Foundation launches project to help schools assess Catholic identity
Catholic News Service
Called the Catholic School Identity Assessment, it is a diagnostic tool to help schools spot their strengths and weaknesses, according to Father Peter Stravinskas, the foundation's executive director.
"Catholic identity in Catholic schools was taken for granted when the faculty and administrators were almost exclusively clergy and religious," he said, but "with the heavy involvement of lay teachers and administrators that has not always been a given."
The assessment was originally created for Catholic high schools and then last year some pastors and principals said they wanted something like that for their grade schools, the priest said in a recent interview with Catholic News Service.
"That the identity issue would not be addressed sufficiently is not malevolence," Father Stravinskas said. Rather, it often results because some lay administrators and teachers "either never went to Catholic school themselves," he said, or they attended "in an era when Catholic identity was waning."
He said the foundation's assessment tool is an opportunity to discuss the subject. "Even just by asking the questions, one already has started to address the identity issue," he said.
Father Stravinskas said the process starts with a self-assessment by the school. Next comes an onsite visitation by a team of three or five people put together by the foundation (team size depends on the school's size). Team members visit classrooms; interview students, faculty and parents; observe interactions at the school; and write up an evaluation.
"Atmosphere, mood, attitudes, like charity" are among what a team will observe at a school, he told CNS. Teams also consider the physical environment, look for Catholic art on display, gauge the reaction of students to the presence of clergy and religious and see whether prayer is a normal part of school life, "not simply at a once-a-month Mass." "Is there Catholic 'air' in the institution," he said.
When he leads workshops about the identity issue and talks about the assessment tool, he finds "no resistance to increased Catholic identity" and is in fact greeted with "enthusiasm for it."
"If the Catholic identity is not there, we have no right to be in business -- it's deceptive advertising," he added.
It helped "us in expressing our Catholic identity" and a detailed follow-up prompted the school to develop a new Catholic Lay Leadership Formation Program for all parish and school employees, Skerjanec said.
"Measurable standards offer the best hope for benchmarking, influencing and strengthening a vibrant recognizable Catholic identity within our schools, which is why our diocese is embarking on this program," said Charles Taylor, superintendent of Catholic schools in the Diocese of Gaylord, Mich.
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