Local Catholic schools will benefit from council’s work

| February 1, 2012 | 0 Comments


Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis have a new source of support to help them plan more strategically, work more collaboratively, be more accountable and implement best practices in areas ranging from marketing and governance to academics and finances.

A 12-member Archdiocesan Catholic Schools Advisory Council is drawing on the expertise of educators, pastors, parents and other Catholic school constituents to help implement recommendations in these areas announced last August by Archbishop John Nienstedt.

“ACSAC will be driving change and enhancement through all those channels,” said council chair John McMahon, who is a partner with Ernst & Young and a member of Holy Spirit in St. Paul.

The council serves as an advisory body to Archbishop Nienstedt; the initial members (see roster, below) have been appointed to three-year terms.

Schools are already benefiting from new initiatives on behalf of Catholic education in the archdiocese, McMahon said. An ACSAC marketing committee will be building on the efforts of the archdiocese’s recently launched Aim Higher marketing campaign promoting the benefits of Catholic schools, he said.

Last month, six “champions camp” workshops were held around the archdiocese for Catholic school administrators, faculty members and parent volunteers to energize them as brand ambassadors for Catholic schools and equip them to better tell the Catholic school story. A total of 330 people attended the camps, representing 87 of the 95 Catholic schools in the archdiocese. Participating schools received Aim Higher marketing toolkits with brochures and other promotional items.

The campaign’s online component (www.AimHigherMN.org) features downloadable brochures, a video and Facebook page.

In addition, a conference for school leadership on governance — the focus of another ACSAC committee — is set for Feb. 11 at DeLaSalle High School in Minneapolis. Karen Ristau, president of the National Catholic Educational Association, will keynote the event, which will include seminars addressing key issues such as how schools can work effectively with pastors and what the roles of finance committees and school advisory boards should be.

When the archdiocesan strategic planning process began three years ago, McMahon said, “We had 43 different variations on governance models.” The goal, he added, “is by the end of the next school year [2012-2013] to be down to two or three governance models, depending on whether you’re a parish school or a [consolidated] school. . . . Our aim by the end of this school year is that the schools have their transition plans laid out for how they’re going to evolve to a standard governance model.”

McMahon said he expects a good turnout for the Feb. 11 event, which he views as having a similar purpose to the “champions camps.” “It’s training for the people who are committing their time to the schools and the parishes so they can be more successful and to build a community of sharing among the schools,” he said.

In addition to the ACSAC marketing and governance focus groups, the council features two other committees:

  • Funding models, or finance: This ACSAC committee will make recommendations and help guide the Aim Higher Foundation (see story, below) as it works to distribute need-based scholarships to Catholic school students across the archdiocese, McMahon said. The committee also will help schools achieve consistency in budgeting and reporting with the goal of having useful management information for the schools. The committee will also try to identify additional revenue sources and cost savings through shared services.
  • Academic excellence: This committee is focused on developing consistent learning standards and assessment tools for schools in the archdiocese, McMahon said. Later this month, principals will hear from experts at St. Catherine University on those topics. In addition, this committee will make recommendations to further teacher, administrator and pastor development.

“There is a common theme in all of this,” McMahon said. “It’s that by working together collectively, we’re all going to be stronger — whether it’s in finance, marketing, governance or academic advancement.”

Flowing from recommendations

The creation of ACSAC as “a visible and supportive leader for the Catholic schools of our archdiocese” was among the recommendations in the area of governance made last year by the archdiocesan Catholic Schools Commission and accepted by Archbishop Nienstedt.

The commission had been established in January 2011 to build on the work of the Archdiocesan Strategic Planning Task Force and the Alliance for Catholic Education consultants from the University of Notre Dame.

As it formed its recommendations, the commission sought input from people across the archdiocese through focus groups, meetings and Internet surveys in which more than 3,000 school and parish leaders, teachers, parents and others participated.

McMahon acknowledged challenges ahead for Catholic education in the archdiocese, but he said he is very hopeful about the future.

“What’s driving the hope is the passion of not only the principals and the teachers, but of the people who really support the schools — the families,” McMahon said.

“I look at all this positive feedback we’re getting and energy we are getting from the community,” he added, “and I think, ‘Yes, we have our issues. But what we really have is a huge opportunity.’ And using the assets of all of our people to achieve that, that’s what really gets me excited about it.”

Members of Archdiocesan Catholic Schools Advisory Council (ACSAC)

Amy Goldman — Executive director, GHR Foundation; currently serves on the boards of the University of St. Thomas, St. Thomas Academy, Collegeville Institute for Ecumenical and Cultural Research and the Better Way Foundation.

Father Daniel Griffith — University of St. Thomas School of Law faculty member; former pastor of St. Edward in Bloomington and St. Peter in North St. Paul.

Sister Andrea J. Lee, IHM — Serves as president of St. Catherine University, teaming with Brian J. Bruess, Ph.D., who serves as the vice president of Enrollment Management and Student Affairs at St. Catherine University; father of two children attending Catholic schools in the archdiocese.

Sheila Letscher — Retired attorney; mother of four; community volunteer; former Catholic elementary school board member and chair; previously held senior position at UnitedHealth Group.

John McMahon — Chair of ACSAC; partner with Ernst & Young; serves on national board of the Jeremiah Program.

Shannon Nelson — Community volunteer; former Catholic school teacher; mother of three; current member of advancement and marketing committees at Holy Spirit School; previously served on board of Visitation School.

Greg Pulles — Of Counsel in the finance and restructuring practice group at Dorsey and Whitney; serves on the board of the Minnesota Orchestra; previously served on the boards of Friends of Ascension and the Catholic Community Foundation.

Karen Rauenhorst — Trustee, Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis; community volunteer; served on boards of Catholic Relief Services, Catholic Community Foundation, Catholic Charities, St. Catherine University and others.

Tim Scallen — Partner at Oppenheimer Wolff and Donnelly; graduate of Annunciation elementary school in Minneapolis; father of four children who attended Catholic school.

Barbara Shaw — Executive Vice President, Corporate Human Resources of TCF Bank

Ex Officio:

The Most Reverend John C. Nienstedt — Archbishop of St. Paul and Minneapolis.

Father Peter A. Laird — Vicar general, Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis; previously co-chaired Archdiocesan Strategic Planning Task Force; former vice rector St. Paul Seminary School of Divinity.

Staff to ACSAC:

Marty Frauenheim — Superintendent of schools, Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.

John Bierbaum — Chief financial officer, Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.


Category: Catholic Schools Week