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Catholic School Leadership is a Reflective Practice

Catholic School improvement efforts rely heavily on Leadership. In my 30 plus years of partnering with more than 6000 Catholic schools in 120 Catholic dioceses I can say with certainty that the difference between a good Catholic school and a great one is the school leader.

I encourage all Catholic school leaders and in particular first year school leaders to be reflective, particularly over the Christmas break each year, \as I have learned that a reflective practice is a quality of a school leader. After winning 3 National Champion ships, Knute Rockne said: “There is no reason for me to continue unless I can improve.”

Over the past few days of this Christmas break, I have been reflecting myself, particularly on the qualities of an effective Catholic school leader and believe strongly that the most effective Catholic school leaders – serve first – build trust and always, always bear witness to their values.

Catholic school leaders must be great communicators as it is they who articulate the vision, mission, and profile of the grad at graduation to staff, parents and the larger Catholic community. They need to be focused on building a culture which will have a positive impact on student learning, achievement and Faith formation. The very best Catholic school leaders manage by walking around as they get to know the students by name and can by observation identify areas where teachers can improve. Most importantly, effective Catholic school leaders are filled with a missionary zeal and unwilling to ever give up on a young scholar. The very best Catholic school leaders are the epitome of pastoral and instructional leadership for the students, staff and parents.

Teaching Easter in Classrooms

Easter is the culmination of the most important week in the Christian calendar, and marks the grand, triumphant culmination of the season of Lent.


Although Easter is commonly associated with bunnies and eggs, chicks and flowers, the true meaning of Easter centers on the glorious resurrection of Jesus Christ. When teaching Easter in the classroom, it is a good idea to strike a clean balance between these two contrasting themes.


The colorful pastels and baby animals of Easter are playful and friendly for young students, but teachers should not neglect to tell the story of Jesus and his amazing gift to humanity.


In the days leading up to Easter, it is common to read from the Bible the appropriate events pertaining to Christ’s triumphant entry into Jerusalem, his subsequent betrayal, and his crucifixion on the Cross.


Reading directly from the Bible is appropriate for older students, but younger ones may have a difficult time responding to the formal language of the Scriptures. Find a careful translation of the relevant Bible accounts in a language easy for young students to understand.


Another thing you can do is engage your students in a discussion. Ask them questions about what Jesus death and resurrection mean to them. In the days leading up to Easter (possibly on the Friday before), arrange a slideshow of the Stations of the Cross and ask them to explain what is happening, if they can.


Of course, Easter should be a fun and exciting day as well. Perhaps you could stage an Easter egg hunt in the classroom, or simply bring in some candy to share. If you have kids, especially younger ones, you could print off a collection of images and allow them to pick their favorite ones to color.


Many of these examples primarily pertain to younger students. What can you do to engage high schoolers in a holiday that is often geared towards children? Encourage your students to write. Perhaps they could write about what Jesus’ sacrifice means to them personally. Another idea would be to have them reflect on how they have changed and grown from children to young adults. Perhaps incorporate some reflective music and some meditation.


These are just a few ideas. The links below will refer you to all the resources cited above and a few more.



Incorporating Lent Into Your Class Curriculum

Children are keenly aware of the start of Lent on Ash Wednesday and the conclusion of Lent on Easter Sunday but often lose focus on the process between. In an effort to help them have a new outlook on Lent, here are a few suggestions.


(1) A Lenten calendar

One of the best Lenten calendars for kids is at It allows the child to visualize the Lenten path with key symbols for meatless days as well as ample space for him or her to write in their Lenten offering or sacrifice of the day.


(2) Stations of the Cross

Talk with the class about the significance of each of the Stations of the Cross. Walk the kids through each station and use it as an opportunity to remind them of Jesus’s tremendous love for us. Perhaps you can take the Stations lesson outside the classroom, into the Church (if connected to your school) or into a prayer garden to allow the children to reflect on them.


(3) Penance

Lent is a time of preparation, and one of the best methods to prepare for the miracle of Easter Sunday is to repent our sins. Schedule a time for the kids to experience the healing power of reconciliation with a priest. This is a good time to review with them how the sacrament works and ease any of their anxieties related to it.


(4) Sacrifice

Kids know they should give up something but are never sure what to do. Give them creative and age-appropriate suggestions that could perhaps be implemented as a class. For example, on Tuesdays, the class will drink water for lunch and give up other beverages like juice and milk. On Thursdays, no desserts will be eaten at lunch.


(5) Encourage Extra Acts of Kindness and Empathy

Lent is a great time to reinforce the universal themes of kindness and empathy within the classroom. Instead of giving up something, the kids can do additional things each day as their Lenten offering. Helping a fellow student in need, praying for the family member of a classmate, or just offering a smile to a child that may be having a bad day are important things that can create permanent behavioral changes after Lent is over. Encourage them to be kinder than necessary to their friends and family members during the Lenten season. This is particularly important  when bullying becomes more and more important to address in the classroom.


Age-appropriate Lenten observances or traditions can turn into life-long habits for school children. In addition to these ideas, ask the students to be creative and contribute ideas to your classroom’s observance of Lent.


The Plenary Council of Baltimore to the New Millennium – “Steven Virgadamo” reflects on Catholic Schools


The growth of the Catholic schools in this country really received its impetus from the Plenary Councils of Baltimore in the late 1880’s. In the Third Council of Baltimore it was decreed that every parish must have a parish school. It was also suggested that these schools were to be free for every child. It was the duty of the whole parish to support this educational initiative and to make this a priority for the parish community. At the same time there were emerging religious communities of men and women who undertook the task of providing the staffing for these schools at little compensation other than a roof over their heads and food to eat. The population that was being served was basically an immigrant population that had many needs such that both the parishes and the schools became the center of life for its members.

This model worked well for the first half of the 20th Century. Its success could be attributed to an articulated vision, a committed constituency, a commitment to excellence in education, “cheap labor” and a willingness to do whatever was needed to maintain its viability. i.e.; the selling of wrapping paper, magazines, light bulbs, candy, carnivals, bingo nights, etc.

However, by 1969 we were experiencing societal upheaval and feeling the impacts of the Second Vatican Council, both changed the landscape and in many ways altered the paradigm upon which the Catholic schools system had thrived in the first part of the century. Many of the values and traditional institutions that helped support the Catholic schools in the earlier part of that century were ripped apart. Yet in many ways the Catholic schools continued to move forward often with the same structures and the same guiding principles yet now in a radically different environment. In hindsight, one might say the schools were unhampered by progress.

Reverend John Flynn, former Director of Education for the Archdiocese of Omaha and Richard Burke, the founder of Catholic School Management Inc. began in the early 1970’s calling for a change in the paradigm of Catholic School financing and marketing. For those if us that are old enough to remember it was a difficult message as many would respond we are the church, not a business and would cover their ears if the word marketing was used in a conversation related to our schools. This author hopes that the annals of the history of Catholic School education will recognize Father Flynn and Richard Burke among others as pioneers in changing the face of how our Catholic schools in America schools are financed, governed, administered and marketed.

Today and Tomorrow

There has been much research and many studies done in recent years around the challenges facing Catholic schools in the 21st Century. There has been increasing dialogue among many differing constituents as to what can be done to maintain and strengthen our schools going forward.

It is my hope that all baptized members of our Church will reaffirm unequivocally that the Catholic school is the best place for the formation of the next generation of Catholics. Studies have shown that those who attended Catholic schools in the past are by and large the leaders in our parishes today. They are more faithful in participating in the sacramental life of the Church and in their active engagement in the parish community.

The canons are very specific about the quality of education offered in a Catholic school and each Ordinary is responsible for assuring that the education offered in a Catholic school must be as good or better than what a family can receive within their respective community. With this in mind, as we forge ahead, we need to constantly evaluate and access the work that is being done to make sure the schools are accomplishing the goals that are set for them and also that they have the necessary resources to make this a reality.

The National Catholic Education Association (NCEA) has developed a new resource which is known as “National Standards and Benchmarks for effective Catholic Elementary and Secondary Schools.” These standards describe how the mission-driven, program effective, well managed and responsibly governed Catholic schools operate. The Association developed these standards in the hope that they would give cohesiveness to our articulation of one’s understanding of what we mean when we use the term Catholic school and the expectations one can anticipate when they enroll their child in a Catholic School.

In the document there are three types of statements that are grounded in Church teachings, best practices and proven success of those committed to the future of Catholic elementary and secondary education in the United States. In summary, The “National Standards and Benchmarks for effective Catholic Elementary and Secondary Schools:

  • Documents the Defining Characteristics, which describe the deep Catholic identity of Catholic Schools.
  •  Identifies Standards, which communicate policies, programs, structures, and processes that should be present in a Catholic school.
  • Suggests Benchmarks, which allow one to provide observable, measurable, and clear descriptors for evaluating and crafting improvements to the Catholic school experience.

Prudent use of this tool can help to better articulate why we need our Catholic schools. We need to explain more emphatically that their maintenance is the responsibility of the whole Catholic community and not simply the parents of the children who attend them. We need to enlist the support of a wider constituency in our community who sees the valuable resource that our schools are to society at large and are willing to partner with us in maintaining their viability.

In promoting the reason for our schools we need to point out that our schools are not only places where one can learn to read and write but they are places where a person is helped to develop their full potential, to be formed in the true values of our Christian faith, to participate in a nurturing and Christ-centered community where one is encouraged to develop his /her relationship with Jesus and with others so that the unique dignity of every person is respected and valued.

It often surprises me that there is so much discussion today regarding the Catholic Identity of our Schools. As an individual with nearly a lifetime of service to Catholic education, I can recall first reading the Bishops Pastoral Letter issued in 1971 entitled “To teach as Jesus Did”. It seems as valid today as it did then as it focuses on for us the three-fold mission of our Catholic schools – to proclaim the Gospel, to build community and to serve our brothers and sisters.

Perhaps the dialog should no longer be about what is the Catholic identity of our schools, but how do we best implement the guidance of the pastoral letter. Specifically, the school must be a place where the virtue of charity and love for one’s neighbor is the touchstone of the daily life and activity of the school. Christian Community service must be fostered as a constitutive dimension of one’s formation into the fully formed human person that is the goal of all Catholic education.

We must not be hesitant to point out to parents that our Catholic schools are more important than ever in assisting them in their responsibility as the primary educators of their children. We live in a time and in a culture whose values are progressively more and more secular and humanistic. Unfortunately in our country today the government sponsored education that is being offered to children is one based on the philosophy of secular humanism. The values of that system are quite contrary to our understanding of human nature and the way the Lord calls us to live. Our Catholic faith calls us to evangelize our culture and our Catholic elementary and Secondary schools play a critical and irreplaceable role in this effort.

If we are to maintain and prosper our Catholic schools we must re-evaluate many of the structures and resources that helped in the past, discard what is no longer relevant in the current milieu and put in place the foundation stones that will carry us through to the future.

Some believe the two largest challenges facing Catholic Schools are Finance and Governance. While not discounting these challenges, I choose to respectfully disagree. In my opinion the most crucial threat to our schools is leadership. It is perhaps the most important challenge to the survival of the Catholic Schools. We need to develop, form and train individuals who can guide our schools into the future. The leaders must be totally committed to the mission of Catholic education. They must be faith-filled people and will be true role models for the staff and students they will encounter on a daily basis. They must have a passion for the work that needs to be done and a willingness to work to achieve the goals that are put forth. These individuals must embody and live the Catholic identity that we proclaim and be examples of individuals who, with God’s grace, have become true disciples of the Lord.


The Second Vatican Council called for a wider participation of the laity in the mission and work of the Church. The school is an appropriate venue for this participation. The Catholic School leader at the helm of our schools in the 21st century will embrace the concept of stewardship and expand the involvement of the management of the school to include competent lay leaders. This collaborative model of governance will utilize a wider pool of talent to help fashion and communicate the direction of the school and its mission. While the role of the Pastor is vital and important as “Shepherd”, the pastor of a parish with a Catholic school should partner with his school administrator to enlist the skills and talents of his parishioners in the running and maintaining the parish and school. We must not be shy about asking individuals to give of their time and talent to help in this important and essential work of the Church. Every pastor and school administrator needs the assistance of a Board, which will help direct and guide the future well being of the school. Since the early 1990’s I have been along with Richard Burke and others a strong advocate of establishing Boards of limited jurisdiction.

Humility, while a great virtue in an individual can be deadly for an institution.  Jesus tells us in Matthew’s Gospel,” Neither do you light a lamp and put it under a bushel basket where no one can see but rather on a lamp stand so it gives light to all the world.”(Matt: 5:15)

The global communications network that has come of age with the development of the Internet requires schools to be able to communicate their message effectively to their constituents. This will require a well thought out and well crafted marketing plan for the school. The Catholic schools will not succeed unless they tell their success story effectively to a wider community and promote the success they achieve in working with our young people. People like to support successful endeavors and they like to be associated with   winning programs.  John Kennedy said: “Success has many father’s, but failure, is always an orphan.”

There is no question that the maintenance of our Catholic schools and the education they provide will be an ongoing challenge in the years ahead. However, we must not underestimate the overall benefits that come to a parish, diocese and our church from sponsoring Catholic schools. Our schools are about children and the formation that is needed to help them develop into the sons and daughters that God has called them to be.

A Catholic school is a life giving entity. The energy that young families bring to the community needs to be harnessed and guided. In truth good Catholic schools can and should be the lifeblood of our parishes, dioceses and church.

Catholic School Leaders Discuss Planning to Avert Crisis

This post and the image are originally from Fordham GSE News, the website for news from Fordham University.

Last week, The Center for Catholic for School Leadership and Faith-Based Education hosted their first in a series of three Entrepreneurial Leadership Seminars focused on Leading Through Crisis. Catholic school leaders from New York City, Long Island, New Jersey, and Connecticut met at the Lincoln Center campus for a discussion on Planning to Avert Crisis.

According to Jerry Cattaro, Ed.D., Professor and Executive Director of the Center, the topic was chosen based on conversations with local superintendents and associate superintendents who expressed interest in learning more about crisis intervention and management in schools.

Christa Chodkowski, a first year principal at Our Lady of Mount Carmel school in Meriden, Connecticut hoped to learn strategies that she could bring back to her teachers and staff to serve her students more safely.

The seminar was led by Steve Virgadamo, Associate Superintendent for Leadership at the Archdiocese of New York, who opened the morning session talking about how religious schools’ strategic plans and missions should guide their crisis management planning. In times of crisis, a strong mission and strategic plan will provide the lens through which to talk about crisis, to guide and justify decisions and actions.

He stressed the importance of strong relationships between and among leadership, school personnel, students, families, and the community. Mr. Virgadamo likened the process of strategic planning to the Doctrine of the Trinity saying “If God is in a relationship, if he can’t do it alone, what makes us think we can do it alone?” With that idea, he explained how to incorporate different stakeholder groups into the strategic planning process.

Mr. Virgadamo also discussed the importance of a strong school culture, emphasizing that there will be no buy-in for strategy without a strong school culture.

“If you do not have a strong culture, it’s harder [to manage the crisis as it unfolds],” he said. School leaders will need the community work together and rally in times of crisis. Having a strong, clear mission and strategic plan sets the groundwork for a strong school culture and a strong school culture will be crucial for dealing with crisis.

The next two seminars in the series will be held in the spring semester.

  • March 31: The Spirituality of Leading Through Times of Crisis with Fr. Joseph O’Keefe of Boston College
  • May 5: Psychological Implications of Crisis and Trauma with Amelio D’Onofrio, Ph.D. of Fordham GSE

The seminars are by invitation only. Superintendents from the following dioceses and archdioceses may choose up to five principals and/or central office staff to attend:

  • Archdiocese of Newark
  • Archdiocese of New York
  • Archdiocese of Hartford
  • Diocese of Albany
  • Diocese of Bridgeport
  • Diocese of Brooklyn
  • Diocese of Rockville Centre

Learn more about The Center for Catholic School Leadership and Faith-Based Education.

How To Become A Catholic School Teacher

Have you wanted to become a Catholic school teacher, but you are not quite sure where to start to reach your career goal? Perhaps you were raised with a Catholic education or you are drawn to the faith and want to share it while teaching youth.

Whether you are a new teacher or you have been teaching for years with many teacher resources and ideas under your belt, you may be interested to know how teaching in a private Catholic school may differ from a public school.


What Do I Need to Teach In a Catholic School?
The good news about teaching in a Catholic school is that you don’t have to worry about having a state certificate to be a teacher, although it definitely doesn’t hurt if you do. You may be someone with other types of certification, making it more accessible for many individuals who may be looking for a job right away.

What you will need when teaching in a catholic school is a degree in the subject you wish to teach. If you want to teach theology or history, for example, a bachelor degree in these areas can get you through the door.

Finding a job in a Catholic school may also depend on the demand in your area. If it is a predominantly Catholic area, you may find a few options to choose from with schools hiring. If not, many positions may already be filled.

A commitment to holistic teaching is also required in this type of teaching job. While you may not be expected to portray an extremely religious attitude, the values of the faith and the example of the morals that are defined in the Catholic faith should be evident in your speech and actions and in your teacher resources.


Why Should You Work in a Catholic School?
While the pay may not be as attractive as public school salaries, you will be able to have more control in your classroom and will typically have a smaller class ratio than you would in a public school. The teaching and work environment is most likely an inclusive one where you will feel a part of a team and not just “on your own” trying to make a difference. If you studied religion or theology, you most likely want to teach in a school where these subjects are taught and highly required.

If you are of the Catholic faith and want to help the Catholic education system, you may find it to be an inspiring place to teach where you can share your beliefs and help your students learn while you are at it.


Steven Virgadamo discusses the Fall Semester, Lunch and Student Focus

By the time October rolls around many parents are frustrated that an elementary school child is not eating well at school. Many have already succumbed to that ever-tempting “lunchables” and a bag of chips. Never forget that a child’s meal is a building block to their health and academic success in school.

Here are a few tips to packing a nutritious lunch that kids love;

  1. If you are packing a sandwich, use whole grain bread. The bread must have 3 or more grams of pure fiber to be“true” whole grain bread.
  2. Package the lunch to look like the popular of f the shelf items like “lunchables.” Cut sandwiches into fun shapes like hearts and flowers.
  3. If your scholar won’t eat a sandwich try nutrient dense muffins. You take any basic muffin recipe use gluten free flour and coconut sugar. Add veggies like Carrots etc.
  4. Be sure to include fruit like grapes, apples and bananas.
  5. Make a trail mix – nut free of course – but you can include things like raisins, dried apples, berries and you can even add some dark organic chocolate chips.
  6. Ditch the Juice and replace with water. Add some food coloring if you need to make a more desirable presentation.

Meals rich in fiber are proven satisfy hunger which will allow young scholars to focus better on school work. Whole foods for scholars will instill overall well-being and lifelong healthy eating habits. Most importantly, practice what you preach. If your children see you eating well, they too will grow up eating well.

New Classical Catholic Academy Opens In Colorado

Classical education is an approach to education with origins in the classical world of Rome and Greece. Students who study classical education learn with an emphasis on seeking after truth and goodness through study of the liberal arts. The liberal arts include logic, rhetoric, grammar, geometry, arithmetic, astronomy, and music. It’s a unique way of learning and it appeals to a number of parents, especially millennial parents. In an effort to broaden children’s horizons and reach out to millennials parents, a new Catholic elementary school that uses this method will be coming to Northern Colorado.


This new school, called Frassati Catholic Academy, will be opening in Thornton, an area that has recently seen an increase in its Catholic population. Kevin Kijewski, the Superintendent of Catholic Schools, has stated that the choice to make the school a classical education school was because of the desires of the nearby millennial parents whose children will be entering elementary school.


Frassati Catholic Academy is not only unique in its teaching methods. It is also the first regional Catholic academy to be opened by the Archdiocese of Denver. This means that the school will not be associated with one single parish. Instead, it will serve a wide variety of families in numerous parishes throughout the Northern Colorado region.


The school will offer programs for children in junior kindergarten through fifth grade. When the school begins operation in 2017, they expect the number of children enrolled to be anywhere from 120 to 240 students. For each subsequent year after 2017, the school will add one additional grade up to grade 8.


According to a letter from the Archbishop, the school’s teaching will be rooted in past civilizations such as Greece and Rome. Art, music and Latin will be key parts of the curriculum. He also stated that the classical philosophy of teaching will better prepare students for the rapidly changing world in which we live today. The school’s website states that now more than ever, the modern world requires the thinking skills that are taught through the classical education approach. This style will allow children to be ethical problem solvers, literate evaluators, critical thinkers, and socially responsible citizens of the world.


The school is named after Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati, an Italian man who loved adventure, the outdoors, and social activism, and died at age of 25. He was beatified 77 years after his death by Pope St. John Paul II in 2002. The passions he possessed throughout his life make him an excellent patron for a Catholic school in the Colorado area.


It will be exciting to see children attend Frassati Catholic Academy and gain a unique education that they can utilize as they move forward in the modern world.


Steve Virgadamo Selected to Launch the Entrepreneurial Leadership Series at New York’s Fordham University

This is a press release, and can be found at

New York, NY, October 14, 2016 –(– Fordham University – the Jesuit University of New York – selected Steve Virgadamo to launch the 2016-2017 Entrepreneurial Leadership Series. The invitation only Leadership Series sponsored by Fordham University will focus on Leading through Crisis. Dr. Gerald Cattaro, Director of the Fordham Center for School leadership said: “It is always easy to find spirituality during times of joy, but leaders are called to seek grace and strength during times of crisis and sorrow as well.”

Steven Virgadamo a long time advocate of school choice is an expert in managing and leading schools, colleges and universities through dynamic planning processes. On November 4, 2016, Virgadamo will be at the Fordham Lincoln Center Campus to speak with hundreds of Board Members as well as the Chief Executive Officers and the Chief Operation Officers representing hundreds of schools from throughout the United States. Virgadamo said his talk entitled Planning to Avert Crisis is designed to not only provide practical tools but to inspire hope and feed the spirit of passionate leaders committed to educational reform.

Mr. Virgadamo will bring insight to the Fordham Entrepreneurial Series as he was one of the VIP delegates from the United States invited by the Vatican Congregation to participate in the World Congress on Catholic Education in 2015. For more than 30 years, has worked directly with thousands of Catholic schools both within the continental United States and abroad. In 2012, the Alliance for Catholic Education Program at the University of Notre Dame tapped him to consult with Bishops and Catholic School Superintendents throughout the United States to initiate overall school improvement plans. In 2014, he was invited to return to his New York City roots where he is currently contributing to the architectural re-engineering of the Catholic School System in the Archdiocese of New York.

Don’t Give Up on Our Catholic Schools

Superintendents and the National Catholic Educational Association respond to “Reinventing Catholic Schools”

Note: This post is originally from America Magazine.


“Reinventing Catholic Schools,” by Charles Zech (8/29), is accompanied by a photo of the entrance to a large, run down building with broken windows. The picture reflects the bleak message of the entire piece, which fails to mention the incredible work being done in Catholic schools across the country today. As the superintendents of Catholic schools and members of the National Catholic Educational Association, we work each and every day in schools that look nothing like what the author describes.

Are there challenges in Catholic schools today? Of course. But there were also challenges 50 years ago. The religious who built and served Catholic schools for generations were heroes and saints, and we are honored to stand on their shoulders working with these hallowed institutions. And as people of faith, we believe that God has chosen us and those who work hard every day in Catholic schools across the country to serve at this time.

Professor Zech writes, “It is no longer good stewardship on the part of Catholic dioceses and parishes to continue supporting the old model of Catholic parochial schools.” This implies that those dedicated servants who sacrifice and work daily in these institutions, along with students and families, are wasting church resources. We see funds spent on Catholic schools as an investment in children and the future of the church. The idea of stewardship is to return with increase to the Lord, and research consistently demonstrates that graduates of Catholic schools are among the most academically prepared, generous and civically engaged.

Professor Zech writes that “over time the Catholic population has migrated to the suburbs and increasingly to the South and West…. But the parishes and parochial school buildings still tend to be located in urban areas in the Northeast and Midwest.” In fact, there are already many thriving Catholic schools and parishes in the South and West. Their growth is driven by young, mostly immigrant families who desire a Catholic school education. To give up on these vital institutions would be akin to eliminating Catholic schools in the Northeast 100 years ago when they provided the foundation that allowed Irish, Italian, Polish and other immigrant populations to work their way up in U.S. society. The same work, with the same goal, continues today.

We encourage Professor Zech to visit Catholic schools across the country to see the incredible innovations taking place. These include dual-language immersion, an increase in services to students with special needs, work-study schools like the Cristo Rey Network and ever-increasing support from the community—not only the Catholic community but local communities that understand the value of Catholic schools.

The true story of Catholic schools in the United States is their continued success despite difficulties and their ability to overcome challenges. Catholic schools continue to outperform public and private schools and do a particularly effective job with low-income, minority students. Professor Zech writes that “many urban parochial schools find themselves serving a population that struggles to afford parochial school tuition. Many of these students are not Catholic.” This again indicates a lack of understanding of Catholic schools, especially in the West, where the urban population is largely Catholic. Shuttering schools that serve low-income populations, preserving only those that serve the suburban well-off, contradicts our vital mission to provide a “preferential option for the poor.” Affordability of our schools is a substantial challenge, even while our schools attempt to maintain a relatively low cost of tuition. The momentum of the school choice movement has greatly assisted our families; to date, 27 states and the District of Columbia have some form of parental choice program, and the trend is toward greater levels of public funding support.

To further provide assistance to those low-income families, there is tremendous philanthropic support and great partnerships, from the Catholic Education Foundation in Los Angeles to the Catholic Schools Foundation in Boston and so many more. The value of our schools is perhaps most evident in weekly giving from our Catholic parishioners, many of whom do not have school-age children of their own, who give selflessly to their local parishes knowing that they are supporting Catholic school education, which brings life and vitality to our parishes.

If, as Professor Zech states, the issue of a lack of Catholic giving is such a significant limitation, we should focus on that cause rather than the effect of reduced funds for ministries. Catholic schools are a ministry and continue to be one of the church’s most effective instruments for passing on the faith from one generation to the next.

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That might be the best argument against what Professor Zech proposes. Converting Catholic schools, which infuse the faith throughout the curriculum and the school day, to charter schools would change the essential character of the institutions. There is no such thing as a Catholic charter school. Surely, public charter schools try to mimic Catholic schools with character education and uniforms, but there is not a character education program or a values-based curriculum that compares to teaching the faith. If Catholic schools disappear in great numbers, parishes will not be far behind.

Catholic schools should be seen by all the faithful as a vital component to passing on the faith. Yes, there is a need to investigate alternative structures and models, but it is certainly not the time to give up or propose simplistic one-size-fits-all solutions. While there are problems, there are also real solutions—solutions that are being implemented across the country and that reflect a focus on growth, not resignation to decline. We are moving away from the hospice mentality to a growth mindset that is optimistic in its approach to growth. We are entering a genuine renaissance period in Catholic education, as evidenced by innovative programming, a surge of enrollment in certain regions and renewed confidence for the future.

Every day the 150,000 Catholic school educators in the country, supported by pastors, superintendents, bishops and the National Catholic Educational Association, teach and form students because they believe in Catholic education. We welcome Professor Zech and his colleagues from the Villanova Church Leadership Roundtable to visit with us and any of our Catholic schools to see the great work being done.

Kevin Baxter, Ed.D.
Senior Director and Superintendent of Catholic Schools
Archdiocese of Los Angeles

Debra Brillante
Superintendent for Elementary Schools
Archdiocese of Philadelphia

Thomas W. Burnford, D.Min.
National Catholic Educational Association

Susan M. Gibbons
Director of Educational Services, Superintendent of Catholic Schools
Archdiocese of Cincinnati

Christopher Knight
Secretary for Catechetical Formation and Education/Superintendent of Schools
Diocese of Cleveland

Dr. Jan Daniel Lancaster
Superintendent of Catholic Schools
Archdiocese of New Orleans

Dr. Timothy J. McNiff
Superintendent of Schools
Archdiocese of New York

Christopher Mominey
Chief Operating Officer and Secretary for Education
Archdiocese of Philadelphia

Kurt Nelson, Ph.D.
Superintendent of Catholic Education
Archdiocese of St. Louis

Jim Rigg, Ph.D.
Superintendent of Catholic Schools
Archdiocese of Chicago