Tag: new york (page 2 of 3)
As I work with Catholic Schools throughout the United States I am frequently presented with scenarios of conflict between school leaders and board members. The dysfunction in such a relationship can be destructive to the Faith community we call the Catholic school. In the article below, I attempt to articulate the primary roles, responsibilities and focus of the Chief administrator of a Catholic School, or a Catholic School system and the Governing Board. It is my hope that it will be used widely to clarify roles and responsibilities before the scenarios of conflict emerge.
For most Catholic schools, the school Board exists primarily to formulate policy and give strategic direction to the school (i.e., plan). The Board is charged with furthering the school’s mission and ensuring the school’s success. The Board’s core activity is planning, and the Board’s primary constituency is not today’s students but the students of the future.
The 8 minimal functions of a Catholic school Board includes:
1. Developing a strategic plan
2. Policy development
3. Hiring the chief administrator
4. Approving an annual budget
5. Overseeing financial accountability
6. Establishing just compensation for employees
7. Set tuition
8. Ensuring that in broad terms the school is fulfilling its mission.
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1. THEY MEASURE RESULTS FAIRLY AND REGULARLY
Principals who empower teachers devise the right performance metrics and hold everyone accountable to them. You have to continuously gather data about student performance and distribute that information—both the criteria and the results—to everyone involved.
2. THEY BUILD A CULTURE OF OPEN, HONEST DEBATE.
Principals demand those they entrust with important work of educating children to execute it well, but they also stay open to considering new approaches. In those cases, a good instructional leader requires their teachers to back up new proposals with research and data. And of course the most collaborative school leader allows everyone who might be a stakeholder in a change you’re considering weigh in.
3. THEY INVEST IN INNOVATION, AND IMPROVEMENT
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. You’ll know from the measurements you take when things are going smoothly and don’t need to be touched. But, sharing leadership and letting others take the helm in carrying out certain duties frees an effective school leader up to find ways where they might be done differently altogether. Delegating can actually open up new opportunities for innovation and can contribute to the formation of future school leaders.
4. THEY MAKE THE RIGHT RESOURCES AVAILABLE
Effective school leaders must offer robust professional development so the staff charged with handling certain work has the skills and tools to do it.
5. THEY DEFINE THE “WHAT” AND DELEGATE THE “HOW”
Effective Catholic School Leaders. Give the responsibility for accomplishing something to others, but let them sort out the best way to go about accomplishing it. That gives your teachers a chance to prove that they are the consummate professional Catholic educator – intelligent, talented, capable, and a heart filled with missionary zeal.
6. THEY RECOGNIZE ACHIEVEMENTS
Reward exceptional work when you see it. Effective Catholic School Leaders are on the lookout for future leaders who can distinguish themselves when they’re given the chance.
7. THEY SHOW REAL CURIOSITY IN THEIR TEACHERS’S WORK
Effective Catholic School Leaders ask good questions to encourage teachers to think clearly and demonstrate what they know. They also, share ideas strategically, and don’t dictate solutions.
8. THEY ESTABLISH AND NURTURE A FAITH FILLED COMMUNITY
Effective Catholic School Leaders build and nurture a community where students, staff and parents can experience and establish a relationship with the Risen Christ.
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By next week, every Catholic school in the United States will be open and thousands of Catholic school teachers will renew their commitment to preparing students for not just College, but heaven as well.
Last week Steven Virgadamo had the opportunity to welcome new teachers to the Archdiocese of New York – many of them are first time teachers. He spoke to them about the Trinitarian aspects of a Catholic School and how successful Catholic schools are about relationships – relationships – relationships. By the time the day was done, the cohort of new teachers adopted the mantra of “Not Under my Watch.” Imagine several hundred new Catholic school teachers being asked:
- Will it be said that in your classroom children were denied an opportunity to encounter the Risen Christ?
- Will it be said that the test scores of your children declined during the 2015-2016 school year?
- Will students in your classroom withdraw from the school because parents are dissatisfied with your willingness to partner with them on behalf of their child’s education?
And all responding with an unequivocal – “Not Under My Watch.”
Virgadamo said, “Teaching is a noble profession! Nobility includes in its meaning the very notion of beautiful. Therefore, noble work is beautiful work. But what is beautiful can sometimes be sullied.” While working at the University of Notre Dame’s Alliance for Catholic Education Program Steve Virgadamo was often presented with opportunities to talk to new Catholic school teachers. Below are some of the thoughts he would share with them in an attempt to help each new teacher maintain the beauty and luster of his/her own vocation as a Catholic school teacher. We provide you with them today as a resource for every Catholic school teacher and hope Catholic school leaders across the country will consider sharing with their new teachers. Some of the thoughts might be good for veteran teachers to hear again as well.
Stay close to the Lord
Throughout your career, you will experience crises of confidence, exasperation, frustration, unreasonable parents, troubled students, bad classes, poor liturgies. You will be misquoted, misrepresented and for some periods of time, mistrusted. But you will also get the unparalleled gift to see the world with wonder again, through the eyes of young people. You will be made a confidante by a young person seeking advice, feel the joy of a weak student who does well on an assignment, cheer for your students in athletic contests, beam with a near parents’ pride as your students graduate. To keep yourself rooted, to keep your ideas fresh, to be the kind of faithful person our young people need to see firsthand, stay close to the Lord, both in your daily prayer and in the reception of the sacraments. If you do, the Lord will bless you in your work and you will go to bed each night exhausted, but with a smile on your face.
If you’re young, you’ve probably never been called Mister Jones or Miss Smith, and that will take some getting used to. But you can be yourself within this role. I have never agreed with the maxim “Don’t let them see you smile until Thanksgiving.” The fact is, students respond better to authenticity. It’s OK to laugh at something the students say which is amusing—in fact, it’s quite disarming to them. It’s OK to let the students see you having fun.
Admit your mistakes and learn from them
Zero in on your strengths, not your weaknesses. (Remember — nobody’s perfect!) Principals also suffer from human frailty and need to learn from experiences. School leaders need to be supported not weakened by gossip and other toxic behavior which is destructive to the Catholic School community.
Remember, it’s not about you; it’s about the students
So learn how to spell the word “concupiscence”. Concupiscence is a tendency to put yourself first. Only divine grace enables us to rise above it. But unless you declare war on it, you are bound to succumb to the illusion that teaching is all about you.
Model desired attitudes and behavior. Make sure you dress in professional attire. Remember that you teach students first, and then you teach whatever academic discipline you learned. You are a role model for the children and partner with the parents in the formation of each child.
Empower your students and engage them in the teaching/learning process
Listen — both to what the kids are saying and to what they’re not saying.Make sure that assessments are frequent and fair, that work is graded in a timely fashion, and that classes are well prepared and taught from beginning to end – every minute matters.
Don’t “go it alone”
Get to know all the teachers in your school and make friends with the cafeteria staff, custodians, aides, and secretaries. We are all formators of children, just each with a different role to play in that formative process. Volunteer to share projects and ideas, and don’t be afraid to ask others to share their ideas with you. Understand that the learning process involves everyone — teachers, students, colleagues, and parents — and get everyone involved. Seek the advice of your colleagues, share your frustrations with them, and ask questions. Remember we are promised that whenever two or more are gathered in His name that he will be with us to enlighten and guide us.
Jump in with both feet!
Some classrooms don’t have walls. So, don’t be a person who clocks in at 7:30 and clocks out at 3 each day. Come to afterschool activities. Nothing connects you with your students faster than to be able to say “Nice hit,” or “great singing,” or “I was impressed with your artwork at the show.” You can’t be at everything; but make a point some days to just stop in at after school care to say hello. You’ll see kids in a whole new light, and I think you’ll enjoy it, too.
Pray for your students and their families
Your most important work is to bring a piece of heaven into the classroom with you.
Think before you speak
if you do, you won’t speak very often, for there is a great deal to think about in education.
Let the data guide your decision making and instructional strategies
Have the courage to try something else if what you’re doing isn’t working.
Thirty plus years from now, your students will not remember all that you taught them, but they will remember who you were and how you treated them
You have a choice to become a minister of justice or an angel of peace. Be an angel of peace.
Keep a journal and take pictures
Some highly regarded Catholic school teachers share excerpts from their journal and images from the week with parents in a weekly email blast.
Remember that a good day is not necessarily smooth, painless and hassle free and that all the knowledge we give our students is in vain if they receive it without knowing they are good and loved by God
Each day is an opportunity to channel the divine love. Don’t waste an opportunity to do so. Every minute counts!
For many years Steve Virgadamo has provided thought leadership to Church leaders, Trustees and Board members. His expert counsel over many years has led to many Bishops, Chief Finance Officers, Superintendents, Pastors and Principals to consider him to be the expert in both Church and school management and the most premier consultant for Catholic schools, colleges and universities. He travels throughout the United States and internationally to mentor and teach school leaders, teachers, pastors, and more. His domestic and international reputation has led to Steven’s selection as a delegate for the World Congress on Catholic Education sponsored by the Congregation of Catholic Education.
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With just days before the opening of a new school year, many children, whether attending school for the first time or a seasoned veteran, can get quivers and anxiety about attending a new school, or being in a new grade.
Starting a new year comes with a lot of unknowns, so it’s no wonder that many parents are talking about the anxiety one more of their children is experiencing.
If you have not yet experienced the anxiety with your child that is good news but watch for the clues such as restlessness, complaints about headaches, stomach aches and the like.
Steven Virgadamo suggests you be proactive and consider the following to cut the back to school anxiety syndrome before it begins:
1. Share Your Story
Tell your child about that time in middle school when you were so worried about [whatever] but it ended up being totally okay. It will be proof that she’ll be able to overcome her stress as well.
All of the sitting still that comes with the return of school can wreak havoc on a child’s nerves. To counter that, make sure your child gets plenty of exercise after school. Physical activity in anyone, but especially children, is great for preventing — and alleviating — anxiety.
3. Reset Sleep
If you can, try to adjust summer sleep times to the school schedule one to two weeks before the first day. A sudden change in routine can trigger stress.
4. Make a Plan
For instance, if your child is worried about meeting new friends, have him wear (and look for) conversation-starter accessories. How it works: He spies a classmate with an Angry Birds pack. He likes Angry Birds, too! Ask potential-new-friend if he likes Angry Birds Star Wars. Bond created.
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“Steven Virgadamo” suggests that marketing simply stated is the right message, delivered to the right person at the right place and the right time.
For more than 25 years, I have been involved in leading, managing, and governing Catholic Institutions. (Consider joining “Steven Virgadamo” hosts Leading, Managing and Governing Catholic Education Group at LinkedIn) I have worked for schools, dioceses, religious congregations and various other Catholic apostolates. I have helped to prepare pastors, principals and diocesan leaders for their respective leadership roles. Last week I was invited to work with a school in the Deep South. During the time assisting the School Board members and the school administrators, I discovered that they had already solicited the parents who would be new to the school with the 2012-2013 school year. This fundraising strategy seemed so uncivilized and certainly did not correlate with what I have learned about southern hospitality from years of working in many of the (Arch) dioceses located in the southern portion of our country. I became even more concerned when I met one of the parents who had just enrolled their first child a preschooler in the school and she had already been solicited for a six figure gift. The mother of (definitely a Generation X Mom) told me she agreed to make a “token gift” but was now concerned about the financial situation at the school that the administrator would feel compelled to ask a new family – one which had not yet experienced the promises of the administrator regarding the curricular and co-curricular programs for such a large gift. That experience gave birth to today’s posting.
Please don’t ever just assume that all of the students registered in the spring will be in their respective seat with the new fall semester. The point here is that the recruitment cycle does not end when a child is registered in the spring. To be successful, efforts need to focus between May and August to help each new family “justify the purchase decisions.”
For years, I have said that marketing simply stated is the right message, delivered to the right person at the right place and the right time.
To help parents justify the purchase decision we must understand why a young mother chooses Catholic School. The research on why a parent chooses a Catholic School suggests that the decision is based on a perception of a rigorous academic program, an environment of safety, structure and discipline, religious values infused in the curriculum and added value benefit such as a before school, after school program, location of school, and multiple co curricular offerings. So then the right message to help them justify their purchase decision would focus on these aspects of your school. Certainly, you will want to avoid the pitfall of one school in the Midwest which the first communication with new parents after spring registration process was a tuition bill distributed by the business manager in June. I often recommend that all parents, but certainly those new to the school receive several communications between May and August that address how the school is expecting to best serve each student in the areas presented above. An example of such a strategy would be to hold a parent teacher conference the week before school begins to provide the parent the opportunity to educate the teacher about their child and his/her related needs.
The research is clear that the mother is the primary decision maker with regard to where a child attends elementary school. So clearly, the key to effective marketing is communicating with mothers and between now and the fall the focus must be on helping the mothers of all students, but particularly those of new students to rationalize their purchase decision. Keep in mind that most of the mothers of preschool age children today are products of what sociologists have labeled ”Generation X.” In general Generation X Moms are between the ages of 25 and 40. Generation X’ers are characterized by a propensity for technology, skepticism to advertising claims and attraction to personal style rather than designer labels. Many Generation X mothers grew up as a latchkey child and in a divorced family. Therefore we find that time for their family and family values are very important to them and their approach to parenting is one of hovering, pragmatism, and traditionalism.Generation X mothers are better educated than any other women of previous generations. You can expect them to have an understanding of school achievement data and to utilize that data to evaluate the effectiveness of schools. Generation X mothers surpass their predecessors when it comes to technological advances; they are also embracing traditional values that might have been rejected by their parents. You can expect them to have a deeper commitment to spirituality and heightened concerns about the impact of the media on their children’s formation. Generation X mothers are more fiscally savvy than their predecessors. You can expect them to more closely analyze the “price-value” of any educational investment for their children.
While the marketing efforts must be ongoing, particularly if one recognizes the research that the child is under the age of 2.5 when mom makes the elementary school choice. This article is attempting to call your attention to continuing to market the school to the parents who have already enrolled their child for the upcoming fall semester – help each mother “justify their purchase decision” with specific marketing/communication strategies and or events between May and August. Typically, I recommend at least three touches with the parents and one touch to the student by the respective teacher before the traditional “Back to School information is distributed.
Lastly, please keep in mind that the justification of the purchase decision must not end when the new school year commences. Our Catholic elementary schools are experiencing a student retention problem. It is interesting to note that many of the Generation X mothers are choosing to enroll their child but then withdrawing that student within two years. In many cases, this is not exclusively for financial reasons. In many cases they do not believe the school administration and or teachers understand them, their needs and expectations for the education of their children and perceive the value of the educational or religious experience does not justify their financial investment.
Who is “Steven Virgadamo”?
He is a gifted speaker and workshop leader with more than twenty five years of experience as a consultant, providing workshops, seminars and direct consulting services to Catholic Educational Institutions, parishes, religious communities, dioceses and boards of education. He has provided direct consultative guidance to hundreds of Catholic schools in almost half of the Dioceses of the United States in the areas of ownership/governance, administration, strategic planning, marketing, finances, and institutional advancement. Follow him on Twitter @svirgadamo.
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While many Catholic schools have closed, more than 150 schools opened during the past 10 years. Hardly a diocese in the country exists that does not have plans on the drawing boards for new schools and additions to others. Catholic parents in suburban parishes are now the prime movers behind the opening of new schools. From California to Virginia, from Florida to Indiana, examples exist of new schools opening with capacity enrollments and waiting lists.
The best way to understand what is happening in Catholic schools is to take a good look at the following four traits:
1) Adherence to Catholic identity
If your image of Catholic schools comes from the movie image of Bing Crosby as Father O’Malley in the Bells of St. Mary’s, you will be very surprised at them today. Formerly, most teachers were priests or members of religious communities of sisters and brothers. Today, over 95 percent of the Catholic educators are single or married women and men.
2) Modern classroom arrangements
A second change you will notice as you visit today’s Catholic schools is the instructional program. Formerly, the typical classroom had student desks lined up in neat rows. Little else was in the classroom except a blackboard. Today, the desks are usually grouped in clusters. Learning is student centered and the instruction differentiated to meet the learning needs of all students.
3) New administrative setup
Years ago, pastors directed the schools and all aspects of the parish. Principals worked under their direction. Today, pastors oversee a variety of parish ministries. While they have ultimate responsibility, they are not the authority in every ministry. The relationship among pastors, principals and heads of other parish ministries is a peer relationship. Each person has expertise in the particular ministry but each works as part of a team.
Pastors and principals have also come to rely on the talents of competent parishioners. Governing Boards develop the budget, formulate policy and oversee the business functions of running a Catholic school.
4) Changes in funding
Fifty years ago, Catholic schools did not charge tuition or, if they did, it was very modest. The expenses of the schools were minimal largely because the men and women religious worked for a modest stipend. Today, tuition covers almost 70 percent of the Catholic elementary school per-pupil cost. The parish Sundaycollection contributes about 20 percent, and various fund-raising activities generate 10 percent.
If you are a parent, one of the most important decisions in your life and in the lives of your children is that of choosing the education that will most benefit them. Consider the following reasons a Catholic school is right for your children:
1. Have a proven record of academic excellence;
2. Recognize you as the primary educator of your child(ren) and partner with you for the good of your children;
3. Continue the religious formation of your children begun in your home;
4. Offer a rigorous curriculum
5. Provide a challenging environment;
6. Maintain a secure environment;
7. Deal with the issues of today and show students the application of Christian principles to them;
8. Have educators who believe that all children can succeed;
9. Provide a Christian value-centered education; and most importantly
10. Prepare students for not just college, but heaven too!
If you are not a parent but a Catholic parishioner, I ask you to examine with me the following reasons for helping Catholic schools:
1. At Baptism we joined the family of God and were charged to become evangelizers. We do this chiefly by acting in a Christ like manner. Because we are charged to be evangelizers, we need to assist those who do this on a full-time basis. We need to support our Catholic schools.
2. Catholic schools are good for America. Large numbers of Catholic schools provide a top-quality education to very poor children thereby treating the disease of poverty and social injustice as opposed to just the symptoms.
Catholic schools have done more for evangelization than any other American Church institution. For more than 200 years, they have been the most effective means of helping youth grow in their faith. Catholic schools have been a great gift to the nation. They have educated millions and millions of students who became productive citizens intensely loyal to their country.
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One of the main staples of a thriving and constantly growing Catholic school is a strong and undying sense of mission and purpose. A Catholic school above all others must stay steady in their faith and know where they stand at the present moment and where they intend to stand in the future. Unfortunately Catholic education has come under much scrutiny in the past decade due to religious views from those outside the institution and varying ideas to how the organization is allowed to operate.
On the other side of the fence, there are countless families across the country and across the word that believe in a faith based education system. Generations have passed through the doors of some of the most famous institutions and continue to support them by making generous donations or being available to assist in many ways. For those that are well informed about the educational workings of a religious school they understand the strong drive for personal betterment, social responsibility, and community involvement. These same institutions also have high standards in respect to personal faith and morals.
Every so often organizations question the meaning of a religious school and who the school really caters to. The question of whether a religious institution caters to students of a particular faith and are willing to only teach according to that faith, or are they just a private school that welcomes in students of all religions. Dr. Jamie Arthur of The Cardinal Newman Society addressed these concerns in an insightful quote stating, “Catholic schools cannot compromise on Catholicity for it is the integrity and reputation of this ‘brand’ that parents are desperately seeking to assist them in the intellectual and spiritual development of their children.” It is this kind of teaching that keeps the Catholic education systems strong and able to share its ideals and knowledge. It is these same schools that are the most successful in the United States because they know what they want and who they are at their very core. They are not afraid or ashamed to be Catholic and support their religion and know their mission and purpose.
The Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone was recently quoted on the subject of faith identity and its relation to Catholic school and he relayed the message you see below.
“Keeping the focus on Christ keeps the focus on what the heart and mission of a Catholic school is,” the archbishop stated. “The heart and the mission of Catholic education is evangelization—to help our young people know and love Christ. The reference has to be constantly on the person of Jesus Christ. Without the person of Jesus Christ, there’s no point in having Catholic schools.”