“Catholic schools are as important today as they have ever been,” the Bishop’s Commission on Catholic Schools states in its newly-released report, “Forming Minds and Hearts in Grace: A Plan for Catholic Schools in the Diocese of Camden.”
The report identifies Catholic Identity as the defining characteristic of the schools — recommending that the culture of Catholic schools should be “unapologetically Catholic” — and states that the challenges currently facing the schools “are not insurmountable.”
Bishop Dennis Sullivan convened the commission with the goal of making Catholic school education available, accessible and affordable now and in the future. Although it was concerned with all Catholic schools in the Diocese of Camden, the highest and immediate priority is the sustainability and growth of the 23 Catholic elementary schools outside of Camden and Pennsauken. (Camden and Pennsauken Catholic schools operate under a pilot program administered by the Catholic Schools Partnership.)
The 16-member commission consisted of pastors and leaders in business, education and philanthropy. The group met from September 2014 until June 2015, and then the plan was submitted to the Presbyteral Council’s Subcommittee on Catholic Schools.
The commission report calls for establishing new models for governance, operations and finance, as well as enhancing marketing and communications and stressing Catholic identity and excellence in academics and programs.
“The new governance model will require strong collaboration between the Office of Catholic Schools and each school to ensure that performance and excellence metrics are clear and achievable,” it states. “The finance model, including seeking new funding sources and recalibrating how parish support is offered, will require shared accountability, transparency and trust.”
While acknowledging that changes will not be easy, the report is positive in tone, saying that its recommendations will form “a strong foundation for the immediate and long-term success of our schools.”
The report recommends four immediate priorities for implementation: