem very practical.

“They’ll help us in our strategizing to make our Catholic identity even stronger,” Pearson said.

She particularly liked the emphasis on Catholic values and the Catholic worldview.

Pearson picked up on a point Ozar made that “our schools are good for this country and good for the world, in addition to being good for our church.”

“For too long we’ve been quiet about it,” Pearson added. “Let’s tell our story.”

Her pastor at Annunciation shared her excitement.

Father James Himmelsbach called it fascinating that Ozar and her team were able to develop unified national standards for Catholic schools that all could agree upon.

He said he appreciates the fact that on the local, state and national levels work is being done to market the Catholic identity of Catholic schools.

“I’m impressed with what’s happening,” Father Himmelsbach said. “I see a positive direction for our Catholic schools.”

 

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Category: Back to School