Montana Catholic Schools Weekly

January 18, 2015

Parish or Perish?

With Catholic Schools Week right around the corner, many schools will be reaching out to parishes to speak from the pulpits and invite parishioners to their Open Houses. That’s an excellent start. Many of our schools are not parish schools any more—and many of our parish schools see a significant non-parishioners enrolled. This has led to the weakening of some school-parish relationships. Now is a good time to take stock of those relationships.

Reaching out to pastors and parish staffs should not be a one-time event. Our parishes are a great source of direct and indirect support (either through the Diocese at large or through historical support). Have you invited pastors to tour the school? Or have you gone out to meet with them? Have you thanked them for their support? Equally important, have you invited the parish staff (by name) to tour the school? Or to attend All-School Masses?

We need to treat our parishes like donors. In other words, we need to approach them out of gratitude and cultivate those relationships. For example, it’s easy to ask for addresses of religious education students in order to invite them to our open houses. But are we reaching out to the youth ministers? Are we welcoming them to our cafeterias, religion classes, athletic contests? Do we give them (and their families) free passes, for example?

Are we looking for ways to send our students back to the parishes for Mass? Are we encouraging our students to get involved in their parishes? Do we share the names of our families to parishes so they can reach out to them?

As many schools have transitioned to multi-parish models, we often lose that “on-site modeling” that took place in the parishes. Many parishioners (and pastors) don’t know the families who send their students to Catholic schools. If our current parents could identify themselves in some way such as pictures on flyers, by name in school communication or if students could wear spirit gear to Mass, that makes the identification clear.

Without the “on-site modeling” parents miss the connection of who is making the choice of Catholic schools. If prospective parents knew which parishioners sending their students to Catholic schools, that might influence their decision. Ultimately the decision is a financial decision, but parents are also making a decision about which community THEY want to join so the more they know, the more likely they are to choose Catholic schools.

People make decisions out of their own self-interest, so if we can establish that they would be joining a rich, diverse, and healthy school community, we can then sell them on the tremendous benefit for their children that can be found in our excellent schools.

As we work toward a Diocesan marketing plan for Catholic schools, we’ll explore strategies that have worked in other schools such as parent ambassador programs, outreach to newly baptized families, and partnerships with religious education and youth groups. For now, it will benefit your marketing program if you begin to treat parishes as partners and cultivate those relationships.

The Week Ahead

Monday: Great Falls Central Catholic Advisory Council Meeting 7:00 pm

Tuesday: Sacred Heart (Miles City) Advisory Council Meeting 5:30 pm

Wednesday: Butte Catholic Schools Advisory Council Meeting 7:00 pm

Thursday: Montana Federation of Independent Schools 10-2 @ Carroll College

Friday: Office day (Helena) & meeting with Bishop Thomas 1:15 pm

This week: 900 miles

Last week: 780 miles & 314 newsletter views

2014-2015 school year: 18,307 miles

Good News from Montana Catholic Schools

Last week, I met virtually with the Catholic school principals. Here's a look at the great things happening in our Catholic schools:

  • St. Jude (Havre) reported that they utilized MAPS testing in November and will be able to test their students three times.
  • Billings Catholic Schools reported progress in their 1:1 iPad program, standards-based grading, and the adoption of their tuition schedule for next year. They also reported that they have raised $10 million toward construction of their new elementary school.
  • Sacred Heart (Miles City) reported that their families took on a new service project this year--ringing a Salvation Army bell during the holidays. Apparently they were so successful they will have to do it "forever and forever." They are reporting increased enrollment demand in the younger grades and will most likely have so split at least one of their multi-age classrooms.
  • Loyola Sacred Heart reported that their Christmas food drive fed 49 needy families with 22 thousand pounds of food. The Missoula Catholic Schools are currently working on a Strategic Plan for Enrollment.
  • Great Falls Central Catholic has announced a boarding program for Montana students to accompany their international student boarding program. They have been able to secure a wing of the Ursuline Center and hire staff to supervise. For Montana high schoolers, the boarding program will be a Sunday night-Friday afternoon option.
  • De La Salle Blackfeet School is currently searching for a principal. Br. Dale will remain the President. He is also actively recruiting volunteers for next year and is engaged with Carroll College as they explore ways to support each other's missions.
  • Butte Central Schools have reformed their Advisory Councils and are exploring a Spanish and Sign Language curricula for the elementary school.

American Catholic News

Ideas for Catholic Schools Week

This article from last year described how many schools celebrated CSW:

Loyola Press is marketing these inexpensive gifts for families and/or teachers:

Pope surprises former street kids

Questions from our Meetings

Good questions arose from our principal meetings. Here's a look at answers:

  1. January 31st is the deadlne for the Diocese of GFB Safe Environment reports. The new program starts on February 1st so all locations need to submit the name of their Safe Environment coordinator before February 1st.
  2. If a school in the Diocese of Great Falls-Billilngs wants to hire a new employee before February 1st (including substitute teachers) you can with a background check only.
  3. If an employee's spouse is in the military and is transferred, that employee is eligible for unemployment benefits.
  4. If an employee is RIF'ed at the end of the school year, they are eligible for unemployment, too,
  5. If you want to reduce an employee's load (and salary) in the middle of the school year, it is virtually impossible. If you want to reduce for next year's contract, it is possible but speak to me first.
  6. You can draw up a contract that is dependent on enrollment if you worry about enrollment in special programs (such as international programs or extended care) but we'll need to draw up a special statement to apply to each situation.
  7. Evaluation forms and instruments will be coming via email this week.

Leadership Articles

Leadership Opportunity

For all current or aspiring principals, there is a unique opportunity for a Catholic school leadership opportunity:

Teaching & Instruction Resources

PBS Learning Media

A great website for lots of great instructional materials:

Science of Smart podcast

Miscellaneous Articles

Stephen Post: Learn to Forgive Because Bitterness is Bad For Your Health