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Team unveils planning process for high school, seeks input

Sep 6, 2016

The planning process for the future of Catholic education in the Duluth area and beyond kicked off in earnest in August — and early this month is the best time to make sure your voice heard.

As announced this spring, the Duluth Area Catholic Schools system and its four schools — Holy Rosary, St. James, St. John and St. Michael’s Lakeside — will explore the goals of unifying the four schools into a single school with multiple campuses and, more dramatically, expanding to offering classes pre-Kindergarten through grade 12. (Currently there is no Catholic high school closer than the Twin Cities, and the last grade offered in the city’s Catholic schools is eighth grade.)

Press conference
Bob Lisi, chair of the Called to Be One planning team, flanked by co-chair Hilaire Hauer, speaks to reporters at an Aug. 16 press conference. (Kyle Eller / The Northern Cross)

The efforts are expected to have implications for diocesan schools outside the city of Duluth.

On Aug. 16, a “Called to Be One” process toward this goal was announced, which will involve three phases designed to get maximum input from the faithful. It is led by a planning team with representatives from area parishes, schools and religious communities, with the help of a consulting firm, the Reid Group.

“The Reid Group was selected be- cause they have a particular focus and emphasis on community engagement,” said Bob Lisi, chair of the planning team and a parishioner at St. John, at an Aug. 16 press conference.

He said getting the whole community to weigh in on the process will result in “the best plan, the best ideas.”

“We will think limitless, think about all the possibilities,” he added.

Co-chair Hilaire Hauer echoed that sentiment. “We are going to be bold,” she said. “We are intentionally taking these discussions out of the board room and into our communities.”

Hauer said the community engagement will take place in three phases. The first is a survey for anyone inter- ested in Catholic education to share their thoughts on the future of Catholic schools, including those outside the Duluth area.

“The survey is so important to this process, because the results will set the stage for the next phase,” she said.

The survey can be filled out online at duluthareacatholicschools.org. For those who may not have Internet access, it is also available in paper form from parish offices. Responses are due Sept. 10.

The second phase will be a retreat Sept. 24 at St. James School, where results from the survey will be com- piled and summarized to facilitate small group discussions. Following the retreat, an initial plan will be developed with input from the retreat and data support and professional guidance from the Reid Group.

The third phase will be a subsequent retreat to refine this plan, working toward final recommendations for a final draft to be submitted to the Duluth Area Catholic Schools board and Bishop Paul Sirba by January 2017. A response to that submission could come as early as late that month.

Those who wish to participate in the retreat can register at the duluthareacatholicschools.org. Father Ryan Moravitz, a planning team member and pastor of parishes in Crosslake and Emily, says there is demand.

“One of the things that we’ve seen over the last 10 years is a growing desire for a Catholic high school,” he said.

He added that there is a difference between a Catholic high school and other schools in the city.

“All of the schools in the city are doing good work, seeking to provide a good, high-quality education,” he said. “What distinguishes us is that friendship with Jesus is at the center.”

Enrollment in the four schools currently stands at 610, and the Duluth deanery has 20 parishes and 6,295 Catholic households. The Called to Be One process is also active on social media and encourages sharing the survey for maximum reach. Find it on Facebook at facebook.com/C2B1DuluthCatholic or on Twitter at @C2B1Duluth.

— By Kyle Eller / The Northern Cross