Tag: catholic education

Enrollment Management – A New Normal or Not?

A number of schools are saying they have enrollment concerns for 2020-2021 and others are closing prematurely before seeing what the Fall enrollment will be.  Steve Virgadamo believes that massive school closings may not all be related to pandemic issues. He believes there are steps you can take, even in the “Normal Next Covid” economy, to ensure that your school not only survives but flourishes. The trend of moving students back into government-sponsored schools predates the Covid19 pandemic, with affluent families leading the migration to public schools.

 Bursari Executive Vice President Steve Virgadamo shares with us some thoughts on leadership and Enrollment Marketing.  

Steve says it is not just the pandemic…..

 

  1.     “Own your Brand”
  • Your brand is the essence of who you are. It is a promise to your families and the delivery of that promise is essential to increasing market share. Your brand is unique to you. Your attributes, offerings and whom you serve need to be expressed but they need to be defined and used constantly in all school communication whether printed, digital, or verbal.

 

  1.     “Cater to the Millennial Market”
    • Start by defining the millennial parent – your customer – and identify what millennials are seeking in an education for their child(ren);
    • Identify what unique experiences, resources, and tools you have available that can be used to meet the millennial parents’ expectations;
    • Remember today’s parents are not comparing the customer experience with other schools. They are comparing the speed and comprehensiveness of your customer service to the customer care they experience in every other aspect of their life. Think Amazon and Disney experiences.

       
  1.     “On-Line Marketing Rules the Day”
    • Digital marketing is vital. TV, radio, direct mail, lawn signs etc. are past their “sell by date.” The digital marketing space is expanding every hour. Social media ads should be a primary component of your marketing strategy. They are force multipliers that allow you to broaden your reach while engaging your existing audience in meaningful ways.
    • Digital storytelling is a creative way to familiarize people with your brand. You can show one digital advertisement after another in a specific sequence to tell your story.
    • Hypertargeting is the ability to deliver a tailored message to a specific niche audience. Hypertargeting is the most efficient way to both use and stretch your marketing budget.

 

  1.     “Measure and Assess”

Most schools fail to track and assess the effectiveness of their marketing plan. It is important to remember that you cannot improve what you do not measure.

      • Keep a simple log of all aspects of the enrollment process. Record data such as website visits, information requests, campus tours, applications, deposits, etc.
      • Monitor and track student attrition

         
  1.     “Keep Your Finger on the Market’s Pulse”
    • A benefit of telling your school’s story across digital platforms is that you can watch in real time as your constituents and prospective parents/students interact with your story. Their behavior will let you know what is speaking to them and what is not.
    • Test, adapt and refine your marketing story. Your story shapes your brand. Your brand increases student inquiries and customer service converts inquiries to enrolled students.

 

We would love to hear more about your enrollment management best practices. Email them to Steve Virgadamo – svirgadamo@msn.com.  We are all in this together.

Hope Springs Eternal

In a huge win for Catholic schools, the Supreme Court sided with 3 Montana families who asked the court to declare that excluding religious schools from student aid programs is unconstitutional. The Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue looked at whether the Montana Supreme Court violated the U.S. Constitution when it struck down a tax credit scholarship program that allowed students to attend private schools, including religious schools. The decision in this case could have major implications for the use of public dollars to help parents choose a school for their child to attend.

 

In a joint statement, Archbishop Thomas Wenski, Chair of the Bishops’ Conference committee on Religious Liberty and Bishop Michael Barber, Chair of the Bishops’ Education committee said:

 

“The Supreme Court has dealt a blow to the odious legacy of anti- Catholicism in America. Blaine Amendments which are in 37 states’ constitutions were the product of nativism and bigotry. They were never meant to ensure government neutrality towards religion but were expressions of hostility towards the Catholic Church. We are grateful that the Supreme Court has taken an important step that will end this shameful legacy.”

 

Secretary of Education Betsy Devos said: “This decision represents a potential “turning point” in the sad and static history of American education and called on state legislators to “seize” the extraordinary opportunity to expand education choice options. The bigoted Blaine amendments and other restrictions like them are unconstitutional and have blatantly discriminated against students and families based on faith and have forced parents to enroll children in schools which do not match their values.”

 

Proponents of school choice said it was a major triumph in the courts,” Steve Virgadamo, formerly a Director with the University of Notre Dame’s Alliance for Catholic Education and currently Executive Vice President of Bursari.com said: “School Choice is a civil rights issue and the weight that this decision carries is immense. It is a victory for student achievement, parental control, and educational opportunities for the poor and marginalized.”

 

Attorney General William Barr said: “That because of the SCOTUS ruling in the Espinoza Case, a state may no longer disqualify religious schools from scholarships or other programs solely because they are religious.”

 

The loss of Catholic schools would be an American tragedy. It would set back opportunities for generations of low income and inner-city neighborhoods. We cannot accept this for America’s children.  The presence of diverse educational options in our country – a thriving government-sponsored school system and a strong network of independent schools, including religious schools – has always been a source of American vitality.  The Supreme Court decision is indeed monumental, and in the 2020-2021 Covid world, there is still much more to be done to protect the educational opportunities for parents, but Hope Springs Eternal.

Why Parents Choose a Catholic Education for Their Children

Choosing a school for your children to go to is an incredibly important decision for a parent to make. You want to select the best possible education for them, but where should you look? Although you could look to your area’s public schools or one of the many private schools that exist, one thing you shouldn’t discount is sending your children to Catholic school. 

 

Why choose Catholic school over the other options? Here are a few reasons to consider

 

Role Models

 

The teachers at Catholic schools often serve as moral role models for their students. These are the people who will be spending hours at a time with your children, so it’s understandable to want teachers who share the same values that your family does. These values often start being taught while the kids are still at home, so choosing a Catholic school for education will mirror the beliefs taught at home and act as an extension of those previous lessons and ideals.

 

Exposure

 

Obviously, sending your children to a Catholic school will create daily exposure of the Catholic faith to them. This will build a strong religious foundation for your kids as lessons on the Catholic faith are taught every day. By the time they graduate, your children will be more likely to continue being involved in the Church than not. Likewise, they’ll be more likely to pray, donate to the Church, and have an identity solidly in Catholicism. 

 

Community

 

Being involved in the Church creates a sense of community, and this extends to Catholic schools. Being involved in a Catholic school creates an easier time for children to develop that sense of community with their peers and fellow parishioners. The Church offers fellowship, friendship, and service opportunities for those who are interested. For kids far from their families to attend school, the Church and their school can become a central hub for their community and involvement.

 

Education

 

A Catholic school is a high-quality and relatively affordable educational opportunity for kids. Private school is notoriously expensive, but many Catholic schools and dioceses have tuition assistance programs for those who need financial aid. These schools are well worth the cost, as graduates from Catholic schools are more likely to go to college and consistently outperform public and other private schools on national and standardized tests.

Maintaining Tradition While Innovating Catholic Education

Catholic education is something that many parents want for their children. However, there is some conflict between the new age way of thinking with technology and the internet, and the old way of doing things. Therefore, we need to approach education with innovation while maintaining tradition. Here is how to do just that without losing the important aspects of faith:

Devices

More and more devices are entering classrooms every day. Long gone are the days when a classroom was comprised of simply a whiteboard. Today, teachers need to understand that students are going to be tempted to use their phones. Instead of reacting in the strict manner of the past, using measures that enforce policies while allowing a little freedom is paramount.

After all, devices can also be a great way to learn. Using smartphones and tablets in the classroom for things like quizzes, interactive games, and reading can be highly beneficial for cognitive development while also teaching students modern skills needed for today’s increasingly technological world.

Online Education

Not every class requires a physical classroom. Today, online education has grown significantly, which makes sense when taking a step back and looking at the bigger picture. Instead of paying for the building, students can simply log on and contribute with others to pay for their teachers’ time. This also allows for students all over the world to come together and learn about similar subjects, leading us into our next point.

Inclusion

Catholic education must be inclusive to spread the true word of the Lord. Promoting unity is the way forward. Teaching this at a young age is a surefire way to foster positivity and faith among younger generations, and to not discriminate against others purely due to differences in beliefs, appearance, or personality.

Science and Religion

Tradition states that science and the church remain two separate entities. However, with leaders such as the Pope himself coming out and advocating scientific research, it is necessary to innovate teachings so that science may become part of the learning process. That way, it can aid Catholic values rather than distract from them.

Looking at Other Beliefs

Many religions outside of Christianity and Catholicism have valuable lessons as well. Teachers can introduce them without having to praise everything they promote in full, highlighting the importance of acceptance and understanding.

NCEA 2018 President’s Awards Recipients Announced

Originally posted on  www.NCEA.org

NCEA President/CEO Dr. Thomas Burnford, remarked, “By their example of living the Gospel, the honorees display the virtues taught in Catholic schools. These six people have influenced Catholic schools through their passion and commitment to Catholic education.”

The President’s Awards are awards given in the names of individuals and organizations who display the significant virtues of contribution, support, leadership and development to impact Catholic education in the United States.

Dr. Merylann Schuttloffel, professor of educational administration and policy studies at The Catholic University of America, will be honored with the C. Albert Koob Merit Award. This award is given to an individual or organization that has made a meaningful contribution to Catholic education at any level in teaching, administration, parish religious education, research, publication or educational leadership. Dr. Schuttloffel’s exemplary guidance has produced graduates who serve in Catholic leadership positions around the country.

Steven Virgadamo, associate superintendent for leadership of the Archdiocese of New York, will be presented with the John F. Meyers Award. This award is bestowed upon an individual or organization that has provided substantial support for Catholic education in the areas of development, public relations, scholarship programs, financial management or government relations. Mr. Virgadamo has worked in over 95% of the Catholic dioceses in the United States, and has guided schools, parishes and dioceses to raise more than $500 million in new funding through philanthropic giving, ensuring that schools’ futures are secure through thoughtful strategic planning, improved governance organization and effective marketing.

John Elcesser, executive director of the Indiana Non-public Education Association, will be recognized with the Leonard F. DeFiore Parental Choice Advocate Award. This award honors a person or organization that has demonstrated outstanding leadership in promoting full and fair parental choice in education. The right to choose the schools they believe best serve their children is a rallying cry for parents of modest means who, he argues, have a legitimate claim to public support. As a school choice advocate, Mr. Elcesser brings the unique lens of having served both as a private school leader and a public policy advocate. In Indiana, John was a leader of the coalition that successfully passed tax-credit scholarship and voucher legislation.

The Academy of Catholic Educators (ACES), which is based at Notre Dame of Maryland University, is the honoree for the Dr. Karen M. Ristau Innovations Award. This award is reserved for an individual, school or program that has furthered the mission of Catholic education through an innovative program or approach. In the five years since its inception the ACES program has grown to assisting over 30 schools in both the Archdiocese of Baltimore and Washington, D.C. to the point that there are more requests for services than time available for the current two instructional coaches. This program has changed the face of participating schools from whole group, teacher-centered instruction to engaged, student-centered instruction.

Mayra Alza Wilson, coordinator of Latino outreach for Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, will be honored with the Catherine T. McNamee, CSJ Award. This award is given in recognition of promoting a vision of Catholic education that welcomes and serves cultural and economic diversity or serves students with diverse needs. During Ms. Alza Wilson’s tenure the Latino population increased from 4.5% to 18.8% in the ten targeted schools of the urban core of Cincinnati and Dayton. These ten schools in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati experienced a 98% retention rate for Latino students for the 2015-2016 school year, 2% of the students moved out of the state.

This year, NCEA added a Special Recognition Award to be presented posthumously in the name of Dr. Stephen Phelps, former president of Bishop O’Dowd High School in Oakland, CA. This award is in recognition and appreciation for 40 plus years of service and dedication to Catholic education and his tremendous impact on Catholic schools in the San Francisco bay area.

More information on the 2018 President’s Awards is available online.

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.
President/CEO
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