Schools’ Strategic Planning Process Will Soon Move to Working Groups
By Penny Wiegert, Editor
April 27, 2017

DIOCESE—The Faith Forward Strategic Plan for Catholic Schools in the Rockford Diocese will soon move into its next phase and that is to form smaller study groups in key areas of the diocese.
So far meetings with parents, pastors and educators have been held in Aurora, Elgin, McHenry and Rockford.

During those meetings, data gathered by the Meitler consultant group of Milwaukee was presented.

That information included a close look at population, enrollment, finance and demographics in each of the areas.

About 200 parents in each area attended the meetings, which asked participants to talk about the data and brainstorm about ways the Catholic schools in each area could collaborate and/or share resources.

The bad news

The overall picture, according to Michael Kagan, diocesan superintendent of schools, is that enrollment in the Catholics schools in the diocese has been on the downward trend for the past 10 years.

The diocese has seen a decline of 3,000 students in the past 10 years, which is equivalent to losing 12 schools with an enrollment of 250 students each.

This decline in each area is attributed to several factors which include declining overall population, a decline in the Catholic population and economics.

“In order to maintain the high quality Catholic education that is our standard, we had to take some action,” Kagan said.

That is why the strategic planning process was begun over a year and a half ago.

During each of the area meetings, feedback was gathered and compiled and will be used by the working groups to be developed in Aurora, Elgin and Rockford.

“The overall impression that I gathered from these area meetings was that strong Catholic schools are still needed and wanted in the Rockford Diocese, and the potential to gain new students is also strong,” he said.

The good news

“The fact that we have had so many people participate and express great passion and willingness to help plan the future of our schools is quite heartening,” Kagan said.

Montini School in McHenry and St. John the Baptist School in Johnsburg have already moved ahead in the process.

The two schools and area pastors retained the Meitler consultants to work specifically with them and parents to develop a plan of collaboration.

The two schools will begin sharing resources beginning in the 2017-2018 school year.

Details of the plan from the two schools will be reported in upcoming issues of The Observer.

Kagan said in Aurora, the next round of meetings will be scheduled for late spring or early summer.

Working groups and meetings in Elgin and Rockford will be formed after the administrative team at the diocesan level is put in place on July 1.

Why now?

The Rockford Diocese initiated this strategic planning process as a means to help strengthen its Catholic schools and to increase their effectiveness to both evangelize and form future generations of students.

The plan is a means to make change possible through clearly understanding the challenges and prescribing changes that set forth a wise and smart direction for the future.

To guide development of the Faith Forward plan, a Catholic Schools Planning Committee was established. Members reviewed data and findings compiled by Meitler and the diocesan Catholic schools office.

Early in the process, the consultants visited with every school and compiled significant data. Findings about the condition of schools were widely shared, and a discussion of new directions was initiated.

The Planning Committee used the information and feedback to create a working draft of the plan. The draft was then shared for feedback and refined using that feedback.

After many hours of interviews, meetings, site visits and assessments conducted from November 2015 to October 2016, a comprehensive strategic plan called “Faith Forward: Building our Blueprint for Catholic Schools” was drafted.

That preliminary plan was publicly presented to Catholic leaders including pastors, principals, educational commission members and leaders during a meeting on Oct. 27, 2016 at Rockford’s St. Rita Parish.

During the gathering, major aspects of the plan were presented and discussed in small groups. Topics included Catholic identity and mission; governance and leadership; academic excellence; operational vitality in the areas of enrollment management, finance, facilities and diocesan support and leadership.

Feedback from that meeting and from those reading the draft online was collected used to complete the final document which is posted at