By Anne Marie Amacher
The Catholic Messenger
Input is being sought from parents and other stakeholders regarding the future of Catholic education in Scott County. The elementary schools in the county are Lourdes Catholic in Bettendorf and All Saints Catholic, John F. Kennedy Catholic and St. Paul the Apostle Catholic schools in Davenport. Assumption High School is in Davenport.
Andy Craig, president of Assumption High School and co-leader with Rosie Barton for strategic planning, said Catholic education offered in the county has many strengths but also some challenges. “These challenges need to be addressed in order for the schools to improve, grow together and enhance the mission of Catholic education in Scott County.”
Challenges identified in the strategic planning process include the need for a similar curriculum among the elementary schools, updated technology, additional academic opportunities for STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math), marketing and enrollment management, and financial assistance.
The committee hopes to achieve a more regionalized system. “I want to be clear. There will be no school closures or mergers. The schools will remain separate. No consolidations, no housing grades at one campus and others at another,” Craig said.
A regional system means sharing opportunities. Craig said major benefits of a regional model include improved resource sharing, enhanced program offerings, increased professional development, common tuition, common compensation and benefits, enhanced management for enrollment through marketing, branding, recruitment and retention, larger funding opportunities, tuition that better matches the actual cost of education with expanding tuition assistance, and affordable parish subsidies. This model would provide consistency for Scott County schools and the opportunity to be more competitive with public schools.
The steps to a regionalized system include program management in which an oversight committee seeks consensus on the new direction to take, and the formation of groups to design and implement the system.
Craig said direction is being sought from diocesan, parish and school leaders, parish and school staff, parish and school boards and councils, parents and Catholics in the county.
Working groups would help with centralizing services, a governance model, funding model, facilities plan and middle school experience. “There are not enough people to take on all the responsibilities needed” at the individual school level, Craig noted. “Principals already have a lot of responsibilities.”
One example for centralized services could be human resources (HR). At present, if a school needs a first-grade teacher, that school advertises the position on its own, does all the work ahead and the interviews and hiring. That preliminary process could be handled by HR, which would then pass along qualified candidates to each principal to interview and hire. The governance model works to identify responsibility at the diocesan, parish, regional and local school level.
The funding model addresses gifts, a capital campaign, formula for parish involvement and tuition models and assistance. “We have five schools and five galas. We ask a lot of the same people. Can we do a better coordinated effort together?” Craig asked.
The facilities plan looks at each school’s facility needs. A master plan is needed for each site. “We need to look at the costs,” Craig said.
Middle school experience (grades 6-8) could include more collaborative programs, standards-based curriculum planning and development with Assumption, focus on project-based experiential learning opportunities and more. “This was born out of the former Metanoia study. Grades 6-8 need to offer an important experience.”
So what happens from here? Craig said the Assumption Foundation will become the Scott County Foundation to expand and assist all Catholic schools.
Input from open town meetings will help to finalize the plan. This fall an oversight committee will be established and a program manager hired. Next comes designing the overall system and guidelines, then establishing work groups to address the finer details.
Ideally, implementation would occur in May 2020, with a potential capital campaign. But Craig said that goal has not been set in stone. “We are talking and building awareness right now.”
The first of three summer town hall meetings was held July 31 at St. Paul the Apostle Parish in Davenport. The next two will be Aug. 7 from 6:30-8 p.m. at St. John Vianney Church in Bettendorf and Aug. 14 from 6:30-8 p.m. at Sacred Heart Cathedral in Davenport. All are invited.