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Key themes surface in Called To Be One schools planning process

Oct 14, 2016

Just ahead of a Sept. 24 retreat on a planning process for the future of Catholic education in Duluth, representatives from the Reid Group shared some of the themes that had emerged from surveys submitted by those interested in Catholic education.

John and Maureen Reid, whose company has been around for 20 years and working with school and parish planning across the country, said that more than 450 surveys posing 12 questions had been submitted, from parents, future parents, homeschoolers, teachers and priests.

Called To Be One Retreat
Participants at a retreat Sept. 24 engage in small group discussions. The feedback from the retreat and hundreds of surveys will shape a draft plan for the schools to be released in October. (Submitted photo)

“So it’s pretty broad feedback, and we’re pleased with the response, for sure,” John said.

Maureen said one point jumped out at her.

“I think one of the themes I was very impressed with was the percentage of people who said that Catholic faith formation was the primary purpose of Catholic education, to a degree that is greater than what I’ve seen in other survey results,” she said.

Often that theme and the academic strength of the programs have a similar response rate, but in this case about 46 percent of respondents said faith formation was the primary purpose.

She said another thing respondents really valued was small class sizes.

John added that a sense of community and a disciplined learning environment — “kind of a healthy, safe learning environment” — were valued.

On the other hand, there were concerns. John highlighted tuition and location as issues that would be likely to come up at the retreat, as well as some history.

“Memories are being stirred from the closing of the high school some 40 years ago,” he said. “And out of that, there’s some skepticism. Can the population base in the Duluth area sustain a high school? So there’s both excitement about it and legitimate concern that has to be addressed for this to thrive.”

Maureen said that people are responding to the call to unity that’s reflected in the name of the project.

“I feel that the Called To Be One name for this project was really inspired, because it really calls the community, the Catholics in the diocese, to really realize that the future of Catholic education in their diocese is really the responsibility of all the Catholics, and not just those who have children in the school at this particular time, or maybe those who just have a school that’s affiliated with their parish,” she said.

The Reids also noted that Duluth Bishop Paul Sirba had taken a key role, both in setting out a vision and in being open to a lot of input from area Catholics, rather than creating a top-down planning process.

The surveys were gathered in preparation for a retreat Sept. 24 at St. James School, where the results and other feedback were discussed in preparation for creating a first draft of a plan.

Hillaire Hauer, co-chair of the Called To Be One planning team, said the retreat was a success. “It was a tremendous community-building time for those who attended,” she said in an email. “There were opportunities for people to speak with others and learn from one another about their priority concerns for the future of our Catholic schools. A mission identity activity, which proved challenging for the group, provided great clarity in that there are many attributes of Catholic schools that our community values. However, one aspect which strongly resonated was that our mission be Christ-centered and enriched by our Catholic faith.”

The first draft of a working plan is expected to be available for review by Oct. 14, and from then until Nov. 11 the planning team will be gathering public feedback on it. Then, on Nov. 12, a second retreat will take place taking all that feedback into account in preparation for the final draft that will be submitted to the Duluth Area Catholic School board in January.

To participate in the process, please visit www.duluthareacatholicschools.org.

— Kyle Eller / The Northern Cross