Aurora Parents Hear Faith Forward Findings
By Penny Wiegert, Editor
February 9, 2017

AURORA—The strategic planning process for Catholic schools in the Diocese of Rockford is in its consultation  phase in some areas of the diocese.  

On Feb. 6, representatives from the Diocese of Rockford and the Meitler consulting group of Milwaukee met with Catholic school parents and parishioners of St. Peter, St. Therese of Jesus, St. Joseph and Our Lady of Good Counsel. They shared data collected during the first phase of  the Faith Forward: Building our Blueprint for Catholic Schools strategic planning process.

Nearly 200 people attended the meeting at Aurora Central Catholic High School to learn about the findings in the data, gain insights, and share feedback about the next steps in the plan.

In a letter of invitation to parents and parishioners of the four parish schools Michael Kagan, superintendent of Catholic schools said “We are now continuing the consultation process by reviewing some possible educational options by inviting you … to hear the data analysis, potential options for the future of your child’s Catholic school education, and provide your feedback and insights.”

Why these schools?

While the goals and strategies outlined in the Faith Forward plan are for the benefit of all diocesan schools, these four Aurora schools were identified as possibly benefiting from future collaboration because of:

 Location near each other;

 Competition for the same demographic;

 Condition of school facilities; and,

 Condition of school and parish finances.

During the meeting, Tom Heding from Meitler consultants, explained the process, shared critical data and analysis collected from the Aurora area schools and outlined possible strategies to address the challenges the schools face.

Attendees provided feedback during small group sessions.

Suggestions gathered in the session will be reviewed and incorporated into next steps of the process.

The small groups were asked to discuss three questions:

 Looking at the data, what one thing stands out for you?  What trend or issue is having (or will have) the greatest impact on the health of Catholic schools in Aurora?

 Given the data presented, what could or should the schools do together to ensure quality
Catholic school education is available and accessible?

 Assuming a more collaborative approach between the schools is necessary, what initial steps or activities might be considered?

What are concerns?

“I have two girls one in eighth grade, we are planning for her to come to this high school ACCS, and another girl in sixth grade. Next year my little boy is going to start at the school too. I like the meeting but I didn’t see a lot of parents here at the meeting.  I hope in the future the right choice is taken so the four Catholic schools continue to be open,” said Edgar Fragoso a parent from Our Lady of Good Counsel school.

“The Catholic Diocese of Rockford is excited about the future of our schools and the opportunity to address some of the challenges we face in order to ensure our children are receiving the best education possible and a strong foundation in the Catholic faith,” said Kagan. “We are very happy with the turnout at last night’s meeting and look forward to continuing the collaboration on the next steps in this process.”

And those next steps will include gathering parent and parishioner representatives from the Aurora area schools to further identify specific ways to strengthen the schools not only in regard to enrollment, marketing and finance, but also in academics and programming.

Over the course of the last year, the Catholic Diocese of Rockford has been working on a comprehensive strategic plan for Catholic school education throughout the diocese. Bishop David J. Malloy, the Catholic Schools office, pastors, principals, diocesan leaders and a Strategic Planning Committee collaborated to create the Faith Forward plan. The process began with extensive research in partnership with Meitler, a consulting services firm that specializes in the sector of planning and research for schools, parishes, dioceses, and related not-for-profit institutions. The key findings from the research revolve around a decrease in enrollment in all grade levels across the entire diocese which significantly impacts overall education and finance.

Similar meetings will be held in the Elgin and Rockford areas in the coming months.

Watch The Observer and the diocesan website for continued updates on Faith Forward