Schools excel for end-of-year report
By JOANNE FOX, Globe editor
Catholic schools in the Diocese of Sioux City have increased their GPA.
Superintendent Dan Ryan gave a B+ on their report card for the work of administration, faculty, staff, and students for the 2013-14 school year.
“I thought the schools had a pretty good year and I was pleased,” he said. “Fourteen of our systems had growth and two decreased, so it’s clear we are making significant steps in enrollment and retention.”
Ryan attributed those positive results to a number of factors.
“We had eight new principals in our schools and I’ve been very pleased with their integration,” he said. “Our two-day Ministries Conference was a big success as have been our principal academies. Those both built momentum for a strong school year.”
A highlight of the school year for Ryan was how smoothly the high school merger of Spalding Catholic of Granville and Gehlen Catholic of Le Mars went.
“I’ve seen mergers at other schools and often the challenges presented are ones that people just cannot overcome,” he said. “I think the reason the Gehlen-Spalding unification went so well was they had a good plan and good people to implement the merger. They were very open to consider different concepts and changes and that just made everything smoother.”
“In our long-range plan, we wanted to strengthen our religion curriculum and that was accomplished,” he said. “We had started, but not quite yet completed, making sure technology was playing a bigger role in our schools, especially our smaller schools.”
In addition to focusing on technology, Ryan noted the schools are emphasizing the importance of their boards of education.
“We have been promoting this for the past three years and I think this last school year, the committee-driven concept behind the boards has really taken off,” he said. “There is probably still work to be done, but I think principals and the board presidents have really come a long way on this.”
Summer may be a time for students to take off from studies, but not so for Ryan and school administrators.
“We are building momentum around ESAs,” he said, referring to Educational Savings Accounts, which allow parents to use their children’s education funding when making education choices. “We are also coordinating efforts with other dioceses and organizations, such as the Iowa Catholic Conference and the Iowa Alliance for Choice in Education, to strengthen our political efforts in support of Catholic education.”
“This year, we are looking at issues that impact more than just us here in the diocese,” he said. “We have a disproportionate number of Catholic schools for our population and we have been working to make others aware of that.”
To step into the national arena, Ryan has been working with other entities to communicate the strengths of Catholic education in the state of Iowa.
“The four Catholic dioceses in Iowa are sponsoring a convention which will feature officials from the National Catholic Education Association. The Iowa Catholic Conference is hosting the Midwest Catholic Education Advocates conference which will include leadership from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and we hope that will help us to grow our network of resources,” he said. “We think Iowa can be a leader in Catholic education and if we look to the bigger picture, we think a lot of good rewards will be realized.”
Ryan expressed enthusiasm for the 2014-15 school year.
“We are looking forward to the opening of Heelan’s fine arts building, which another superintendent told me was not only big for the diocese, but big for the state of Iowa,” he said. “Also, Algona will break ground for a new gym and offices at the school, plus the transitioning to include grades 5-6 at the high school.”
Ryan also lauded the schools’ development and marketing efforts.
“The amount of capital campaigns and construction going around is a strong indication of ongoing support for our Cathoilc schools,” he said. “The Catholic Schools: Our Choice articles in The Globe were a boost for our marketing, as well as the promotions in other newspapers, Catholic radio (KFHC), Facebook and Twitter to publicize the good news in our schools.”
Ryan thought the schools had the tools to bring that B+ up a grade.
“My benchmark to evaluate how well we did this year will be reflected in how well our enrollment will be for the next school year,” he said. “I think the schools have the vision and see the opportunities of the good things that are to come and that will result in stronger Catholic education.
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