New vision unveiled for Catholic elementary schools

by OFFICE OF COMMUNICATIONS
Wed, Jun 1st 2011 01:00 pm

The Diocese of Buffalo has unveiled its new vision for Catholic elementary schools. Titled "Faith in Tomorrow," the strategic plan provides a detailed course of action to strengthen Catholic education and help secure the future success and viability of elementary schools located throughout the eight counties of Western New York.

Bishop Edward U. Kmiec, bishop of Buffalo, said this plan will ensure the continuation of the tremendous strides the department of Catholic Schools has made under the leadership of Carol Kostyniak, secretary for Catholic Education, and Dr. Rosemary Henry, superintendent of Catholic Schools, in advancing the mission of Catholic schools in the diocese.

"'Faith in Tomorrow' represents the new vision for Catholic elementary schools in the Diocese of Buffalo as well as my unwavering commitment to the education of our children, which I believe is among the most important missions of the Catholic Church and diocese today," said Bishop Kmiec.

"'Faith in Tomorrow' begins today with the firm belief that we are poised to sustain and grow our schools, which are centered in Christ and date back more than 150 years," said Bishop Kmiec. "It is a covenant that will result in stronger schools, better educational opportunities and will make our Catholic schools even more appealing to parents, students and educators."

Kostyniak said the new vision encompasses a data-driven, comprehensive plan with clear, measurable targets for the continued success and sustainability of Catholic schools in the diocese.

"As we implement this plan, we will transform the entire operation of the Catholic school network by right-sizing the number of school buildings we currently have, improving the financial stability of our schools, upgrading technology and facilities, and much, much more," said Kostyniak. "This is a living, breathable document that will foster a community-based approach to affecting critical, positive change to important components of Catholic education that will stabilize and eventually grow enrollment. Like any strategic plan, we create it for now. As we move forward, it will be continually updated."

Kostyniak said the diocesan Catholic Schools Advisory Council developed "Faith in Tomorrow" through collaborative dialogue and extensive research and planning. Focus groups of school parents and pastors of parishes, both with and without schools, discussed their perceptions about Catholic schools, their strengths and what they value in a school.

Researchers also surveyed parents whose children left Catholic schools as well as those who attended open houses, but did not enroll in a Catholic school.

The document identifies key actions and goals for the transformation of Catholic elementary schools, as identified by nine committees representing seven key result areas.

These key areas are: Catholic Identity, Organizational Structure and Leadership, Finances, Academic Excellence, Marketing and Communications, Facilities and Transportation, and Health and Human Services.

Among the strategies that will be implemented:

• Each school will engage in a process of comprehensive self-evaluation and action to discern and strengthen the lived experience of Catholic identity for their entire faith community.
• An educational consortium of 10 to 15 urban, suburban and rural elementary schools will be established to develop and pilot an innovative organizational structure for Catholic elementary schools to reduce competition, increase accountability and provide an economic benefit among participating schools.
• Available funds for tuition assistance will be expanded.
• Community partnerships that enrich health and human services for all school communities will be researched and expanded.
• Educational partnerships will be established among elementary, secondary, college, university and seminary leaders, to develop new programs and initiatives to strengthen and expand curricular and instructional programs.

A primary component of "Faith in Tomorrow" focuses on the classroom, where outcomes demonstrate the strength of Catholic education. "Ninety-eight percent of Catholic high school students graduate and progress to college," said Kostyniak. "Students are thriving and the initiatives of 'Faith in Tomorrow' will help ensure this quality education remains available to even more local families.

"This plan will also allow us to continue excellence and enhance our strengths in academics, moral values, creativity and in the development of the whole child - mind, body and soul."

Paul T. Wietig, Ed.D., core curriculum coordinator and training program coordinator, adjunct professor, University at Buffalo, and vice chair of the advisory council, said the new vision "will allow diocesan leaders, and in turn the faith community of the diocese, to be confident that Catholic education is not only sustainable, but an educational platform committed to the precepts of the Catholic faith."

The multi-step development of "Faith in Tomorrow" began in 2008 with the formation of the advisory council, a blue-ribbon panel of diocesan officials and leading education and business professionals, who began Phase I of the planning process.

As part of the process, the diocese hired Meitler Consultants, a Milwaukee, Wis., firm specializing in strategic planning with schools and parishes throughout the United States.

Meitler researchers, in conjunction with diocesan leaders and representatives, developed proposals based on data they compiled on demographic shifts, rising costs, diminishing financial resources and other factors impacting Catholic schools in the Diocese of Buffalo.

Phase I was completed in November 2009 with Meitler Consultants recommending further study in several critical areas.

The diocese then retained Verdi & Company, a Buffalo-based company dedicated to helping financial institutions and other organizations optimize the value of their distribution channels and networks. Based on information they produced on metrics and measures for Catholic schools as a whole and for each specific school, Verdi & Company developed five-year projections and presented them to Bishop Kmiec in June 2010.

Following the review of these projections, the advisory council and Bishop Kmiec established the nine committees to prepare recommendations regarding the future of Catholic elementary schools based on the previous research and planning.

While the document focuses on elementary schools, the diocese's 15 Catholic high schools, seven Catholic colleges and universities, and graduate school of theology and ministry all play a role in the continuing dialogue and planning to strengthen Catholic schools in the continuum from pre-kindergarten through post-graduate doctoral programs.

In addition to Dr. Wietig, other members of the Catholic Schools Advisory Council are:

Rev. Msgr. Thomas Maloney, pastor, St. Amelia Parish, Tonawanda; Elizabeth Brandjes, director of Education Partnerships & Office of Educational Partnerships, Canisius College, Buffalo; James Doherty, retired school bus industry executive, Buffalo; Paul Fields, Ed.D., retired program director of the Education Administration and Leadership Graduate Program, Canisius College, Buffalo; William Mariani, Ed.D., vice president of Administrative Services and External Relations, D'Youville College, Buffalo; Darlene Michalak, Ed.D., plan administrator, NY44 Health Benefits Trust Plan, Buffalo; Althea Porter, Ph.D., director, Palisano Center for Academic Success, Trocaire College, Buffalo; Rhonda Ried, president, Cornerstone Research and Marketing, Inc., Amherst; Richard Suchan, CEBS, senior vice president & market manager, Key Private Bank, Williamsville; and Sylvia Valentín, Ph.D., J.D., associate professor of Teacher Education, Niagara University, Lewiston.

Ex-officio members and diocesan staff are Bishop Kmiec; Carol Kostyniak; Dr. Henry; Rev. Msgr. David Slubecky, vicar general/moderator of the Curia and Council chair; David Sampson, interim executive director, Foundation of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Buffalo; and Steven Timmel, executive director, financial administration.

Funding for all three phases of the planning process was provided by The John R. Oishei Foundation of Buffalo.

For further information visit: www.faithintomorrow.org. To comment on the plan call 716-847-5512, or send an email to: info@wnycatholicschools.org.

 

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