Dan Rocha, vice president of operations at the Healey Education Foundation, speaks to the group of principals and pastors participating in the new initiative in a meeting at the Pastoral Center, Feb. 13. Pilot photo/courtesy Meghan Stellman, Catholic Schools Office
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After an extensive review process, six parish elementary schools in the Archdiocese of Boston have been selected as Healey Education Foundation Partners. As Healey Education Foundation Partners, these schools will undergo a governance transformation and they will also receive guidance in all areas of operation, including finances, academics, and value proposition. In addition, the six schools will each hire an advancement director and share one school improvement director. The schools will also have the opportunity to collaborate with all schools in the Healey Education Foundation network.
The Archdiocese of Boston development team is raising more than $600,000 for this initiative to assist the six schools in its partnership with the Healey Education Foundation to strengthen its schools. The Healey Education Foundation, the Catholic Schools Office, and archdiocesan leadership, have completed three of six phases: kickoff, leadership assessment, and school selection. The remaining three phases are comprehensive assessment, readiness period, and engagement.
The principals and pastors of the six schools recently met to discuss the comprehensive assessment phase and to address questions. The six schools in the cohort are Our Lady of the Assumption School in Lynnfield, Sacred Heart School in Roslindale, St. Catherine of Genoa School in Somerville, St. Jerome School in Weymouth, St. Joseph School in Medford, and St. Mary of the Assumption School in Brookline.
The comprehensive assessment will examine family experience, student achievement, and fiscal results. The Healey Education Foundation will also provide a market analysis and review current enrollment management practices, development strategies, and board governance that are currently utilized at the schools.
Prior to selection, the Healey Education Foundation visited 25 interested schools in the archdiocese. During this visit, they conducted one-on-one interviews with pastors and principals to identify leaders who are ready for change and schools with growth opportunities.
The Healey Education Foundation partners with schools in six dioceses in the United States and 85 percent of the schools that have partnered with Healey are still open and operating.
Superintendent Kathy Mears said, "Each school that has been selected has its own strengths and challenges that they're bringing to the table. The Healey Education Foundation will help school leaders to create a plan to strengthen their schools, and then assist the schools in implementing best practices to help them improve."
"While this might seem like a big change, the Catholic Schools Office's relationship with these schools has not altered. We are still providing professional development to the leaders and teachers, these schools are still enrolled in our student assessment program, and we are still providing support as needed. We have always acted in an advisory role to parish schools and that has not changed," she noted.
Dr. Theresa Kirk, principal of St. Mary of the Assumption School in Brookline, is part of the cohort. She said, "I am excited to partner with the Healey Education Foundation as we extend our vision for St. Mary of the Assumption School and raise it to the next level. We are honored to have been selected for this unique opportunity for our students and families."
Dan Rocha, vice president of operations at the Healey Education Foundation, spoke at length Wednesday about the schools' new Boards of Specified Jurisdiction, which will be formed in a measured way after extensive interviews with the respective school communities. This model can be the key to long-term success of the schools.
Rocha said, "If the board is focused on strategic direction and financial management, it frees the principal to be a principal, especially since they will have an additional member of their staff who is concentrating on advancement. And it frees the pastor to actually be a pastor. This model supports the priest in real ways."
He continued, "The pastor is a voting member of the Board of Specified Jurisdiction, and a member of the corporate board, and he is still in charge of Catholic identity and assets of the school. The schools remain parish schools and the pastor remains the linchpin between parish and school."