Tom's Message PSD

The Advantage of Catholic Schools

Last week, I loaded up my three young children, Lucy, Sam and Molly, and headed toward St. Peter’s Catholic School in Olney, Maryland. After dropping them off in the hall, I weaved my way through the hustle and bustle of the first day of school to thank the school principal. It was such a joy to see and feel the excitement of both the teachers and students.

A Catholic school is more than a place to gain academic knowledge. While a strong educational program is essential, Catholic schools are special because they are communities of faith, knowledge and witness. This is part of the advantage of Catholic schools.

That witness goes beyond the school hall and classrooms, it goes into the homes and broader community as well. Almost as soon as the academic year is under way it’s time to look to the future, time for open houses, placement tests and schools visits. Families too are looking ahead and thinking about their children – whether rising to pre-school, kindergarten or high school – and where they will go to school next year. And so for this reason, it is important that the witness of each school go out through us as educators and through parents into the broader community so that those parents of “not-yet-enrolled” children hear about your school.

At the recent NCEA Institute for Catholic School Leaders, I heard a great presenter, Jaclyn Day, Director of Marketing and Communications at RenWeb School Management Software, explain that current research on how millennials make decisions shows that by the time a parent actually makes personal contact with a Catholic school regarding the enrollment of their child – whether through a call, an e-mail or a visit – that parent is already 57% of the way in the decision process to choose that school. That means that millennial parents get over halfway to choosing a school online and through word of mouth with friends and neighbors. The workshop then went on to provide practical ways for a school to increase its online presence to reach potential parents. This is part of the witness of the school faith community – for each person, parents and teachers alike, to tell friends, neighbors and families about their wonderful Catholic school.

I encourage you to be mindful, intentional and enthusiastic in your conversations with those you meet. We need to tell the story of our schools and of Catholic school education nationally, and embrace the wonderful opportunities before us with hope. NCEA is here to help you proclaim the advantages of a Catholic school education with outstanding data, ACRE/IFG religious assessment tools, learning resource library and professional development. Before we know it, NCEA 2017 Convention & Expo will be here; this annual gathering of thousands of teachers is the largest public witness to Catholic school education in the country. Save the date for April 18-20 and look for registration opening soon. I look forward to seeing you there!

Sincerely yours in Christ,
Thomas W. Burnford, D.Min.