By Anne Marie Amacher
The Catholic Messenger
IOWA CITY — For 2 ½ hours, 60 people with interest in the future of Catholic schools in the Diocese of Davenport met to discuss strategic planning. Three strategic areas were identified as part of the process during a meeting held at St. Patrick Parish Nov. 18.
Participants included principals and other educators, parents, parish members nominated to serve and diocesan board of education members, said Lee Morrison, diocesan superintendent of Catholic schools.
Dan Ebener, diocesan director of stewardship and planning, is leading the group through the process.
Attendees divided into groups and did a “SWOT” analysis to identify strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. “It’s a standard way of conducting an environmental assessment in preparation of strategic planning,” Ebener said. SWOT analysis leads to identifying strategic issues, which was the goal of this first planning meeting.
“We identified discipleship, stewardship and evangelization as our three strategic areas,” Ebener said.
Principal Julie Delaney of St. Paul the Apostle Catholic School in Davenport said it was amazing to have 60 people work together and come up with three strategic areas in one meeting.
Principal Ben Nietzel of Saints Mary and Mathias Catholic School in Muscatine felt the meeting “was incredibly well run. It was kept on track, and I thought the organization of it was such that everyone had a legitimate chance to make their voice heard.” There were lots of good ideas and thoughts that came out of it, he added. “I’m actually very much looking forward to the meeting in January.”
Joe Creen was a representative for John F. Kennedy Catholic School in Davenport. He has served on boards at JFK and is on the Scott County Catholic School Advisory Council.
“It was a great first meeting,” he said. “It was good to see, talk with and share ideas with passionate Catholic school supporters from around the diocese. He said the meeting provided an emotional lift and hope in the sharing of ideas, problems and potential solutions with each other. And, it feels good to be part of a team that will strive to accomplish common goals for the diocese and each region, he added.
Morrison said participants divided into groups to review a report on the National Standards and Benchmarks for Effective Catholic Elementary and Secondary Schools; an article by the late Bishop Joseph McFadden on Alliance for Catholic Education School Pastors Institute; the history of Catholic schools in the diocese; tuition; enrollment from the 1960s to present time; and other issues. Each group conducted a SWOT analysis in their area.
The groups then rearranged members and talked about themes. From there a plan was formed, with these three strategic issues identified:
• Discipleship: focuses on Catholic mission, faith and identity.
• Stewardship: How can we manage and grow financial resources outside of enrollment?
• Evangelization: Marketing and getting the word out about the good news of Catholic education.
“This was a very positive and hopeful for a solid future for Catholic education based on the turnout, responses and enthusiasm,” Morrison said.
Currently surveys are being conducted with parents of Catholic schools students, all priests in the diocese, principals and teachers in the Catholic schools.
A summary will be provided at the Jan. 8 meeting, Morrison said.
Ebener said participants at the meeting will identify strategies for each strategic area and develop action steps for each strategy, then conclude with a visioning process. “The document we will produce by the end of the night will go to the board of education and the bishop for final approval.”