Everyone’s voice should be heard

    As we discuss the future of Catholic education in the Archdiocese of New Orleans, it is vital that every voice be heard. That is why we offered a survey of Catholic schools that was completed at the end of January, inviting all to offer input into our strategic plan. That is why we are convening focus groups.
    The consultants from Catholic University, Dr. John Convey and Dr. Leonard DeFiore, already have met with priests; on March 22, they will meet with superiors of religious orders as well as school principals and presidents.
    We will hold a series of town hall meetings this spring. All are invited to these meetings, which will take place throughout the archdiocese. We want to hear from people who have children in Catholic schools, Catholics who have no children in school and people who took their children out of Catholic schools for whatever reason.
    We want a variety of ideas; we want to know where we excel and how we can improve. We want to hear from anyone living in the geographic boundaries of the archdiocese, whether they are Catholic or not.
    It is vital to have this discussion because the future of Catholic education is vital for the New Orleans area. We know that Catholic education affects this community in a positive way; we know that 99 percent of graduates from Catholic schools qualify to go on to colleges and universities; and, 95 percent attend colleges and universities. We also know that these students become our leaders; we know that our future is in the hands of our young church.
    And so as we move forward with this strategic plan, we are forging not only a blueprint for the future of Catholic education in the New Orleans area but also are forging a blueprint for the future of the New Orleans community. Our futures are bound together.
    Please come to one of our eight town hall meetings. The specific dates and locations will be announced soon.
    Once the feedback from the survey, focus groups and town hall meetings has been collected, recommendations will be brought to Archbishop Gregory Aymond, whose support for Catholic education is unwavering.
    Although he has not seen any of this information yet, I can assure you that no schools will close for the 2012-13 year; however, some consolidation is likely in the following year.
    We face challenges in Catholic education. Yet, with a culture of collaboration and transparency, we can come up with a solution.
    Some of the things being discussed are grade-level structures; how to meet the needs of all students; and how to finance Catholic education. The solutions to these issues need to come from the people whom the church serves.
    Dr. Jan Lancaster is superintendent of archdiocesan Catholic schools.

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