Schools strategic plan is basis for school improvement plans

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The new strategic plan for the Catholic schools of the Diocese of Nashville is beginning to bear fruit.

The Catholic Schools Office developed a system improvement plan, which encompasses goals from the strategic plan, to help chart a path into the future for all of the diocesan schools, said Rebecca Hammel, superintendent of schools for the diocese.

The system plan also satisfies requirements for the accreditation of the diocesan school system, which has been renewed, Hammel said.

In addition to the system plan, each of the 16 diocesan schools developed their own improvement plan. Included in the individual schools’ improvement plans are two goals taken from the system plan: use of data to measure growth and authentic use and integration of technology, Hammel said.

The schools then added more goals to their individual plans unique to them, she added.

The strategic plan, which was developed with the assistance of the consulting firm Catholic School Management, groups its goals and action items in four areas, Hammel said: Mission and Catholic Identity; Governance and Leadership; Academic Excellence; and Operational Vitality.

“Operational vitality looks at the business operations of the schools so they can remain healthy,” Hammel said.

The organization of the strategic plan and the areas of focus identified in it mirror those published in the “National Standards and Benchmarks for Effective Catholic School Elementary and Secondary Schools.” The standards and benchmarks were developed by the Center for Catholic School Effectiveness, School of Education at Loyola University Chicago and the Barbara and Patrick Roche Center for Catholic Education, Lynch School of Education at Boston College.

“These are the best practices for Catholic schools,” Hammel said.

The strategic plan, which was accepted by Bishop J. Mark Spalding in May 2020, identifies 11 goals. Under the area of Mission and Catholic Identity, the goals include:

• Focus on mission

• Nurture vibrant Catholic communities

Under the area of Governance and Leadership, the goals include:

• Invite and support collaboration

• Build leadership capacity

• Communicate regularly, effectively and intentionally

Under the area of Academic Excellence, the goals include:

• Sustain the delivery of outstanding Catholic education

• Align schools, programs and services with the needs of students, families, parishes and communities

And under the area of Operational Vitality, the goals include:

• Build demand for and commitment to the Catholic schools of Nashville

• Assess and plan for school facility and infrastructure needs

• Support growth of effective school advancement programs

• Promote financial transparency, accountability, and accessibility

The strategic planning process included a Day of Strategic Conversation that brought together about 50 people to review a draft of the plan’s goals, Hammel said.

“It was an excellent day. We got to hear from a lot of people,” Hammel said. “It was helpful in identifying objectives and priorities for the plan.”

“It was one of the first exercises where parents came together to talk about our schools as a system rather than just their school,” Hammel said.

Catholic schools across the Diocese of Nashville will once again participate in the national observance of Catholic Schools Week from Jan. 31 through Feb. 6.

The week is an opportunity for schools to highlight the many contributions Catholic schools make to the lives of its students, their families and their communities.

Each school will host a variety of activi­ties for their students, teachers, parents, grandparents and other members of their community.

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