Local Catholic schools setting high goals for the future

Categories: Around the Diocese

Catholic Schools Week: Jan. 26-Feb. 1

Jan. 17, 2014, edition
By Sue Schulzetenberg-Gully

In 2010, the board of directors for Cathedral School in St. Cloud approved its Master Plan 2018.

The plan has 11 major goals, many of them including the number 18.

“It’s easy to remember,” said Mike Mullin, president of Cathedral School.

The goals include increasing enrollment to at least 818 students, expanding the enrollment area by 18 miles and supporting the students with at least $1.8 million in annual scholarship resources.


Sixth grader Kallista Roers’ face glows from the tablet she was using for her science lesson at St. Mary’s School in Alexandria. Securing tablets for all students in the fifth and sixth grades was a goal of the school’s strategic plan. Paul Middlestaedt / For The Visitor

Four years after their approval, the goals are still important for the school. Progress for some of the goals is coming along well while others are faced with many challenges. That seems to be the way long-term planning works.

“It’s a road map,” Mullin said. “Without a road map, we might go anywhere, not knowing where we’re going. This has been very helpful in knowing where we want to go.”

Strategic planning is part of the accreditation process for Catholic schools, but schools will develop long-range plans on their own as well. Planning is important in helping schools reach their goals, said Linda Kaiser, director of Catholic Education Ministries for the St. Cloud Diocese.

“When you set goals, you have something to work toward,” Kaiser said.

Across the St. Cloud Diocese, as school communities prepare to celebrate Catholic Schools Week (Jan. 26-Feb. 1), Catholic schools are reaching high goals through their strategic plans. They are focusing on a variety of areas from technology to enrollment to Catholic identity.

In Breckenridge

St. Mary’s School in Breckenridge is in the midst of developing its new strategic plan for its accreditation process.

“It gives you direction and forces you to assess and to reflect and to see if you are on target,” said Linda Johnson, St. Mary’s principal.

The strategic plan writing process began with a survey sent to parents. Many groups including parish and school staff, students and parents will contribute to the development of the plan. It will be completed in the spring.

The new plan will build on the current plan, enhancing the curriculum, meeting core standards and enhancing development and technology. It projects major building improvements including a science-technology-engineering-mathematics classroom. The STEM classroom will help prepare junior high students for high school and college. The plan also addresses needs in the areas of safety, energy efficiency and handicap accessibility.

As part of its marketing plan, the school will increase community awareness of its programs and services.

“Our overall goal is always to maintain our Catholic identity and live our mission of faith formation, academic excellence and service to the community,” Johnson said.

In Alexandria

St. Mary’s School in Alexandria began to implement its seven-year strategic plan this past fall, according to Troy Sladek, principal. In the midst of its plan, it has already obtained tablets for each of the fifth and sixth grade students. The goal is to have one tablet for each of the students in all of the grades.

For its academics goal, St. Mary’s is reviewing its core curriculum standards. It is looking at more individualized learning opportunities that improve math and reading, including “flip” classrooms, Khan Academy and expanding the Barton reading-tutoring program. The school plans to continue to build on its Spanish courses for kindergarten through sixth grade that it began last year.

As part of its communications goals, the school implemented a student information portal that families can log on to see grades, the newsletter and other information in efforts of increasing parent involvement.

To enhance its Catholic identity, the school is exploring the National Standards and Benchmarks for Effective Catholic Elementary Schools, which were given to the school last year.

“[A strategic plan] is a good guideline and a road map as to where you want to go and goals to work on,” Sladek said. “Sometimes you can’t do all the things you want to or it takes longer and sometimes you can do things faster.”

Though the document is a seven-year plan, it will be re-evaluated several times before the end of seven years.

“It’s hard to do everything the way it’s planned out if it’s a five- to -seven-year plan because a lot of things change in that time, so you continue monitor it as you go,” Sladek said.

In Cold Spring

St. Boniface School in Cold Spring completely reviewed its strategic plan last April. Its strategic plans generally stretch about three years, but are updated each year.

“Because we are living, moving dynamic institutions, it needs to be constantly reviewed and updated,” said School Sister of Notre Dame Sharon Waldoch, St. Boniface principal.

This year the school is especially focusing on its recruitment and resources/development goals. The school plans to help with growing an existing endowment for Catholic education that assists in funding the parish’s faith formation programs and the school.

As part of its recruitment goals, St. Boniface hopes to launch a neighborhood connection plan. Sister Sharon plans to talk with parents to discuss effective ways of communicating with other parents who are looking for a good elementary school.

“Our new students come to us basically on the word of neighbors or friends or other family members who have children here,” she said. “We can do a lot of PR, which we will continue to do, but that neighborhood connection is our best means of sharing the good news of what is happening at St. Boniface. Parents listen to parents.”

Another part of St. Boniface School’s plan is to establish a process to ensure ongoing faith development for staff and students. It plans to research options for ongoing faith development, present options to staff, select a plan to implement, implement it and evaluate it.

St. Boniface intends to promote healthy means of communication, socialization skills and problem solving. Sister Sharon said it is important to look at the latest trends and best practices to discern what is merely a fad and what will last the test of time.

“We want to make sure we don’t lose the problem solvers, decision makers and creative thinkers because of too much screen time,” Sister Sharon said.

The plan also addresses many other topics including evaluating curriculum, reviewing the curriculum handbook and developing safety plans, a mission advancement plan and a student-friendly format of the mission statement.

In Collegeville

Matt Reichert, principal of St. John’s Preparatory School in Collegeville, says strategic plans are a good way to self-reflect and gather input and momentum.

St. John’s Prep’s strategic plan for 2013-16 includes objectives addressing its boarding program, technology, employee compensation package and fiscal responsibilities.

Key for long-range plans are communicating them with others so the school is accountable, ensuring they are relevant and continuing to work on them, he said.

“Otherwise you can be a rudderless ship without a strategic plan giving you a long-term direction,” he said. “A strategic plan along with a well-defined and internalized mission and vision is really critical.”