Diocese Sees Revitalization as Path to Success of Catholic Elementary Schoolsby Virginia Wallace
Diocese Sees Revitalization as Path to Success of Catholic Elementary Schools
"Faith in Tomorrow," a three year strategic plan which builds on the history of more than 180 years of Catholic schools in the Diocese of Buffalo, was introduced in June 2011. It was the culmination of extensive research of Church documents, the thoughtful investigation of strategic plans produced by other dioceses and the work of Meitler Consultants and Verdi & Company, who also researched the state of Catholic schools and the demographics and financial realities of the eight counties of Western New York. Hundreds of individuals helped to shape the plan.
The research by these experts confirmed that our Catholic schools continue to provide academic excellence in a spiritually sound environment. However, the data also revealed overwhelming evidence that our network of Catholic schools in its current configuration is financially unsustainable. Over the past decade, as the result of out-migration from Western New York, the number of Catholic elementary schools in the Diocese of Buffalo has been reduced. Because of the continuing trend part of this revitalization process will include closing more schools.
The timeline is aggressive. In mid September, all pastors with a school and their principals were presented extensive demographic, geographic and parish/school related information. Assisted by a facilitator, leadership teams from each school have been meeting with teams from surrounding schools. During these so called "cluster meetings", teams were tasked with identifying other schools that might collaborate and combine to create fewer, larger, sustainable centers of academic excellence. Recommendations from the leadership teams were submitted to Bishop Malone and the Revitalization Committee before Thanksgiving, final decisions will be announced in January 2014.
According to Secretary for Catholic Education, Carol Kostyniak, "The Diocese is committed to Catholic education; we are investing in children and programs rather than boilers, roofs and buildings."
From the extensive research done, the ideal model for a sustainable school was deemed to be a school of 400 students, grades Pre-K through 8, with two classrooms per grade where Catholic identity is included across the curriculum; STREAM (Science, Technology, Religion, Engineering, Arts and Math) is introduced and integrated, and honors programs, additional electives and remedial instruction is readily available.
"A school with two classes of each grade will provide a group large enough to have dynamic interaction among students and provide a breadth and depth of ideas and opinion says Carol Kostyniak, it will afford the opportunity to provide differentiated learning, remediation and accelerated teaching while providing a Catholic education for all, regardless of their socioeconomic circumstances, which is the mission of the Catholic church."