During this time of year, I am always reminded of an experience from my first years as a Catholic school principal. During this time, I was approached by a second grade student who had recently been asked to lead her non-denominational Christian church in prayer during a Sunday service. Each week, the pastor asked a child from the church to lead the people in an opening blessing. On this Sunday, my student stepped in front of the large congregation, took a deep breath, and prayed “Hail Mary, full of Grace…”
As I visit schools and classrooms, I am always struck by the obvious impact the leadership has upon the Catholic school. A plethora of studies have indicated that positive leadership is the reason why schools succeed or fail. I have seen situations where demographics and finances work against a school, and yet the institution thrives due to an effective leader. In a school setting, leadership is embodied by the principal.
The first round of Visioning Sessions for Catholic schools is now complete, and I am pleased to offer some general feedback on what we heard during these events. To recap, we held a series of seven Visioning Sessions in May and June. These sessions were part of our wider efforts to define a new vision for Catholic school education in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati. The purpose of these sessions was to hear directly from the people of the Archdiocese; as we build this vision, it is vital that our plan reflect the needs and insights of all who care about our schools.
I would like to extend an invitation to all people who care about our Catholic schools to attend one of the upcoming Visioning Sessions. These sessions are open to the general public, although you must RSVP to attend. For more information, see the announcement below. I hope you will be able to attend a session and join in the conversation about our schools!
In my last blog, I discussed the various conditions that affect whether a school can stay viable, or needs to consider closure or consolidation. I know that many people are rightly focused on the danger of closing and consolidating Catholic schools. However, as we study the future of our schools in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, it is also vital that we examine the possibility of new schools in emerging areas of growth.
As we build our vision for Catholic Schools, one of the central issues we will focus upon is that of affordability. As expressed by the U.S. Bishops in their publication Renewing Our Commitment to Catholic Elementary and Secondary Schools in the Third Millennium, it is our sincere desire to ensure that our schools are available to all families, regardless of their economic background. This is a substantial challenge; the costs of providing a high-quality education have risen over the decades.
As we have moved through the initial stages of our visioning process, I have relied heavily upon the hard work and insights of a 12-person Vision Steering Committee. This committee was initially formed in early November. The initial purpose of the committee was to define the process of how we would build our vision. As we establish our vision, I know that there will be much work ahead. The Archdiocese is incredibly complex, and people rightly feel passionately about their schools. Our charge is to establish a common roadmap for the future of our schools, and study new systems of support.
I am very pleased to announce some additional information about the upcoming Visioning Sessions for the Catholic schools (if you have not yet read my last post about the visioning process, I advise you to do so). Our Visioning Sessions are designed to be one of the key ways of gathering the insights, opinions, and observations of those who care about our schools. It is critical that our vision reflect the needs of the people of the Archdiocese. Our vision for the Catholic schools will not be the vision of a single individual or committee.
We have been receiving some attention lately for our ongoing efforts to construct a unified vision for Catholic schools in the Archdiocese. I remain incredibly optimistic about what we are doing; we have some wonderful schools in the Archdiocese, and I know that our vision will encourage the continued growth and vibrancy of our excellent schools.
Catholic Schools Week is upon us! I truly enjoy this week; it is always a joy to see the mix of religious, service, and fun events taking place in our schools. I am greatly looking forward to the Catholic Schools Week Masses on Tuesday and Wednesday. Likewise, the Archbishop's broadcast to the high schools on Friday promises to be an illuminating event. I am constantly heartened by how our community rallies around our wonderful Catholic schools.