Monthly Message from NCEA President/CEO – January 2017

A New Year’s Message from Dr. Thomas Burnford, President/CEO

It’s been a year since I began my service leading NCEA. Looking back, one of the first messages I shared with you, our members and colleagues in Catholic education, was one encouraging all of us to think about the big picture of Catholic school education in the United States. In particular, I explored questions relating to building enrollment, parental choice and succession planning. 2016 was a productive year for these conversations and working toward the opportunities. Below, I look back on the questions I posed and provide some updates on how NCEA and its members have responded, and where we go next.


  1. How can we build enrollments in Catholic Schools across the country by telling the story of excellent academics, safe schools, and faith formation throughout the entire life of the school? How can we tell this story in a way that connects our schools, as Catholic schools, to every person in the United States?

I invite you to read the Fall 2016 Momentum article, Catholic Schools: Growing Together in which I set forth NCEA’s vision and offer steps for growing enrollment. In addition, it’s been a pleasure to hear your success stories on social media and in Momentum. National Catholic Schools Week is just two weeks away (January 29 – February 4). As you finalize your celebration and marketing plans, be sure to tag NCEA on social media using #CSW17 or email your Good News to   (By the way, the 2017 National Catholic Schools Week Marketing Handbook and Liturgy Guide recently was recognized with a Platinum Award from the MarCom Awards! Make sure you add it to your library!)

In 2017, we plan to keep the conversation going by sharing best practices, data, resources and marketing tips to help all Catholic schools in their enrollment growth.  We are also excitedly awaiting data from our national market research project which will help inform future marketing opportunities.

  1. What will 2016 bring in terms of the growth of school choice for families, especially real choice in which tax funds follow families to the school of their choice? How do we address funding issues?

NCEA has provided webinars and professional sessions on ESSA, and has worked closely with USCCB and other organizations to further parental choice legislation, especially in light of the new administration. We have also responded to member requests for parent resources and have launched a series of flyers for schools to share with parents in their communities.  Please continue to visit our public policy section of the website for more information as it emerges.

  1. At the heart of Catholic schools are great teachers, principals and superintendents.  What are the best practices (and how can we share them nationally) for initial and ongoing formation in Catholic identity for our dedicated teachers and leaders? How do we retain our leaders and at the same time do effective succession planning?

In 2016, Catholic school educators joined together at the NCEA 2016 Convention & Expo in San Diego, the New Directions STREAM Symposium in Philadelphia, various EdCamps and webinars to grow in their professional development. Catholic school leaders gathered in Omaha to take part in specialized leadership development training. And a ten-year-record-number of diocesan leaders attended the 2016 Catholic Leadership Summit in Indianapolis.

Looking ahead, please join us at more great professional development opportunities throughout the calendar year. Don’t forget, the early-bird registration for NCEA 2017 Convention & Expo in St. Louis closes on January 23! This convention is already shaping up to be one of the largest Convention gatherings in years –You do NOT want to miss this Convention!

In addition, a new version of the Information For Growth: Adult Faith Formation Survey (NCEA IFG) will be available in the coming weeks. This survey is designed to assist individuals in assessing their personal level of religious knowledge and spirituality.


Everyone works together and grows together in a Catholic school – united by a common mission to form young people in faith and knowledge for success in this life and the next. We, as professional educators, grow together with our students, and, in turn, our Catholic schools grow.  I look forward to another year of excellence!

On behalf of the NCEA Board of Directors, staff and myself, thank you for your membership and support of NCEA, and for changing the lives of students. If you have ideas, or just want to chat, please call me at 571-257-0010 or e-mail me at

Sincerely in Christ,