The following post is contributed by Tom Simonds, SJ, Ed.D.. Father Tom will be presenting at the Institute of Catholic School Leaders in July. Click here for more information and to register. Father Tom also wrote on the topic “Writing a New Story for Catholic Schools” in the Fall 2015 and Spring 2016 issues of Momentum.
As Catholic schools explore ways to increase enrollment and find new ways to fund their operation costs, it is more critical than ever to set ourselves apart from other schooling options. More parents are choosing home schooling, online schooling, charter schools, and public schools than just five years ago. Recently I was in San Diego, CA for my annual retreat. I saw a large billboard that proclaimed: a great high school education for free; your local public high school.
The billboard I saw in San Diego reminded me of the importance of being different and telling people how their investment in Catholic education will make a difference. A strong and integrated Catholic identity is key to the success of every Catholic school. In their book, Weathering the Storm, Defiore, Convey, and Schuttloffel (2009) noted that a weak Catholic identity was one factor that has led to the closure of many Catholic schools.
Barb Brock, Max Engel, and I have all worked in P-12 Catholic schools prior to coming to teach at Creighton University. We know that busy school leaders want to do more to enhance and expand the Catholic identity piece of their schools. We also know that school leaders often struggle to find time and resources to accomplish this mission critical project. In our workshop at ICLS, we will address these key areas of Catholic identity development: the pedagogical relationship between teachers and students, Catholic identity formation for faculty, the hiring process, a vision for your graduates, your school motto, curriculum design, student admission criteria, and student and staff experiences.