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Schools superintendent reports on study findings

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October 21, 2011

SIDNEY DEANERY — More than 50 supporters of Catholic education gathered Oct. 11 at Lehman Catholic High School in Sidney to hear a presentation on the yearlong study of Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati.


Jim Rigg, director of educational services and superintendent for Catholic schools, provided an overview on the more than 500-page study just released. “Lighting the Way: A Vision for Catholic School Education” was the result of a study conducted by ACE Consulting, a part of the University of Notre Dame. Presentations on the study findings were also held Oct. 4 at Chaminade Julienne High School in Dayton, and Oct. 6 at Roger Bacon High School in Cincinnati.


The research conducted to develop the report is the first step in a two-year process initiated by Cincinnati Archbishop Dennis M. Schnurr to strengthen the Catholic schools of southwestern Ohio.   


“The report is a snapshot of the current state of Catholic school enrollment,” said Rigg. “It provides no conclusions or analysis, but rather reflects data that has been collected since January 2011.”


“The decline in Catholic school enrollment in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati is a reflection of national trends,” Rigg noted. “Because of changes in population, demographics, and school climate, the 5.2 million Catholic school students of the 1960s have shrunk to just over 2 million today. In the last 10 years, 1,755 Catholic schools have closed or consolidated nationwide. While startling, these are also deceptive figures, because many areas of the country are seeing growth, not only with increased enrollments, but the opening of new schools as well.”


The Archdiocese of Cincinnati has 113 schools in 19 counties. Total enrollment stands at just under 44,000, making it the eighth largest Catholic school system in the nation. The Archdiocese of Cincinnati ranks 38th in the number of registered parishioners in Catholic churches nationwide.  


“The good news for Catholic schools is that academic success remains high, as does parental support and satisfaction. The legacy, pride and loyalty to Catholic schools is widespread, with many alumni continuing to support this vital alternative to public education,” Rigg said.


Rigg told those in attendance that the report is based on the belief that “together we are stronger. We need to uphold local identities yet strive for a common vision,” he said. “A greater sense of collaboration will ensure the future of our schools.”


The report has identified seven key areas that need to be addressed. They are: Catholic identity and faith formation; academic excellence; finances; governance; leadership; marketing and enrollment; and strategic planning. Rigg advised those gathered that the next step will be to form task forces in each area. These groups of six to eight people will collect more specific data, identify trends and form conclusions. Their work will serve as a springboard for action that can positively impact all the Catholic schools in the archdiocese.  


In the question and answer period following his presentation, Rigg assured attendees that the Catholic schools in the northern area of the archdiocese, which includes Lehman Catholic High School and six elementary schools (Immaculate Conception, Celina; Piqua Catholic; Holy Angels, Sidney; St. Patrick, Troy; St. Mary, Greenville; and Holy Rosary, St. Marys) have not been forgotten.  


While not able to answer specific questions about what changes could come as a result of the study, Rigg was very confident that the eventual plan will reverse some of the current disheartening trends.  


“The Catholic Schools Office must take a more active role in the process,” said Rigg, who came to Cincinnati after working on Catholic school reform in Colorado Springs. “People are being priced out of Catholic schools. The Catholic Schools Office needs to guide financial planning and expense control and work to partner schools with local leadership and Catholic universities who can help with funding.”


In conclusion, Rigg urged everyone to stay informed, participate in the process if asked, be open-minded and pray for success. The entire report, as well as the taped Cincinnati presentation, can be viewed at http://www.catholiccincin nati.org/education/lighting_the_way.

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