Seniors from Notre Dame High School in West Haven review input they collected during breakout sessions at an educational forum that drew more than 320 people to the Omni Hotel in New Haven on Oct. 3. (Photo by Lenora Sumsky)
NEW HAVEN – More than 320 people, including representatives from every school in the archdiocese, assembled at the Omni Hotel for the day-long educational forum.
The meeting, with the theme "20/20 Vision, An Eye on Our Future," provided a rare opportunity for educators and supporters to provide input into the creation of a plan for the future of the archdiocesan schools.
The forum was structured to draw participants "to learn from experts, enter into dialogue with colleagues and partners across the state and to create a ministerial plan that will stretch our thinking and our boundaries and move us toward the year 2020 with a vision that is clear and purposeful," said Dale R. Hoyt, superintendent of Catholic schools.
To set the stage for discussions, four speakers explored topics areas: mission formation and evangelism, leadership and governance, excellence in teaching and learning, and operational vitality.
Sister Angela Ann Zukowski, who directs the Institute for Pastoral Initiatives at the University of Dayton, where she also is a professor in the religious studies department, spoke about mission formation and evangelization. A member of the Mission Helpers of the Sacred Heart, she holds a doctorate in ministry.
Jesuit Father Joseph M. O’Keefe, who is professor of the Lynch School of Education of Boston College, shared reflections on the best practices in leadership and governance.
Mary Jane Krebbs, associate dean of graduate studies and co-director of the Institute for Catholic Schools at St. John’s University in Queens, N.Y., explored excellence in teaching and learning.
Holy Cross Brother John R. Paige, of Holy Cross College in Notre Dame, Ind., talked about operational vitality.
The educational forum was an important step in developing a plan for the future that enables the schools "to provide young people with core knowledge instruction and essential skills that are rooted in faith to succeed in today’s world," said Dr. Hoyt.
The previous plan, named Common Threads, was created in 2007. It also focused on four areas: Catholic identity, quality education, accessibility and school advancement. Shortly after its introduction, Archbishop Henry Mansell, in a pastoral letter, called upon the archdiocesan Office of Catholic Schools and the Archdiocesan School Board to convene an educational forum with delegates from all Catholic schools in 2012 to provide a progress report on the Common Threads strategic plan.
Dr. Hoyt described some of the results and accomplishments that were achieved during the past five years.
"I am happy to report the transformational and systemic changes that have occurred since the publication of Common Threads," he said. "I applaud all of you for the progress, the accomplishments and successes that you have made in your schools."
Archbishop Mansell, Auxiliary Bishop Christie Macaluso and Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus Peter Rosazza all were on hand for the forum.
Archbishop Mansell spoke of "the tremendous impact that Catholic schools have on students, neighborhoods, society and communities across the state of Connecticut."
"The effective performance of our schools and our students’ test scores [shows] how they do so well. In many cases they exceed, by two grade levels, youngsters in peer schools and that continues through the SATs," he said.
Archbishop Mansell expressed gratitude to the participants for their continuing efforts. "In that context, I thank you all for being true leaders, for being the people who in the future can get there even more effectively and serve society. Thank you for your belief. Thank you for commitment. Thank you for the great service you have been giving and will continue to give as we go forward together working for Catholic education," he said.
Many topics will be considered as the plan is developed in the weeks ahead, Dr. Hoyt said.
"Greater avenues of equitable distribution of resources, moving from teaching 21st-century skills to learning 21st-century fluencies, implementing governance structures that provide for shared leadership and participatory decision-making," are among them, he said.
Other areas that will be considered include, exploring creative avenues for parents who choose a Catholic school for their children with special needs, stewardship of Catholic school education with greater accountability and transparency, and political astuteness of choices in education.
The meeting was webcast by a team of Notre Dame High School seniors and drew more than 40 viewers from as far west as California and as far south as Florida.