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The Monroe Catholic Schools Commission


									              The Monroe Catholic Schools Commission

                             June, 2009 Recommendations

1.   Expand the Commission

          Since its formation in November, 2008, the commission has worked hard to come
      up with recommendations to enable our schools to survive and thrive in Monroe. The
      tasks undertaken include the following:
           Met with Pastors and Principals
           Gathered data about each school including facility information, enrollment
              history, tuition history, parish subsidy, scholarship availability, staffing,
              curriculum, academic achievement, faith development, interaction and
              involvement with parish life, etc.
           Conducted a public input session with faculty, staff, and school
           Conducted a survey of faculty and staff
           Studied demographic information available from the Archdiocese of Detroit
              and the South East Michigan Council of Governments
           Conducted a survey of parents of current students
           Conducted two public input sessions for the school and parish communities
           Made preliminary recommendations concerning curriculum, business
              operations, and marketing to Pastors and Administrators
           Gathered information from other communities that have developed new
              models of leadership, governance and financing for Catholic schools

      The Commission was asked to conclude its study and make final recommendations
      by the end of the 2008-2009 school year. While this report constitutes the final
      recommendations of the Commission as it currently exists, we know that the work we
      began in the fall is not done. We therefore are recommending that a commission, in a
      new, expanded form, be established this summer to continue the project and help
      bring it to a conclusion by Spring, 2010.

      Suggestions for an Expanded Commission . The new Commission could perhaps
      consist of 11 to 15 members including representation from parent clubs, school
      boards or school committees. The expanded commission ideally would include
      people with business and marketing experience as well as education experience. All
      should be committed to preserving and improving Catholic education in Monroe. We
      suggest that the new commission be in place by August 1, 2009.
      The tasks of the expanded commission:
              Monitor and encourage progress on the recommendations already adopted
              Study the collaborative educational models that have worked elsewhere and,
      together with Pastors and educational leaders of our four schools (and perhaps with
       the assistance of a consultant), help fashion a structure that will suit Monroe by the
       Spring of 2010 and a timetable for implementation.

 2. Provide Consistent and Clear Communication

 The commission established a website to inform our constituents about the work of the
 commission. The Pastors and the SMCC administration also wrote two letters about the
 work of the commission, one in November, and another in March. We conducted an open
 meeting for school personnel in December, wrote to parents in conjunction with the
 questionnaire project in March, and help two open meetings for the greater parish
 community in May. Despite all of this, many tell us they don’t know what is going on.
 Some confusion understandably results when parishes and schools continue to operate and
 plan for next year as if no cooperative efforts had commenced. Our message about
 working together has to be consistent in everything we say and everything we do A
 brochure (tri-fold has been suggested) describing work done, recommendations adopted,
 and plans for next year should be professionally prepared and distributed by the end of

 3. Hire a Consultant

 We recommend that the Pastors consider hiring a consultant to help with the project. We
also suggest that we request a grant from the schools office at the Archdiocese of Detroit to
pay the cost of the consultant.

 4. Continue Curriculum Coordination

        The four schools already have begun developing a common curriculum. We believe
this work should continue at an accelerated pace and make the following recommendations to
move the curriculum coordination forward:

          a. Select a Leader who can act as a Catalyst
         Someone should be selected to be the mover and shaker on this project. This
person could be one of the Principals, another staff member with experience and interest in
curriculum projects, a parishioner who is a professional educator, or perhaps a curriculum
consultant. We recognize that everyone is very busy with current tasks. Unless there is
someone who energetically takes on the task, we are fearful that progress will be slow.
Ultimately, the curriculum position for the Monroe Catholic schools should be a permanent.

        b. Start Now The curriculum committee under its new leader, should begin work
during the summer.

        c. Establish goals and a timetable
         The Curriculum committee should establish a task list and a timetable to accomplish
those tasks. Progress reports can be published quarterly. For example, the committee can
examine the MEAP results from the grade schools and MME results from the high school
and then establish priorities based on those results. The weakest academic areas should be
the examined first.

         d. Foreign Language Consider a collaborative program among the grade schools
for a foreign language curriculum.

        e. Professional Development Takes steps to insure that professional development
is planned for every teacher and department

        f. End Result
        By the end of the 2009-2010 school year, our constituents should be able to see that
our schools, working together collaboratively, have improved course content and standards,
have participated in teacher training and workshops, examined options for textbooks and
ancillary materials, and are sharing curriculum resources.

 4. Business Operations Project

   SMCC plans on hiring a Business Operations Manager. We recommend:

        a. Study of Business Operations
         With the assistance of the high school business operations manager, or another
appointed Business Operations Coordinator, examine business practices and policies
presently in place at each school. This study could include, for example,
                     human resources matters such as payroll, benefits, and PGC tracking
                     tuition management and collection program
                     consideration of cost-based tuition
                     advisability of a common grade school tuition
                     purchasing
                     cafeteria services
                     pre-school and latch key programs
                     accounts payable management
                     facilities management
                     Information technology
                     janitorial services
                     waste management and recycling
                     system maintenance contracts
                     lawn care and snow removal
                     SCRIP
                     Transportation including day transportation, field trips, athletics
        b. Make recommendations for a combined business plan by March, 2010

        c. Goal   Have a coordinated business operation plan in place for the 2010-2011
school year.

  6.   Marketing and Recruitment Project

       a. Empower a Director
               SMCC currently has two part time employees working in this area. One
       person works in public relations and the other is the Enrollment Coordinator. As
       with curriculum and business operations, we suggest that someone be empowered by

   all four schools to work on marketing Monroe Catholics Schools and assist in
   recruiting students. We don’t know whether the SMCC employees could provide the
   leadership. Our recommendation: explore the possibilities and come up with
   someone who would be excited to take on the challenges.

   b. Religious Education Program Survey
           We recommend that parents of students participating in REPs at the three
   parishes be surveyed. The commission worked on a draft questionnaire but did not
   have time to conduct the survey this spring. This survey could provide information
   about why parents choose the REP option instead of the parish school. The
   commission prepared the draft survey attached to this report as Exhibit 1.

   c. Enrollment Program
      The Schools office of the AOD sponsored a seminar last fall presented by the
   ISPD. We suggest that the ideas be studied and those found suitable to Monroe
   should be implemented.

   d. Broaden the scope
        The Together In Faith process recommended that the Monroe Vicariate develop a
   plan for schools that is vicariate-wide. So far, we have been look at this project from
   the perspective of four schools in the city. Three south county parishes are looking
   into the possibility of a regional school in that area. There are three parishes in close
   proximity to St. Mary, St. Michael, and St. John that used to have schools: St. Anne,
   St. Joseph, Monroe and St. Joseph Maybee. St. Joe, Ida and St. Irene have not had
   schools, but there may be parishioners at those parishes who have never thought
   about sending their children to a Catholic school because they have never been asked.
   St. Charles, St. Patrick and St. Mary Rockwood have schools but they might welcome
   the opportunity to work together with the Monroe Area Catholic schools in marketing
   and enrollment efforts. Our suggestion: Don’t rule out a broader approach. There
   could be a vicariate wide enrollment effort, in keeping with the TIF recommendation.

   e. Consideration of cost-based tuition program
          Cost-based tuition at both the elementary and secondary level should be
      studied for possible implementation

Our Conclusions
  The C words: Closing, Collaboration, Consolidation and where do we go from
    We have a rich legacy of quality Catholic education in Monroe. Last year, our
Pastors and the President of St. Mary Catholic Central decided it was time to work
together to ensure that our legacy will continue for generations to come. Fr. Steve Vileo
from St. Michael the Archangel, Fr. Marc Gawronski from St. Mary, Fr. Jack Quinlan
from St. John the Baptist and Mr. Sean Jorgensen from SMCC established the Monroe
Catholic Schools Commission. They charged the Commission with the task of
recommending ways to ensure effective stewardship of our shared resources as we
provide Catholic education for our students.

     During the course of the year, we frequently heard three words beginning with the
letter “C”: closing, collaboration, consolidation. For example, we heard:
           Is our school in danger of closing?
           How can we collaborate with other parish schools while we are competing
              for the same students?
           Our school’s strength is its autonomy within our parish. Consolidation will
              destroy our school.
     Several people commented at the May forums that the words collaboration and
consolidation sometimes were used interchangeably but have very different meanings.
Collaborate means “working together” but consolidate means to “make into a single
whole, merge, or unite”. Which is it, they asked? Are you proposing that the schools
collaborate or consolidate? The implication behind the question was that parents are
open to collaboration, but opposed to consolidation. Some parents threatened to pull
their children if their parish school was consolidated with other parish schools
     After six months of study, we have concluded that greater collaboration among our
schools is essential if our schools are going to survive and thrive. Our March
recommendations make that clear. We made our recommendations because we know
the following:
                    Fifty-nine Catholic elementary or high schools closed in the
                       Archdiocese of Detroit between 2002 and 2008. (36% of the schools
                       open in 2002)
                    The number of school age children in Michigan and Monroe County
                       has declined over the past several years. Demographic information
                       from SEMCOG suggests that the decline will continue for at least
                       another 20 years.
                    Tuition revenue and enrollments in our four schools are down, in part
                       due to our poor economy. However, enrollments were dropping well
                       before the economic downturn.
                    There is an increase in the difference between the cost to educate and
                       tuition rates
                    Parishes have been required to increase the subsidy for schools at the
                       same time parish revenue is declining. Each parish contributes
                       approximately 25% of parish revenue to help operate the school
                    Parents have identified “Freezing or Lowering Tuition” as the most
                       effective way to increase enrollment
                    Our professional educators subsidize the schools by accepting
                       employment at a compensation level well below that paid in public
              While the above facts that led to our March recommendations for
     Collaboration on curriculum, business operations, and marketing are basically
     “economic facts of life”, we are also convinced that collaboration will lead to a better
     nurturing of our children in the Catholic faith and an enhanced academic
     environment. In other words, we believe that collaboration will result in a more
     attractive product for our constituents. We were not asked to undertake this project
     just to see our schools survive for a few more years. If we felt that our
     recommendations were merely putting our fingers in the dike to postpone an
     inevitable flood, we would say so. We do not consider the commission’s job merely
     to buy some time before our schools close. Rather, our goal is to assist our Monroe

Catholic Community fashion a plan that will enable Catholic education to thrive in
Monroe for generations to come. If that goal can best be accomplished by
something akin to consolidation, so be it.

        All four of our schools are currently viable. All of them do a great job
nurturing students in the faith and providing a strong academic program. But our
schools can do a better job by working together. Parents send their children to our
schools because they provide both faith-based education and strong academics. If
we can enhance those two drawing cards and effectively market them, we can
increase enrollment, despite the economy. “If you build it, they will come.”

       Here are some other things we learned from the parent survey and other
sources over the past six months:

              89.6% of parents surveyed either strongly agree or agree that Catholic
               Schools are worth what it costs to operate them
              90% of our parents believe that our Catholic schools teach Catholic
               doctrine reasonably well
              92% of our parents believe that our schools have a strong Catholic
              64% of our parents would welcome great collaboration among the
               four Catholic schools
              63% of our parents agreed with this statement: If my child’s school
               was no longer managed and exclusively operated by my parish. I
               would continue to send my child there as long as the quality of the
               Catholic educations was preserved and enhanced.
              60% of the students at SMCC come from the three Monroe Catholic
               grade schools
              SMCC is willing and able to provide a leadership roll with the parish
               grade schools in all three collaborative areas: curriculum, marketing,
               and business operations. The relationship can and should be

         So does all of this mean that by next spring, Monroe will have a consolidated
Catholic School system? We can’t say. Consolidation would mean a unified
governance structure. The three grade schools have one governance structure
dictated by canon law but the high school has a very different structure “chartered” at
the time of the merger of MCC and SMA. Putting these different governance models
together will require bold and visionary thinking, creative and open minds at all
levels, encouragement and support from the archdiocese, and a common goal and
vision for our schools.
Under canon law, a pastor must maintain responsibility for a parish school. The
grade schools have school advisory committees and a principal, but ultimate
responsibility remains with the pastor. SMCC, on other hand, has been “chartered”
as an independent entity, not tied to any one parish. It has a policy making board
rather than an advisory board. The pastors of the vicariate appoint a pastor delegate
to the board, but the pastor delegate roll is not comparable to that of a pastor with a
parish school.

We are blessed to have three pastors who share a common desire to preserve and
improve Catholic education in Monroe. With their vision, the hard work and
creative thinking of our school leadership, and an openness to change in the Monroe
Catholic community, we believe that by the end of next school year, we will have a
Catholic Education system that is built upon the long established tradition that has
existed in Monroe County for almost 165 years and will continue into the future for
generations to come. The system will provide a quality education in a faith-based
surrounding for students ranging from preschool through high school graduation. The
system will allow any students in the Monroe County area to attend affordable
Catholic Schools, and keep strong ties to their respective Parish communities.
We don’t yet know how it will be led, how it will be financed, and how it will be
Let us pray for the guidance of the Holy Spirit as we move forward on this project.

       Respectfully submitted,

       Monroe Catholic Schools Commission

       June 8, 2009


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