Organizational Structure and Leadership

Faith in Tomorrow

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Effective organizational structures and governance are important factors for the success of schools in the Diocese of Buffalo. The Diocese of Buffalo Catholic elementary schools operate as a system of schools, rather than a school system. Each school is an independent entity and all schools derive their Catholic identity directly from the authority of the bishop. Governance in our schools involves several parties and varies according to the structure of the school. The principal, pastor and local school board/advisory council are responsible for the finances and operation of each school.

1. By 2013-14, develop and implement an organizational structure to provide for the future viability and success of Catholic elementary schools in the Diocese of Buffalo.
2. By 2013-14, 80 percent of the respondents to a survey on Catholic education will recognize the value of Catholic schools as an integral part of the mission of the Church.
3. By 2013-14, all schools will have an active board/council with appropriate membership and committees, as defined by the diocesan by-laws, that is involved in strategic planning, budget preparation, policy development, enrollment management, marketing and fundraising.
4. By 2013-14, all schools will have a three- to five-year strategic plan that is reviewed and updated annually by the board/council.

There are several types of governance models for our elementary schools and all follow both Canon (Church) law and New York state law. The majority of schools in the diocese are parish schools which are owned and governed by the parish and are under the direct supervision of the pastor of that parish. Twelve schools are regional schools and are supervised by a canonical administrator and a board of limited jurisdiction, both of which are appointed by the bishop. Several schools are often referred to as private schools and are sponsored and owned by a religious congregation and operated by a board.

This system of independent schools allows for a great deal of autonomy and can encourage creativity and local pride. At the same time, the independence promotes an unhealthy competition among the Catholic schools and drives costs higher. Furthermore, the responsibilities of school leadership are no longer limited to oversight of the spiritual and academic life. A successful 21st century Catholic elementary school demands expertise in marketing, human resource law, finance, alumni relations and technology. The lack of expertise in one or more areas creates additional inequities among schools. With the generous support of the John R. Oishei Foundation for the Leadership Competencies for 21st Century Catholic Education grant, leadership development programs have been implemented for Diocesan department personnel, principals, board members, and teacher leaders.

The present decentralized system lacks accountability and leads to inefficient operations and redundant processes, resulting in increased costs. The diocese is faced with the reality of rising expenses and the need to keep tuition affordable. Additionally, the diocesan Office of Research and Planning projects that there will be only 123 priests in the Diocese of Buffalo in 2020, a 34 percent decline from the current 187. Therefore, it is urgent that the diocese considers a new organizational structure for the elementary schools that combines local governance for day-to-day operations with shared centralized administrative services for areas such as teacher recruitment, professional development, purchasing, marketing, human resources and technology. This plan proposes a collaborative effort by 10 to 15 diverse schools to research and define an implementation of a hybrid governance collaborative in the Diocese of Buffalo that shares a common vision for affordability and accessibility. In the Christian spirit of inclusion, care must be taken that this structure encourages cooperation and collaboration to benefit all schools – urban, rural and suburban.

A diocesan Catholic Schools Advisory Council was formed in October 2008 to advise and assist the bishop, the Secretary for Catholic Education and the Superintendent of Catholic Schools in defining and implementing the necessary updates and changes to maintain a standard of high-quality Catholic education and to sustain Catholic schools for the future. Council members are nominated according to the diocesan bylaws and are approved by the bishop. This advisory council will continue to offer insight, guidance and oversight of this strategic plan.

Strategy 2.1:
Establish a Phase 1 educational consortium/collaborative of 10 to 15 urban, suburban and rural elementary schools to develop and pilot an innovative organizational structure for Catholic elementary schools to reduce competition, increase accountability and provide an economic benefit among the participating schools.

Action Plans:

• Define goals, purpose and a timeline for the educational consortium to address the needs for accountability and consistency in faith, values, academic standards and financial stability.
• Seek a diverse set of schools willing to join the consortium to identify needs, research organizational structures in other dioceses, and develop a plan for a new organizational structure allowing for flexibility for either a diocesan-wide consortium or regional/vicariate consortia.
• Recommend an administrative structure to be adopted by the diocese with steps for implementation.
• Explore and implement methods to gain support from educational leaders across the diocese who have positions of authority to sustain and advocate for this new proposed structure.
• Reinforce the need for pastors and principals to strongly support these efforts.
• Review, assess and revise above plans as needed.

Strategy 2.2:
Pursue the use of cooperative service agreements between schools and the diocese to provide coordination, accountability and support, especially in the areas of professional development, human resources, curriculum, marketing, finance and/or purchasing.

Action Plans:
• Survey pastors, principals and business managers to identify areas that need diocesan assistance to support them in their leadership role (i.e. policy development, professional development, curriculum and assessment, purchasing, human resources, etc.)
• Define areas to be covered by management/cooperative agreements with clearly defined roles and responsibilities of both diocesan offices and individual schools.
• Develop a management/cooperative agreement based on needs, and a cost/benefit analysis for approval by school leaders.
• Monitor results, and assess and revise agreements.

Strategy 2.3:
Develop a long-term succession plan for leadership, including development of administrators and faculty.

Action Plans:
• Collaborate with institutions of higher education to establish an effective principal and teacher recruitment process in accordance with diocesan hiring policies.
• Collaborate with the diocesan offices to identify and prepare clergy to serve as Catholic school pastors/canonical administrators, recognizing that leadership at the parish level is critical to the success of the school. Every attempt will be made to assign pastors to parishes associated with a school who wish to have and support a school.
• Provide an ongoing professional development program for school leadership, including pastors, principals, business managers and boards/councils to promote best practices.

Strategy 2.4:
Integrate into the formation of clergy, religious and lay leaders the vision and mission of Catholic schools, their organizational structures and their relationship to parish life.

Action Plans:
• Collaborate with the seminary and educational institutions of higher learning to outline and develop appropriate course materials to integrate the mission of Catholic education into formation of clergy and school leaders.
• Incorporate materials into all institution formation programs.
• Provide Church leaders direct access to current Church documents, as well as communications from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and other dioceses, related to the vision and mission of Catholic schools, through e-mail, website, and social media.
• Conduct a survey on the mission of Catholic education in the Diocese of Buffalo and report results to constituents.

Strategy 2.5:
Recruit school board/council members with diverse skills and abilities to be accountable for the areas outlined in the diocesan bylaws and actively lead the school to a successful future.

Action Plans:
• Review the role, responsibilities and needed qualifications for regional school boards and parish advisory councils, as established in the diocesan bylaws.
• Seek nominations for board/council members in collaboration with the canonical administrator/pastor.
• Select local school board/council members based on established criteria focusing on commitment to Catholic education and a particular expertise (i.e. finances, marketing, law, education, etc.), and approved by members of the regional school or by the pastor of the parish school.
• Require board/council members to sign both conflict of interest and confidentiality agreements.
• Provide orientation packets and preservice training to each board/council member.
• Require school board/council members to develop a three- to five-year strategic plan to maintain the operational vitality of the school.
• Obligate boards/councils to participate in a yearly self-assessment process that includes standards, evaluations and development plans, and involves members and administrators. Through this process, improvement plans will be drafted and goals identified to improve the effectiveness of the board/council.
• Provide annual professional development opportunities for school board/council members, organized by the Department of Catholic Schools.