Catholic school education has a long and successful history in the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown, reaching back to its roots in the 1840s. Today we walk in the footsteps of the teachers, administrators, clergy, and religious who forged the rich traditions we enjoy and build on today. All of us are blessed to have our 13 Catholic elementary schools and four independent Catholic high schools continuing that tradition and success.
To the many who work with and support our schools, parents, faculty and staff, pastors, administrators, students, alumni, friends and supporters, we are truly grateful for your faith, generosity, and sacrifice. Because of you, the value and benefits of a Catholic education are evident and clear. The challenge now is to keep that legacy alive and growing in the future. This will require hard work, especially among the many challenges facing us today, to ensure that Catholic education remains available, accessible, and affordable for those who desire what our schools have to offer them.
In looking to ensure the continuing success of our schools, the diocese – in collaboration with the Office of Education – is initiating “To PROCLAIM and TEACH,” a strategic growth planning process that will focus on Catholic school vitality and sustainability. This initiative originated with the Independent Catholic Foundation and its concern for the fiscal viability and long-term sustainability of Catholic education in the diocese. Foundation leaders approached Bishop Bartchak with the idea of taking a broader and proactive approach by conducting a planning process that engages all schools with a comprehensive look involving Catholic education from kindergarten through college (K-16).
To assist in this important work, the diocese is partnering with Meitler, the national Catholic school planning firm. For almost 50 years, Meitler has been planning with Catholic schools in over 125 dioceses across the country and has led large-scale processes such as this in 58 of them, including those that include many rural schools – Erie, Green Bay, Rockford, Sioux City, Richmond, Grand Rapids, Des Moines, Peoria, and Joliet. As former Catholic school educators and leaders, the Meitler team brings a wealth of expertise and experience to help build a strong future for the children in the diocese.
The process, which begins this month and seeks input from all Catholic school communities in the diocese, will continue over the next 12 months. The consulting team will review and build upon the foundation and successes of planning initiatives conducted with the schools over the last several years. The current process will result in a plan that provides a comprehensive path for action focusing on four primary areas of school life – Catholic mission and identity, academic excellence, strong governance and leadership, and operational vitality, identified as key domains of “The National Standards and Benchmarks for Effective Catholic Elementary and Secondary Schools.” Funding for the strategic growth plan is being provided through the generosity of the Independent Catholic Foundation and a number of dedicated donors and friends of Catholic education.
Many will be invited to participate in the planning process throughout the next year by serving on a planning team or an area-focused working committee, participating in surveys or interviews, or sharing insights through consultation meetings as the plan takes shape. Most of all, the diocese asks for continued prayers that all are open to the Holy Spirit’s gifts of discernment, wisdom, and the willingness to meet challenges, make wise decisions, and bring about necessary change to ensure the future of the children.
The following is the general timeline for the “To PROCLAIM and TEACH” planning process. Some phases will overlap with each other as planning progresses.
Phase One: March 2021-June 2021
Data gathering and analysis March-May
Kick-Off Event April
School interviews and site visits April-June
Presentation of key findings June
Phase Two: June 2021-March/April 2022
Planning group develops initial plans June-September
Planning meetings/work sessions August 2021-January 2022
Engage local school communities/leaders on
strategic options, plan development September-December
Full plan draft ready for wider consultation January 2022
Catholic Schools Summit: review plan/feedback February/March 2022
Final plan announced March/April 2022
Additional information and updates about the schools’ strategic growth planning process will be available on the diocesan website and through other media as the process progresses.