Preliminary Plan for Catholic Schools
in the Catholic Diocese of Erie
Key Components of the Plan

Mission and Catholic Identity
Goals and strategies include:   
  

  1. The teaching of the Catholic faith with a focus on Jesus Christ and the integration of faith with daily living will be a hallmark of every Catholic school in the diocese. Principals and teachers will now have more assistance with integrating Catholic values and principles into the entire school curriculum. Schools will provide opportunities for daily prayer, liturgy, reconciliation, retreats and other practices for students and staff.
  2. All parishes in the diocese will recognize and fulfill their responsibility to help carry out the ministry of Catholic schools, and schools, in turn, will work closely with parishes in the work of evangelization. Best practices for establishing and strengthening connections between schools and area parishes will be identified. Schools will communicate the expectation that parents will be actively involved in the religious formation of their children and participating members of their parish or faith community. In addition, the bishop and the vicars general will regularly promote the importance of Catholic education for the church in general and the Diocese of Erie in particular.

Governance and Leadership
Goals and strategies include:

  1. The Catholic Schools Office will be given a leadership role for Catholic schools in the diocese. This will involve the office more deeply in everything from principal selection and the creation of system boards to developing new positions including superintendent of schools, as well as in the areas of advancement and marketing and recruitment.
  2. School systems, both existing and new, will function within a uniform set of guidelines.  The plan addresses system governance, school connection to parishes, fiscal operation and advancement.
  3. Parish schools and multi-parish schools will consistently function within a uniform set of guidelines. A series of strategies are in place to help provide more consistency across the diocese for everything from parish school advisory councils to orientation and in-service days.
  4. Parish school advisory councils will be delegated responsibilities by the pastor in limited areas.  Principals and pastors will be trained in establishing and using school advisory councils for parish schools. Schools currently differ in this area; the goal is to establish consistently effective advisory councils.
  5. School system boards will follow best practices. For example, boards will operate with a strong committee structure utilizing non-board local community persons in addition to board members. Committees should minimally include Executive, Mission, Academic, Finance, Facilities, Personnel, Advancement and Marketing.
  6. Each principal or head administrator will be a well-qualified and competent leader. The Catholic Schools Office will develop a clear set of criteria and expectations for the Catholic school principal or head administrator; it will also create a principal selection procedure.
  7. Every school will have a comprehensive, multi-year strategic plan. Every school will be guided by its plan, using it to inform all decision making.  The plan will follow a diocesan template designed by the Catholic Schools Office that is organized around national standards and aligned with Middle States accreditation. The process to develop and update the plan will engage local school board or advisory council, parents, principal and pastor team, faculty, sponsoring parishes, and current/future donors.
  8. Within Governance and Leadership fall the key components of the Organization of Structure of Schools. They are included as a separate attachment called School by School Listing.

Academic Excellence
Parents want to know that the tuition dollars spent on their child’s Catholic education will be worth the investment, not only in terms of Catholic identity, but also in terms of academic excellence.
Goals and strategies include:

  1. Every Catholic school in the Diocese of Erie will effectively combine Catholic identity and academic excellence, which will distinguish it from other schools in the community.  For example, the Catholic Schools Office will ensure that opportunities exist for individual schools to share their unique and successful academic programs with other diocesan schools. Schools with these programs will be encouraged to provide advice and assistance to other schools interested in developing similar programs. All schools will now offer a complete academic program, including instruction in the arts, and will provide age-appropriate co-curricular activities.
  2. The eleven schools in the diocese not connected to a school system, will now form a consortium in order to improve academic quality and operational efficiency. Examples of opportunities for consortium members include group purchasing options to reduce individual school costs, professional development, distance learning options for specialty courses, and common marketing  and advancement activities.
    The schools in the consortium include:

Immaculate Conception School, Clarion
Seton Catholic School, Meadville
Ss. Cosmas and Damian School, Punxsutawney
St. Bernard School, Bradford
St. Francis School, Clearfield
St. Gregory School, North East
St. Joseph School, Lucinda
St. Joseph School, Warren
St. Michael School, Greenville  
St. Patrick School, Franklin
St. Stephen School, Oil City

3. Catholic school administrators and teachers will engage in ongoing professional development that enhances professional knowledge and skills.  Each school will provide opportunities for teachers and administrators to participate in local, regional and national conferences and workshops as well as opportunities to visit schools with exemplary programs. Teacher contracts will be amended to include ten days of professional development each year.

4. Technology will support the instructional goals of each school and provide students with a solid technology foundation for their future.  Ongoing training will be provided for faculty in the practical use of technology in their specific content area. Expectations will be established for teachers to use instructional approaches that integrate technology into the classroom and provide opportunities for students to engage in technology-enhanced projects that extend beyond research and word processing.

5. Each school will emphasize the mastery of school-wide academic goals and course-specific objectives. The Catholic Schools Office will provide assistance to schools on effective data collection and its management, analysis, and application to developing curriculum and improving student performance. Student progress will be included as one of the factors in the ongoing supervision and evaluation of principals and teachers. Professional development programs for staff will be tied to student learning objectives and success in achieving the learning outcomes.

6. Each elementary school will maintain a high-quality pre-school. Each pre-school will use an evidence-based curriculum and promote its role in academic preparation.

Operational Vitality
Goals and strategies include:

1. ENROLLMENT

A. Catholic schools will be marketed effectively to publicize the value and benefits of Catholic schools, support advancement efforts and increase enrollment.  A comprehensive, long-term diocesan-wide marketing/recruitment/retention plan will be researched and developed to market Catholic schools. Integrating best practices and ideas from around the country, the program will promote the mission and value of Catholic schools, and distinguish them from other educational options.

B. Individual schools will implement focused marketing programs. Every school board and advisory council will have a marketing committee and every school will have a marketing plan. The Catholic Schools Office will serve as a resource for developing local school marketing plans and will provide leadership, direction and assistance to administrators and school boards in developing their plans.

2. FINANCES

     Fundamental changes in the budgeting and financial planning process are critical to the health and growth of Catholic schools. The most successful Catholic schools are those which have made, and continue to make, investments in human capital (competitive teacher salaries), technology, program improvements, professional development, recruitment, and modern, up-to-date, physical facilities.
     Lack of adequate funding is preventing schools from maintaining and improving their competitive edge. In short, there must be a recognition of, and a commitment to, investing for the future. The budgeting process cannot be driven solely by currently available levels of revenue.
The financial problems facing Catholic schools did not develop overnight, and neither will the solutions appear overnight. A systemic change is the only way to achieve a new outcome. Leadership is the single most important factor in maintaining the viability of a school. This statement is even truer for implementing the system-wide changes necessary to place Catholic schools on a sound and sustainable financial footing.
     Substantially greater revenues will be needed if Catholic schools are to thrive. There are four components to this equation: tuition, EITC/OSTC and other third party sources, parish subsidies, and advancement.

i. The tuition model must be changed from one which seeks to minimize tuition to one which seeks to maximize revenues.

ii. EITC/OSTC and other external tuition assistance sources need to be pursued even more vigorously, so as to offset the impact of increased tuition levels on enrollment through need-based financial assistance.

iii. Parish subsidies are unevenly spread throughout the diocese. Ideally, substantial subsidies from parishes would not be necessary if tuition structure, third party sources and advancement were fully successful.

iv. Each school needs to conceive and carry out an advancement strategy. The most successful schools have demonstrated that substantial advancement funding, both on an annual basis and for large capital projects, can be achieved. The strategy must be both short term (annual funds) and long term (endowments) in nature.

Goals and strategies include:

A. Transition to a new tuition model in all schools. Actual revenue from tuition and fees will be 50 percent of school revenue within 5 years. Schools close to 50 percent and above will strive for a goal in the range of 60 to 70 percent. With the guidance of the Catholic Schools Office, every school will form a plan and timeline to make the transition. The Catholic/non-Catholic tuition differential will be eliminated, especially where schools are drawing enrollment from the wider community beyond the parish. In addition, the multi-child discount will be phased out over five years. In place of the multi-child discount, tuition assistance will be provided specifically for families with multiple children and special preference will be given for multiple children when analyzing need.

B. Employ a new model of financial assistance. Financial assistance must be directed beyond only families in the lowest income group. An adaptable strategy which includes middle-income families, multi-child families, etc., will be developed. Financial assistance scholarships that go beyond financial need will be considered. This approach will help achieve enrollment goals, recruit students from targeted populations, and attract donor-specific scholarships.

C. Operate schools with efficient staffing levels and determine the number of sections per grade as needed to maintain full classrooms. Schools should not split a grade into multiple sections unless the split is financially viable. A full class is understood to be 25 to 28 students with the caveat this might include a teacher and an aide in some lower grades.

D. All schools will comply with the diocesan salary scale by 2019-20. The diocesan teacher salary scale will be reviewed by the Catholic Schools Office and a new scale will be published with timelines to move from approximately 50 percent of public schools salaries to 60 percent and then to 70 percent. The scale will be flexible to reference public school districts in the particular area where a school is located. The scale is to be considered a minimum which schools are encouraged to exceed.

E. Update accounting and budgeting processes to support the new model. The Catholic Schools Office will establish a dashboard of key metrics to monitor progress in Catholic school finances and other indicators of school health. These metrics will be constructed using established benchmarks, recommendations in the plan, and indicators of a healthy school.

Every school will develop a five-year financial plan for implementing the school’s strategic plan and the Strategic Plan for Catholic Schools. The projection must include the steps necessary to achieve and maintain compliance with salary guidelines. It must be based upon realistic and credible enrollment assumptions and efficient staffing levels.

Principals and school boards (through their finance committees) will be involved in the budgeting process. Principals will receive timely financial reports on a monthly or regular basis. Principals will have a part in, if not be fully responsible for, monitoring expenditures and maintaining a balanced budget.

F. Parish subsidy will not exceed 40 percent of parish income. Parish subsidy will be kept at a level that allows the parish to operate a vibrant parish ministry. Ideally, subsidy for parishes with schools will be in the range of 25 to 40 percent, calculated as a percentage of parish ordinary income.

G. All parishes will support Catholic schools and encourage families to consider Catholic school education.

3. ADVANCEMENT
Goals and strategies include:

A. The diocese will establish a comprehensive diocesan advancement program for Catholic school education to help develop and strengthen advancement programs in schools throughout the diocese and build a culture of philanthropy among all constituents. The diocese will establish a school-specific diocesan Advancement Office to provide assistance to schools for third-source funding and philanthropy and serve as a diocesan ambassador for Catholic education among its constituents. A diocesan case statement will be developed with related materials and documents to create a strong coordinated diocesan approach to Catholic education. Diocesan training will provide assistance to schools/systems.

B. Every school will develop a strategic approach for solicitation of EITC/OSTC funds and maintain donor relationships.

C. Every school will create and maintain a permanent endowment.

D. Schools will anticipate a diocesan capital campaign which will include a Catholic schools component. The Catholic Schools Office will develop a list of needs and opportunities that could be funded through a diocesan capital campaign.

4. FACILITIES
Goals and strategies include:

A. Each school will prioritize its long-term capital needs and projects in order to develop a facility master plan. The plan will be updated on a regular basis. The master plan will be funded by a capital improvement allocation in the annual operating budget, and resources obtained by the school or parish advancement efforts through regular donations and/or a major capital campaign. Each school also will formulate a capital budget for the next five years. The diocese will give technical support to schools that need to develop and prioritize a master facility plan.

 

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