Urban Catholic Education: Meeting the needs of all learners

Energy, Enthusiasm, Wisdom and Hope …
an unprecedented meeting of stakeholders

Image of Jim Rigg with studentsJuly 12, 2013, was a day filled with energy, enthusiasm, wisdom and hope for the gifts, mission, and ministry of Urban Catholic Education. Themed Urban Catholic Education: Meeting the Needs of All Learners, the second annual Catholic Education Summit hosted 233 participants either at the University of Dayton (UD) campus or virtually via live internet feed.

The Summit was created and facilitated by the staff of the UD Center for Catholic Education, with planning and additional facilitation by UD colleagues from the School of Education and Health Sciences Dean’s Office, the Institute for Pastoral Initiatives, the Center for Early Learning, the Catholic Leadership Institute, the Department of Teacher Education, and the Department of Educational Leadership. In addition to UD efforts, our partners and colleagues from the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, led by Dr. Jim Rigg, Director of Educational Services and Superintendent of Catholic Schools, contributed to 26 unique presentations.

Planning for the themes and topics of the day included consideration of several frameworks, documents, and purposes. As the School of Education and Health Sciences at the University of Dayton is a member of the National Catholic Educational Association’s (NCEA) Catholic Higher Education Supporting Catholic Schools (CHESCS), the Summit intended to demonstrate UD’s and other CHESCS members’ support for P-12 Catholic education. Through the work of the Catholic Higher Education Collaborative (CHEC) and CHESCS, the National Standards and Benchmarks for Effective Catholic Elementary and Secondary Schools were established, and included the primary elements of mission and Catholic identity, leadership and governance, academic excellence, and operational vitality.

As presenters were selected for the Summit, these four elements were connected to the ideas, concepts, and activities shared. UD is a Marianist institution, and so, presenters haled from a great variety of backgrounds, and represented perspectives such as inclusivity, family spirit, and a community of equals, characterizing the Marianist charism.

The final documents to influence planning and execution of the Summit are two books co-edited by the Fellow of the UD Center for Catholic Education, Dr. Tom Hunt and by Dr. Tim Walch. The first book, entitled Urban Catholic Education: Tales of Twelve American Cities, and the second book, entitled Urban Catholic Education: The Best of Times, the Worst of Times, provide the rich history of urban Catholic education and assisted in selecting presentations that would give context to the past and perspective on the present and future of the ministry and mission of Catholic schools in prominent U.S. cities. Partnerships, standards to promote effective schools, a spirit of collaboration, and learning from the past were themes gleaned from these contexts.

With these contexts in mind, participants heard from teachers, principals, diocesan officials, university professors, legislators, pastors, therapists, superintendents, philanthropists, legislators, and national organization directors. Participants and presenters ranged in age from 21 years of age to 82 years of age. The contrast among characteristics of Summit community members was remarkable. How could so many who seemed so different unite to celebrate, explore, hope, and dream about Catholic education in urban settings? The unity came from passion for the gifts of urban Catholic education to the Church and the community and include the following:

Mission and Identity

  • Extending an invitation to faith in God to all who come to Catholic schools
  • Giving witness to the peace that can be found in life with Jesus
  • Assuring a Catholic school culture of inclusion and love when all students are not Catholic

Leadership and Governance

  • Seeking skillful board members committed to Catholic education
  • Understanding methods for governance that provide a broad base for sound leadership
  • Inspiring leaders to grow in spiritual, instructional, and organizational skill

Academic Excellence

  • Maintaining respect for all learners and belief in the potential of each person
  • Realizing solutions to non-academic barriers to learning
  • Respecting and supporting families in the journey to educate
  • Striving for innovation in instruction

Operational Vitality

  • Strategic planning
  • Partnering with the philanthropic community
  • Ensuring masterful stewardship of resources

These themes were evident throughout the day, in conversations, and during question and answer sessions. Many realized the need for continued meetings and discussions in order to connect concepts across topics and among stakeholders. The mix of young and old, less experienced and more experienced, teacher and social worker, and philanthropist and university students provided the sense of hope and wisdom, energy and enthusiasm.

All present were committed to educating those who desire formation in faith and academic excellence for all children and families who seek a closer relationship with Jesus and the Church, and seek to realize the gifts given by God to each person in the tapestry of His kingdom.

The Catholic Telegraph also featured the Catholic Education Summit. To read the article, please visit their website >>