By Anne Marie Amacher
The Catholic Messenger
IOWA CITY — Meeting for the second time, the strategic planning group for Catholic education learned why parents choose to send their children to Catholic schools, other survey results, and developed strategies and actions for the final strategic plan.
Lee Morrison, diocesan superintendent of Catholic schools, said 44 stakeholders attended the Feb. 5 session at St. Patrick Parish in Iowa City. They included parents, development directors, principals, priests with schools, Diocesan Board of Education members, diocesan faith formation representatives and long-time supporters of Catholic education.
Dan Ebener, director of stewardship and planning for the Diocese of Davenport, facilitated the evening session. “It was a very impressive showing of support for Catholic schools and interest in the future direction of our schools. It was clear from the participants on Feb. 5 that they would like to see the school principals and local school boards to be involved in working this strategic plan.”
Bridget Murphy, principal of Assumption High School in Davenport, shared the survey results compiled from the responses of 933 parents, 238 teachers, 36 priests and 16 administrators. She said the top three reasons that parents select Catholic education for their children are environment, academics and religion. Other findings: parents said that the Catholic schools they are familiar with establish a foundation of moral and ethical values and that diocesan schools have good reputations and teachers who are well-prepared and effective.
The 238 teacher respondents (74 percent of whom are Catholic) said the top reasons they choose to teach in Catholic schools are: an interest in teaching, a desire to work with young people, and an opportunity to share their values.
Sixty-seven percent of the teachers planned to be teaching at their present school five years from now, 11 percent said they would be retired five years from now, and 14 percent stated they would likely leave for higher salaries. Also, 77 percent of diocesan teachers stated it was either likely or very likely they would remain in Catholic schools for the remainder of their careers.
Morrison said the strategic planning group “desires a very clear vision for Catholic education in the Diocese of Davenport and wants to see Catholic education promoted well throughout the diocese.”
Attendees divided into six groups to develop strategies and actions for the final strategic plan. The overarching goals are discipleship, stewardship and evangelization.
Bill Maupin, principal at Notre Dame Catholic Schools in Burlington, was very happy with the survey results. “It proves that the teachers we have are here for the right reasons. They love to teach and they know that God has a plan for their lives and that includes Catholic education.”
Maupin was in the group that worked on discipleship. “What I took away from last night was that we are vibrant and growing. We have so many wonderful things going on in our diocese. We need to get out there and let everyone know about it. We are fulfilling an important mission of the church to spread the word of Jesus.”
Father Ken Kuntz, pastor of Prince of Peace Parish in Clinton, said: “From the perspective of being a pastor, I want to make sure that we clearly understand the mission of Catholic schools, and that is, first and foremost, to form disciples of Jesus who are faithful members of the church. This is what separates us from other private schools.
“At Prince of Peace, we consider our school to be a significant way we fulfill our mission of passing the faith on to the children and young people of our parish.”
Fr. Kuntz is concerned about how the parish will be able to subsidize Catholic education so that no child is turned away from the school because of lack of funds. “That’s an area that still needs some direction.”
As far as marketing, he noted: “We need to constantly promote and highlight what’s going on so that the community at large and parents in particular, know what a gem we have in our Catholic schools.”
LuAnn Glaser a member of the Diocesan Board of Education was impressed with the survey results, especially the response of the teachers to the question of why they work in a Catholic school. “Their responses speak to their dedication to Catholic education and their willingness to stay in Catholic schools. The schools are blessed to have such dedicated teachers!”
She said the groups developed action plan steps for each of the three goal areas. It was a process that worked well, kept the group focused, and resulted in specific actions.
Sharon Roling, principal at St. Joseph Catholic School in DeWitt, said the survey results did not really surprise her. “I was affirmed that our families and teachers are committed to Catholic education. While teachers view their profession as a ministry of the church, there was a consensus from the survey that those who work in Catholic schools do not receive a just wage and benefits.”
In her work group, Roling said everyone had an opportunity for input. Her group generated ideas for the evangelization action plan. “We generated ideas on how to improve our marketing plan for schools, as well as further our Catholic mission of service through faith formation.
“The evening was a wonderful example of how the time attribute of stewardship was shared. There were many different diocesan stakeholders present, all with one common goal: how to continue the fine tradition of Catholic education in our diocese.”
The strategic planning group’s work will be edited by the diocesan Catholic schools office and reviewed electronically by the whole group before being sent to the diocesan board of education and Bishop Martin Amos for approval. The strategic plan will take effect July 1.
“I am tremendously excited about the energy that was present as we strive to enhance our Catholic schools in the Diocese of Davenport,” Morrison said. “The parents of students in our schools affirmed the great value of a Catholic education.”