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The Future of Catholic Education

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A Forum on Sustainable Models for the Education of Catholics for the 22nd Century

Bishop Patrick J. McGrath, along with Kathy Almazol, Superintendent of Catholic Schools, invited the pastors and principals of all Catholic schools in the Diocese of San Jose to a meeting on September 22. The meeting at Santa Clara University, was entitled, Innovations in Catholic Education. The question Bishop most wanted to discuss was The Future of Catholic Education in the Diocese of San Jose.

There was pastor representation from every parish with a school, and many without schools, as well as principals from all Catholic elementary and high schools.

Among the topics for discussion by all participants

  • Reinvent our affordability and access
  • Reinvent our educational models and use of time and space
  • Reinvent our financial and governance models

Everyone had the opportunity to hear and read about the nationwide trends developing in Catholic schools. From New York to Chicago, New Jersey, Philadelphia, Los Angeles and Portland new and interesting models of schools are emerging. We know Catholic elementary schools are a “gem” in the history of the Catholic Church and we owe much to the sisters for their service and commitment to our families and children. However, the business of schools has changed dramatically in the past 40 years and it is now time to ‘reinvent’ the “gem” in new ways. The group found it most interesting as we showed new governance and financial models for not only financing schools, but also for sustaining them into the future. Of course pastors and principals understand we must change, as the parish financial model in many of our schools is no longer sustainable.

New school design ideas included dual-language schools, year-round schools, STEM education, multi-grade and multi-age classrooms, charter schools with a Catholic focus, increased Hispanic enrollment, as well as schools specifically for students with learning differences. Schools nationally and within our Diocese of San Jose are engaged in Blended Learning and our own DREXEL School System combines Blended Learning for instruction with a new governance structure providing operational support for the Principals and teachers. For each of the new models of systems a Board of Directors comprised of lay people is in place to advise and govern with a 22nd Century business support system. According to the National Study of Regional Catholic School Systems, it is imperative for us to allow our pastors to minister to his people and not have to ‘manage’ a school system. As well, our principals need the support of an operational team so they are able to focus on the instructional program.

During each group process questions were raised and more scenarios added to fully answer the question, “How will we reinvent the Catholic school system in order to preserve what is so powerful and so dynamic about it, while giving it a facelift for the 22nd Century?” Everyone was struck by the enthusiasm and the diligence each group provided as the ideas flowed. Pastors and Principals together brainstormed and collaborated in the conversation for the next steps in this process of investigation.

We invite you to think about the topics Bishop presented as opportunities for us, the Catholic community, to expand and energize our elementary and high school programs. Be sure to read the articles! We’ll write more about the solutions and suggestions in upcoming editions of The Valley Catholic.

Following is a list of the articles that are available for you to read on the web:

  • Question 1 Article: “The Catholic School Revival” from the Wall Street Journal.
  • Question 2 Articles: “Don’t Give Up on Our Catholic Schools,” America Magazine, “Regional Schools,” letter from Nick Wolsonovich, and “Can Blended Learning Save Catholic Schools?” EdSurge
  • Question 3 Articles: “Twelve Lessons about Financial Future of Catholic Schools” from Homiletic and Pastoral Review, “Catholic Schools of the Future,” by Faustin Weber, and “Recommendations” from the Thomas Fordham Institute
  • Question 4 Articles: “Reinventing Catholic Schools,” America Magazine