A year ago, the archdiocese’s Catholic Schools Office released a vision statement listing characteristics that make a school “Catholic.” The document, “Worthy of the Name,” highlights goals related to mission, excellence, accessibility and sustainability. With Catholic Schools Week approaching, superintendent Kevin Kijewski, spoke with the Denver Catholic last week about those goals.
To read the latest school vision document, “Worthy of the Investment,” visit denvercatholicschools.com
Denver Catholic: How are you helping the schools to achieve their mission?
Superintendent Kevin Kijewski: One thing we did was the archbishop’s visitation of our Catholic high schools to evaluate their Catholic identity and their mission. We went to all six of the high schools and gave them recommendations. That was a first for the archdiocese and an important first step.
Coming up March 17 is the archbishop’s Catechetical Day for all 1,147 Catholic educators in the archdiocese. We’ll gather them to promote development in the faith so they in turn can give that to their students. They’ll celebrate Mass with Archbishop Samuel Aquila and Bishop Jorge Rodriguez. We’ll have speakers [including Tom Burnford, president of the National Catholic Educators Association] and we’ll have lunch. This is also a first for the Catholic Schools Office.
DC: What measures are being taken to achieve excellence?
KK: We established a pilot board of specified jurisdiction at St. Joseph School in Fort Collins. The board can help direct the school: they assist the pastor in operating it, supervise the principal and set a positive strategic direction. These boards are not new, but are new to Colorado. Of the schools using these, 70 percent were able to increase enrollment and 100 percent were able to increase fundraising. We hope to introduce this into more Catholic schools starting with the 2017-2018 academic year. That’s a good positive development.
Another exciting thing is we’re opening up a brand new school with a new education model, Frassati Catholic Academy. Frassati is a classical educational environment for kids in grades kindergarten through five that will open this fall.
We’re also looking at other academic opportunities for schools to pursue apart from the traditional educational model, including what we’re calling “faith and reason schools” that have a focus on the sciences and mathematics but also have a faith component.
And we hired an instructional effectiveness specialist (IES), which is like a teacher coach. Abriana Chilelli is working with a handful our schools, specifically principals and teachers, to ensure that instruction is brought to the next level, that we have individualized instruction, and that every child receives a top-notch education.
DC: How are you improving accessibility to Catholic schools?
KK: We hired a director of Latino enrollment and engagement, Carlos Hernandez. He’s working with about 10 schools and is making great progress. He’s working hand-in-hand with Bishop Rodriguez and with the University of Notre Dame. Over half the people attending Mass on Sundays in the archdiocese are Latino but only about 20 percent of our [Catholic school] students are Latino. We’re going to catch up!
We are developing leadership within our schools, specifically principals and pastors, to be more culturally in tune with the Latino community. So we have good things in terms of accessibility happening from the chancery with Hernandez and at the local level, too.
DC: What is being done to make Catholic schools sustainable for the future?
KK: We are on track for the 2018-2019 academic year to have a variable or needs-based economic system where all Catholics can send their kids to a Catholic school should they desire. It doesn’t matter if you make $30,000 or $300,000, we’re going to make sure you can afford tuition. Everyone is going to pay a different rate. We’re going to be the first Catholic school system in the country—in the country—that has this particular kind of pricing. We’re really looking forward to doing this. We’re working with a focus group of priests and business managers for this project. We’re on track.
DC: Name the biggest challenge bringing the goals to completion.
KK: We’re working with a vast network of Catholic education advocates and supporters: principals, pastors, philanthropists and parents. There are many moving parts but we’re determined to succeed.
DC: What are you most proud of thus far related to efforts on the goals?
KK: The work effort, determination and tenacity of the stakeholders. They care about Catholic schools and they’re willing to share in the work to get the goals accomplished.