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Diocese announces completion of long-range plan for schools

By RENEE WEBB, Globe editor
(Email Renee)

About 20 months and hundreds of man hours have passed since talk of the long-range planning process began for Catholic schools in the Diocese of Sioux City.

Bishop Walker Nickless and Dan Ryan, diocesan superintendent of Catholic schools, recently announced the completion of the Diocese of Sioux City’s Long-Range Plan for Catholic Schools.

“While work on the local school long-range plans has just begun, the diocesan plan is complete and ready for publication,” Ryan said.

He pointed out that early on in the planning process they identified five key areas to include in the plan. These areas were identified through research as well as from input offered by teachers, administrators, pastors, parents, board members and others interested in Catholic education.

The five goals: Catholic identity, academic excellence, enrollment and marketing, leadership and governance, and funding. After those areas were identified they came up with recommendations and strategies related to how to meet the goals of those key areas.

“Every school has areas that they are stronger in and ones they can use improvement in,” said Ryan.

He explained that all schools will review the plan and then it will be a collaborative process to decide how the individual school best addresses the areas and how they can take advantage of the resources and knowledge that the Office of Education and chancery can provide.

“As the Office of Education, we can also look at what is working at one school and share that with other schools,” said Ryan.

While the finalized plan has only recently been completed, he noted that drafts of the plan have been available to administrators, school board members and others for more than six months. Given that only minor details have been changed in this final version, he doesn’t anticipate there will be any surprises. A draft of the plan was shared with school officials and all interested persons at town hall meetings in May and a close to finished draft was shared with priests in June at one of their clergy days.

“Our broad goals haven’t changed in a long time but some changes came with the strategies where you start to be more specific or with the wording,” Ryan said. “That’s one advantage of having the priests, administrators and other individuals look at it to make it the best possible plan.”

One of the reasons why they wanted to be so particular about the language used in the plan, the superintendent noted, was that given there are 17 different school systems, situations vary greatly from school to school.

“We allowed for flexibility in the recommendations,” he said. “We also know that we may have made a recommendation and some schools may already be doing it while others might not be there in five years.”

The diocese had used Meitler Consulting to lead the diocesan level of the long-range planning process.

While the diocesan plan is now in place, schools will now look for ways to implement it. The schools have also begun the process of creating their own long-range plans.

Ryan said that the schools have known for more than a year that they would be creating a local long-range plan but the actual work began in late August.

“We have had two sets of face-to-face meetings in three locations around the diocese,” he said. “The meetings have gone well.”

Schools must include the five key areas in their local plans and have the option to add additional areas or goals. For instance, some schools may wish to include facilities or technology in their plans.

“The diocesan long-range plan and the local long-range plan are meant to be two gears that work together,” said Ryan. “We anticipate that the local school boards will approve of their plans by late spring.”

Just as various drafts of the diocesan long-range plan were shared with various interested parties through the process, he said the local schools are encouraged to do that with their local plans.

The Diocese of Sioux City is working with the NCEA (National Catholic Education Association) and Regina Haney in leading the local long-term planning process.

Overview
Diocese of Sioux City’s Long-Range Plan for Catholic Schools

In our efforts to ensure quality Catholic education opportunities throughout the Sioux City Diocese, the Office of Education and every school is engaging in a long range planning process. This process began over eighteen months ago when representatives from the schools and the diocese met to determine what education in Sioux City could look like over the next five to ten years. This process evolved into two phases. Phase I focused primarily on the long range plan for the entire diocese—Phase II focuses on each school or system in the diocese.

During Phase I of the process, the Diocese contracted with Meitler Consultants from Wisconsin. Throughout the 2010-2011 academic year, data was gathered from the various schools/systems in the Sioux City Diocese.

The data collected examined the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. The various data points collected include: parent surveys, enrollment trends, church records (number of registered house-holds, baptism and first communion records, etc.), geographic data, school capacity information, community dynamics, median household income, tuition trends and cur-rent funding sources.

The Office of Education, in conjunction with Meitler Consultants developed a strategic plan for sustained long term growth. Phase I will be completed once this plan is presented to the schools in the fall of 2011. Phase II gets underway in the 2011-2012 school year. The NCEA (National Catholic Education Association) will be meeting with each school to formulate a viable plan for sustained growth and development. The anticipated date for completion of these plans is Spring 2012.

GOALS

Catholic Identity
Our faith remains the cornerstone of who we are and what we teach. Our Catholic schools are charged with providing ongoing faith formation for students and their families through the teaching of authentic Catholic Doctrine and fostering faith that is living, conscious, and active. Our goal is to ensure the Catholic schools in the Diocese of Sioux City are valued and supported in their mission of fostering faith to all they serve.

Academic Excellence
Our mission to “[f]orm a community where learning is facilitated” mandates our schools ensure academic excellence. To live this mission, our schools utilize a comprehensive, challenging and rigorous curriculum to provide a quality academic education for all students. Our focus is to recruit and retain highly qualified teachers who practice faith in daily living. In addition, schools will focus on effectively integrating technology into the classrooms. It is imperative we continue to develop a strong and viable curriculum. Our students need to be problem solvers, critical thinkers, independent workers and successful collaborators.

Enrollment and Marketing
In order to sustain strong Catholic schools throughout the diocese, we will effectively market our schools to the various communities they serve. Our schools will also strive to increase cultural diversity, to reflect both the communities we live in and the world we prepare our students for.

Leadership and Governance
Our communities are rich with Catholic traditions. By utilizing all of our resources (priests and pastors, parents, parishioners, , businesses and the community) to educate students and families, we can continue to build on our traditions. Our clergy and our laity can work jointly to enhance the faith formation of our students. Our goal is to co-ordinate the resources within the diocese to strengthen our opportunities in each com-munity.

Funding
The Diocese of Sioux City is committed to providing Catholic schools that are afford-able and accessible for parents and parishes. We strive to provide just compensation and benefits for employees. We also value safe, attractive facilities to ensure positive learning environments. Our goal is to guarantee sound financial structures to continue our schools’ operations. In addition, we recognize the value of all diocesan parishes to help promote and maintain our Catholic schools as a part of the ministry we all serve.

The plan in its entirety is available on the diocesan website – www.scdiocese.org.

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