ELGIN—Parents from Elgin area Catholic schools gathered April 3 at St. Edward Central Catholic High School to learn about the key findings and data, gain insights, and share feedback about the next steps in the Faith Forward Strategic planning process for diocesan Catholic schools.
Parents and parishioners of St. Joseph, St. Laurence and St. Mary met with Michael Kagan, superintendent of Catholic schools, and Tom Heding of the Meitler consulting group of Milwaukee to share their feedback on the data presented. They also talked in small groups about ways the three schools might work together for future viability in a variety of areas.
This year, the three schools combined have 274 empty seats meaning they are at 63% of capacity.
While the goals and strategies outlined in the Faith Forward plan are for the benefit of all diocesan schools, the three Elgin schools were specifically identified for future collaboration because of:
• Various facility needs resulting from aging buildings;
• Competition for the same demographic; and
• Overall financial condition and reliance on parish support.
“Despite some of the grim demographics and population trends in our state and the Catholic Church itself, we remain excited about the future of our schools and the opportunity to address some of the challenges we face to ensure our children are receiving the best education possible and a strong foundation in the Catholic faith,” Kagan said.
Principals, priests and teachers from the Elgin schools also attended the meeting of about 200 which followed the format of meetings held in Aurora in February and in Rockford last month.
During 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 which significantly impacts overall education and finances.
“Over the past ten years, enrollment in Catholic schools diocesan-wide has decreased by 3,000 students. That is the equivalent of losing 12 schools at 250 students each,” Kagan said. “That data tells us we must do things differently so our schools will not only be here 10 years from now, but also remain strong and vibrant and continue offering a high-quality, faith-centered education,”
During the meeting, Heding shared their process, critical data and analysis collected from the Elgin-area schools and updated the attendees on possible strategies to address the challenges. In addition, attendees were encouraged to provide feedback during small group sessions. All feedback gathered in the session will be reviewed and incorporated into next steps of the planning and implementation process.
Next Steps: Compile all feedback and present back to the schools and form planning work groups.