School enthusiasts work on communicating their message

Written by Mary Beth Peabody

Joe Regina teaches middle school English at Good Shepherd Regional Catholic School in Collingswood. This summer, he’s added the role of enrollment specialist to his plate. It’s an unusual combination, but Regina believes it’s the perfect fit. He is excited about promoting the Catholic education he delivers in his classroom.

“Today’s parents are looking for more,” said Regina, a thirty-something who understands the nuanced needs of today’s millennial parents. “I tell them, ‘With public school you are getting basic cable. In Catholic school, it’s the whole package. We develop the whole person.’ Technology, a curriculum that isn’t just teaching to Core standards, and a strong community with shared values … that’s what resonates with families when they come to our school,” he said.

Regina was among the 20 individuals from South Jersey Catholic elementary schools who recently met with peers to exchange ideas and explore best practices around enrollment and advancement.

“I like to get our advancement directors together in small groups during the summer,” said Rosemary Schamp, School Business and Enrollment Specialist for South Jersey Catholic Schools. “This year we have a mix of really seasoned ADs and several who have been with the schools a year or less. Three are brand new, and they all bring valuable experience to the table. There is so much they can all learn from each other.”

In the coming weeks, Schamp will help the newcomers establish plans for the coming year to help meet enrollment and retention goals. “I’m not sure anyone wears as many hats as our ADs,” she said. “They plan and staff open houses, give tours, manage school websites and social media pages, represent their school at community events, guide new and returning families through the registration process … It’s a never-ending job, and most of them are involved with managing annual fund appeals as well.”

Nearly all advancement directors said activity levels are high as South Jersey families consider changes for the coming school year. Echoing Regina, they agree parents are impressed — and sometimes surprised — by what they find when they visit.

“I had a family tour who just could not believe the depth of our curriculum,” said Laureen Brady from Saint Margaret Regional School in Woodbury Heights. “They had this idea that with the decision of a Catholic school education they would have to settle academically. Instead, they found that a Catholic education can provide the faith-based environment they were looking for as well as a superior academic program. They were thrilled.”

Nancy Dixon said several non-Catholic families have expressed interest in Saint Vincent de Paul School, Mays Landing. “They are looking for an alternative to public school and are really impressed by our faith-based values and rigorous curriculum,” she said.

Many advancement directors said they are seeing increased levels of interest in higher grades this summer, especially fourth through seventh grades.

“Parents tell us how crowded the public schools are,” said Marcie Voight from Guardian Angels in Gibbstown and Paulsboro. “They want the faith and values, the nurturing environment, the small class size, the personalized attention and challenging course load. That’s a package we can deliver.”

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