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Schools Article - May 2015

The Northern Cross - May 2015
Parish, parent and community support make for successful Catholic schools

By Jesse Murray

Each May, the principals of our Catholic schools submit annual reports to our accrediting association, MNSSA. The reports organize the efforts of our teachers, parents and administrators to highlight successes and keep challenges front and center for further development.

Once again this spring, it is clear to me that the efforts and actions of our larger faith community create opportunities for our schools to be top performing, to maintain best practices and most importantly to strive to be “the place” for families in our diocese to learn, grow and develop in their faith.

Active groups made of parishioners, parents and friends creatively dedicate their ideas, institutional advisement, grunt labor, networking potential, personal contacts, financial gifts and time to make sure Jesus is alive in the hearts of our community. I will share a selection of the achievements of those people and groups at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Rosary and Holy Rosary School that can represent the efforts of all people who serve our faith communities.

* Our parish council and newly developed evangelization team: These groups have hosted new parishioner events to invite families into the parish and direct them to our school. The team prays for us at each meeting. They are developing opportunities to invite school families into meaningful activities in the parish. They have gifted our families with two different books about being dynamic Catholics and understanding the big picture of the Bible. A simple read can do so much to strengthen the meaning of the education children receive on a daily basis in our school.

* Our parent association and school board/commission: The parents and parishioners on our school board have added a sharing of personal faith journeys to each meeting. These reflections build the right context for decisions and discussions.

They have voluntarily completed a self-study of school safety and security and a cost per student analysis to evaluate tuition, and they have begun to evaluate the parish and school grounds to include a community garden, an outdoor classroom, prayerful spaces and trails.

The parent association contributes and tracks more than 5,000 volunteer hours in our school and has successfully added a daily hot lunch option in addition to preparing and serving hot lunch on Fridays.

A parent group prays regularly in our school on Tuesday mornings for special intentions of our students, teachers, staff and parents.

From a financial standpoint, parent groups and benefactors have elevated the annual dinner and auction from a $50,000 to $60,000 annual event to an $85,000 to $90,000 annual event.

* Duluth Area Catholic Schools: Supporters of Catholic education in Duluth developed a full marketing plan and financially supported the launch of a common student information system in the local Catholic schools. They successfully hosted a dinner event in September, raising approximately $100,000. Of that, $47,000-$50,000 will be applied to tuition assistance, $20,000 will be applied for innovative grants in the local Catholic schools, and the remainder will be used for marketing and operational expenses.

Most of the work involved in these projects occurs behind the scenes. The number of hours of discussion, deliberation, research and planning is impressive and invaluable. The success that occurs when teachers and students advance these opportunities often results in gratitude and a desire to give back or pay it forward.

I continue to lead Holy Rosary School with the prayer that each student realizes their gifts and talents (enhanced and strengthened through these opportunities) and one day will share with the same generosity of their parents, our parishioners and the friends that support daily faith formation in Catholic schools.

Jesse Murray is principal of Holy Rosary School in Duluth.