The Rochester Catholic Schools Board of Trustees is proposing an option for reconfiguration and is asking for your input.
Our purpose in the visionary reconfiguration plan is to grow Rochester Catholic Schools, to welcome more families through enhanced summer and full day childcare offerings, to expand preschool offerings while optimizing options in all grades, to improve enrollment and greater retention in kindergarten through high school, all in keeping with our commitment to the faith formation and well-being of the whole child.
- A letter from the Leadership Team supporting the middle school option was referenced during the focus sessions.
- Why not put the middle school in another location instead of St. John's?
- Could grades 7 and 8 be added to Lourdes, allowing Pre K - 6 at the other schools?
- Could Holy Spirit or St. Francis remain as K-8 if other changes are made?
The RCS Leadership Team is made up of the Principals and Directors within Rochester Catholic Schools. The Leadership Team was asked to provide a review of the recommendation for the Board of Trustees. Their letter expressed support of addressing issues facing RCS, evaluating options and commitment to implement the plan the Trustees select as part of carrying out the RCS mission.
While the Leadership Team and the Board of Trustees support exploring the middle school model option with adequate explanation of the recommendation to all stakeholders, that could be misunderstood as endorsing one option over another. We are in a listening time and continue to gather ideas and feedback.
In a complex system with challenging decisions to make, please express your support to those in leadership roles at Rochester Catholic Schools and continue to keep RCS in your prayers.
We are open to other sites for a middle school option. The reason the St. John the Evangelist school site was suggested as the middle school choice is because it provides the best capacity for the middle school. The St. Pius X school site is not large enough for the middle school if fed from three elementary schools, and if we transition Holy Spirit Catholic School or St. Francis of Assisi School, being our largest school buildings, it would be difficult for the other schools to absorb the number of students. We cannot reach our goal of 2000 students without the capacity of all of the RCS buildings, and at this time, there is no plan to acquire additional sites.
This is an option that was considered in the process of coming to a recommendation. PreK-6 grade only fits in two of the sites due to available classrooms. Because of the expense of reconfiguring the high school to make this work, parent and staff concerns about placing 7-8 with 9-12 throughout the building, and the impact on future capacity for grades 9-12, it was not recommended. However, it is an option that could be vetted further if the Board of Trustees provide that direction.
This is an option that has been considered. There are pros and cons to each option. As addressed in a previous question, the K-8 model has many positives for our families, including keeping siblings together and building community at the school. Transitions can be very difficult, and the K-8 model is what our families have known and appreciate. At the same time, this model has its limitations from an academic, social and spiritual perspective for our students and cannot be financially sustained with decreasing enrollment. We would like to do more for each student in every grade and grow the RCS community. In keeping K-8, St. Francis of Assisi School would not be able to expand to full day care or add any preschool sections that would support kindergarten enrollment, and so the opportunity to invite more families into RCS from the east side of Rochester at ages three and four would be limited. At Holy Spirit Catholic School, we have a bit more space, but a similar problem with expansion of preschool to serve the families in the northwest corner of Rochester. Excellence in differentiated learning, gifted and enrichment programs is difficult to offer for the students in grades 6-8 with limited staff under the K-8 model, and services needed at our upper grades are currently shared across three sites. The reconfiguration proposal provides the opportunity to build another continuous, supportive RCS structure that builds community and delivers better outcomes.
- How much will the reconfiguration cost?
- When will the gifted/talented classes and/or learning support classes be offered to the middle school students? Will that happen at the beginning (in 2019/20) or will it happen later?
- What will the transportation situation be for the middle school students?
- Will there be faculty and staff changes or reductions with moving to a middle school?
- Will tuition at the middle school be the same as the elementary schools?
- Does our staff have the certification needed to teach in a middle school?
- When will the decision be made?
- Why not look at turning St. John the Evangelist School into a preschool/full day childcare center?
- Why not create a stand-alone preschool at St. Francis of Assisi School, Holy Spirit Catholic School or St. Pius X School campus?
As noted in other question/answers, the current configurations are not sustainable for the long term. The reconfiguration itself provides for improved efficiency and improved services related to educating the same grade levels in three separate buildings. Certainly, there will be licensing costs to increasing our preschool and full day care program offerings wherever we expand them, which can be funded via the program and possible grants. Yet the space gained in three elementary schools for preschool and childcare expansion provides new opportunities for revenue and a more sustainable opportunity for enrollment growth. However, remember, we are in the listening phase and no decision has been made. If the proposal is acted on, an implementation plan would be developed once a specific configuration decision is reached. There would be many steps in the process of implementation, including a thorough cost analysis and communications plan to keep stakeholders updated.
Our current curriculum is strong, but our configuration limits what we can offer in small groups and individually at each site. If the proposal is accepted and moved forward, there would be many new offerings in the middle school and elementary school settings that would be factored into the implementation plan. We certainly would expect many of these new offerings would be available in the initial year of implementation, again, if the proposal is accepted.
If the reconfiguration proposal is accepted, RCS will work with Rochester Public Schools (RPS) to work out specifics. Keep in mind, currently transportation needs between St. John and St. Pius are accommodated by RPS through the transfer site at St. John’s school. Additionally, RCS will research transportation options to ease drop off issues for families as well as from St. Johns to Lourdes for after school activities.
Faculty and staff are critical to success in fulfilling our mission. Enrollment dictates the number of sections RCS has open. In our current configuration, we have declining enrollment, leading to single sections which affects staffing. The goal of this recommendation is to grow RCS, which would lead to more sections, and enable us to offer more differentiated learning by gathering middle school students together.
At this time, the Finance Committee has not proposed a different tuition structure for middle school for the Board to consider. We are in the listening phase of this recommendation. Once a decision is made on the reconfiguration proposal, there will be a planning phase for additional study on topics such as this.
Yes, we currently have staff teaching grades 6-8 at three sites today and they have the necessary certification to teach those grade levels. As we expand our enrichment electives and embark on more differentiated learning options, some added certifications may be required of staff working in those specific content and learning areas.
This suggestion has been studied. Attributes of this location near many working parents must be weighed with the limitations of the site related to licensing. There are physical outdoor space limitations of the St. John site related to licensing for preschool and childcare. There is inadequate drop off space for person-to-person transfers of small children; there is inadequate green space for age-specific fenced areas for outdoor play; three stories of classrooms and traffic in stairwells is another difficulty for parents with young children at drop off and pick up time. Keeping preschools in neighborhood locations without these issues provides an overall solution that better fits our mission and our sites.
This suggestion has been studied. Some operational benefits come with isolating the services of preschool to one site; however retention from preschool through grade 12 is our goal so families become part of the RCS community. By placing our preschools in three sites around Rochester, we better serve families in their neighborhoods, and provide one drop-off from age 3 to 11, which also differentiates us from the public school model.
- What is happening with RCS finances?
- What are some of the possible benefits of the proposed middle school option for middle school students?
- If schools are currently being underutilized, why don’t you open more preschool sections with the available space you have at each of the schools today?
- What are some of the issues with the current preschool through 8th grade configuration?
- What are some of the benefits of the proposed middle school option for students outside of the middle school grades?
- If buildings are being underutilized why not just close a school?
- Why fix something that is not broken?
The financial challenge for RCS is that the current model is not sustainable for the long-term if enrollment continues to decline. We currently have a deficit operational budget, but no debt. Our enrollment fluctuates often due to families moving into or out of Rochester. We’ve experienced enrollment growth in some periods and declines in others and we can rely on reserves for a limited time to help even out those peaks and valleys. We compete with strong public school education options that are available in Rochester and certainly the offering of full-day public school kindergarten has impacted our enrollment numbers. Fiscal stewardship requires us to effectively utilize the buildings and space provided by the parishes. While our tuition is subsidized by donors and the parishes (families pay approximately 80% of the total cost to educate), enrollment is a dominant factor for expenses and revenue. We do not want to increase tuition to the level that would close any budget gaps as that would limit access to Catholic education for many and increase the need for financial aid.
As we look to the future and a long-term sustainable model, the goal with reconfiguration is to use the school buildings in the way that allows RSC to grow from the preschool levels up while adding strong educational, spiritual and social opportunities to every age of student and our families overall. A reconfiguration that brings this all together is intended to support keeping tuition increases reasonable each year even as costs for employment and operations increase.
Significant study and research went into identifying both the benefits and limitations of a middle school at all ages and grade levels. Some of the possible benefits identified that are specific to middle school age student based on our mission of developing spiritual, social/emotional and academic growth include:
- Liturgies and retreat experiences geared toward the middle school experience.
- Adoration Chapel at St. John’s.
- Educational coursework that will address emerging student needs and issues form a positive, Christian self-concept, sense of autonomy, and values.
- Downtown location allows access to a wide-range of community service and outreach opportunities.
- Multiple sections for grades 6-8.
- Counselor available every day, not just certain days of the week.
- Larger peer groups and opportunities for social interactions among similar ages.
- A larger student population base will translate to more club and extracurricular activities at the middle school level.
- Middle school transition aligns with that of the public schools offering a strong alternative to parents seeking a middle school where safety, academics, social and spiritual needs are a top priority.
- Multi-grade school-wide advisory to provide academic, social and spiritual assistance to students.
- Earlier exposure to a large peer group to aid in success at Lourdes High School.
- Opportunities to provide individualized and differentiated learning that meet the needs of all students. These range from intervention to gifted and talented programs. Each student will receive the academic support and individualized learning opportunities they need to be successful.
- Teachers who specialize in subject and content delivery in an environment with multiple sections and economies of scale can contribute to unique and differentiated educational opportunities.
- Expanded opportunities to participate in Choir, Band, Drama and Athletics.
- Project based learning opportunities that are meaningful and provide real-life, active, interdisciplinary instruction.
- Elective classes in high-interest areas.
- Increased foreign language opportunities.
- Students who currently receive services through the public schools could be able to get that instruction on the middle school campus.
- STREAM opportunities: to engage students in science, technology, engineering, math, religion, and the arts.
RCS is striving for multiple sections at each grade level and growth in preschool across the system to reach our goal of 2000 students in the RCS community. Families are requesting options that include a combination of preschool and full day childcare. We do not want to expand preschool and the necessary childcare related options by restricting other grades to single sections. Reconfiguration allows families to have preschool and full day childcare options while also providing space for multiple sections in other grades. The goal is to optimize space for all grade levels and improve offerings that will retain existing families and attract new families to RCS.
There is a significant unmet demand for childcare and preschool in Rochester. We currently have limited space to expand the offerings to take advantage of the demand for these services.
In the middle school levels we have demand for specialized programs as well as more interest in differentiated learning options for our students and greater social and emotional support. Enrollment in these grades limits RCS to offer single sections with large class sizes. Under the current configuration, offerings for intervention, gifted and talented and other individualized learning opportunities are limited. Although our curriculum is challenging and Christ centered, RCS loses families each year at 6th grade to take advantage of these types of special offerings in the public middle schools. Some families are also seeking larger classes with increased social and emotional support. Additionally, the current configuration does not provide an easy transition point for families seeking an alternative to public middle school.
Significant study and research went into identifying both the benefits and limitations of a middle school at all age levels. Benefits related to RSC preschool, childcare and elementary and high school programs are:
Preschool & Childcare
- Helps provide space for future growth of K-12 programs through increased enrollment in early childhood programming.
- Allows for neighborhood Pre-K locations.
- Childcare offered at each site.
- More efficient use of staff with increased numbers.
- Allows for a wider variety of Early Childhood program offerings (days/times) for parents’ convenience and student development.
Elementary (K-5 at Holy Spirit, St. Pius and St. Francis)
- Families still have just one place to drop-off children aged 3-11.
- Three convenient neighborhood locations for parents to choose from.
- Schools serve as learning spaces to meet the changing educational needs of the 21st century.
- Fourth and fifth graders assume greater leadership roles in the school.
- Rules and policies can be developmentally responsive to elementary students’ needs.
- Planned interactions with the middle school and high school can be intentional, focused and activity oriented to keep strong connections.
Lourdes High School
- Increased enrollment at Lourdes High School.
- Greater elective offerings for Fine-Art, Academic, and Athletic programs.
- High school teaching staff could be shared with middle school for differentiation.
- Additional mentoring and tutoring opportunities at middle and elementary schools for high school students.
- Increased course specialization as a result of the differentiated instruction received by middle school students.
- Athletics’ schedules more easily coordinated with one middle school.
- Increased preparation and opportunities in music programs at middle school impacts arts programs at Lourdes.
- Students enter Lourdes High School already being exposed to a united Catholic system at the middle school level.
The option of closing a school has been reviewed; however, the growth opportunities that are present at the preschool and younger age levels are such that the most reasonable option for sustainability is reconfiguration. Closing a school immediately reduces capacity and limits growth potential. Yes, closing a school will bring three schools to capacity and help budget concerns, but again, with limited opportunities to grow from preschool through eighth grade as well as provide the differentiated and individualized learning opportunities that will come to all grade levels with reconfiguration. As Rochester is growing, now is the time to grow the RCS community.
The K-8 model has many positives for our families, including keeping siblings together and building a community at the school. Transitions can be very difficult, and the K-8 model is what our families have known and appreciate. At the same time, this model has its limitations from an academic, social and spiritual perspective for our students and cannot be financially sustained with decreasing enrollment. Services needed at our upper grades are shared across three sites. Excellence in differentiated learning, gifted and enrichment programs is difficult to offer with single sections. The current reconfiguration proposal provides the opportunity to build another continuous, supportive structure that builds community and delivers better outcomes in our changing city.
- Why is there a need for focus groups regarding the Vision 2020 project?
- What will happen in the focus groups?
- What is the Reid Group and what is the background of the consultants?
- Can you elaborate on the three areas the Visioning process in 2016 identified for improvement?
- Realistically, if the Board of Trustees adopts this proposal, when would the reconfiguration take place?
The Board of Trustees, comprised of thirteen members: six pastors, six lay members, and Bishop Quinn, has been studying various approaches to ensure the future sustainability of Rochester Catholic Schools. Before making some key decisions over the summer months, the Board needs to receive and learn from significant stakeholder input through focus group sessions. Stakeholders include current and past school families, parishioners, faculty, staff and donors. All are encouraged to give input.
The focus groups will last from 60-75 minutes and will involve conversation around four key questions as follows:
- What are some things you appreciate about Rochester Catholic Schools?
- What do you affirm about the current Board proposal to have Preschool – grade 5 at Holy Spirit Catholic School, St. Francis of Assisi School, and St. Pius X School; Grades 6-8 middle school with honors, enrichment and other electives at St. John the Evangelist School; Ongoing growth of preschool with full day childcare; Expanding Lourdes High School enrollment outreach
- What concerns or questions do you have about the Board proposal?
- What else do you want to say?
The focus groups will be facilitated by the consultants for Vision 2020, Maureen Reid and John Reid.
The Reid Group is a national Catholic consulting firm based in Seattle, Washington with more than 20 years of experience working with Catholic dioceses, religious communities, parishes and schools across the United States and beyond. They have worked with Catholic schools in New Hampshire, Florida, Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota (Duluth), Kansas, California and Washington state.
Maureen Reid served as the principal of two Catholic elementary schools for 12 years in the Archdiocese of Seattle before becoming the principal of Seattle Preparatory School, a Jesuit high school in Seattle. She is a product of Catholic education and holds a master’s degree in Science Education from the State University of New York at Albany. Maureen taught for 24 years in public and Catholic middle and high schools in the subjects of biology, physics and chemistry.
John Reid is the founder and a partner with The Reid Group since 1997. John focuses his work as a Reid Group consultant in the areas of prophetic planning with Catholic dioceses, schools and religious communities, searches and mediation. Previously, he worked with the Archdiocese of Seattle for 18 years where he had responsibilities for formation, training and placement for lay and ordained ministers, and was also the Coordinator of Transition Services. John also worked at the University of Notre Dame and is a former Catholic High School teacher.
- Catholic Identity – Enhance parish/priest connections; deeper and more meaningful faith curriculum; stronger service learning programs
- Academic Excellence – Meeting the needs of all learners more effectively; academic quality and rigor focused on discovery and exploration whereby students are challenged to think critically and creatively; educational value envisioning an educational experience that offers a wider variety of programming options
- Operational Vitality – focused on the areas of finances, enrollment, facilities, marketing and staffing
- What is the mission of Rochester Catholic Schools?
- What is the role of the Board of Trustees and who are the current members?
- What reconfiguration model is the RCS Board of Trustees Proposing?
- Why is the board considering changes to our current configuration of Catholic schools in Rochester?
- What changes will happen for the 2018-2019 academic year?
Rochester Catholic Schools (RCS) develops the spiritual, social, emotional, and academic growth of young people. RCS partners with parents and the Catholic faith community to nurture the development of a Christ-centered learning environment that fosters a culture of excellence where students grow in wisdom, courage and character. Rooted in Gospel values, RCS students are challenged and supported to become critical thinkers, collaborative problem solvers, creative visionaries and servant leaders who bring hope to the world.
The Board of Trustees articulates the vision, mission and overall policy for the Rochester Catholic Schools system. The Board of Trustees is comprised of thirteen members: six pastors, six lay members, and the Bishop of the Diocese of Winona. The Bishop serves as President of the Board of Trustees and affirms Trustee membership.
- Most Rev. John M. Quinn, President - Bishop Diocese of Winona
- Fr. Peter Schuster, Co-Chair - Church of the Resurrection
- Mr. Mike Muehlenbein, Co-Chair - Church of the Resurrection
- Mr. Brian Leary, Secretary - Church of St. Pius X
- Mr. David Pederson, Treasurer - Pax Christi Catholic Church
- Rev. Msgr. Thomas Cook - St. Francis of Assisi Church
- Rev. Tom Loomis - Holy Spirit Catholic Church
- Rev. Msgr. Gerald Mahon - St. John the Evangelist Church
- Mr. Terry Painter - Pax Christi Catholic Church
- Fr. Russell Scepaniak - Church of St. Pius X
- Mrs. Joan Stiller - Holy Spirit Catholic Church
- Fr. William Thompson - Pax Christi Catholic Church
- Mrs. Marcia Vettel - Holy Spirit Catholic Church
To begin the discussion, the RCS Board of Trustees is proposing the following reconfiguration model for consideration:
- preschool through grade five at Holy Spirit Catholic School, St. Francis of Assisi School and St. Pius X School,
- a middle school option for grades 6-8 with honors and enrichment electives at St. John the Evangelist School
- continue the growth of preschool with full day childcare options
- All goals lead to the expansion of Lourdes High School enrollment outreach
There are many reasons for exploring ways to strengthen Rochester Catholic Schools. Some of the key reasons include the opportunity to enhance our academic programs, improve the middle school program, optimize the use of current facilities, increase our preschool and early childhood programs and grow enrollment within the entire Catholic school system.
We welcome your additional questions! Please send them to firstname.lastname@example.org