Thursday, April 02, 2009

More about the School Board Thing

I really appreciate that so many readers have taken the time to comment--thoughtfully--on yesterday's post about the school board invitation.

Because my husband was out of town last night, I didn't get to talk to him about it much. His gut reaction was "say no" until I explained that they were looking for a parent whose children did not attend the school. Of course, we will be discussing it more when he returns from his business trip.

Certainly I consider it an honor to be asked, especially since I was told that more than one person had recommended my name.

A couple of commenters introduced the idea of "ministering to the non-Catholics with a need to have their children in a non-public-school environment." While I see that point, it is my opinion that for too long Catholic schools have been willing to fill seats with any student, regardless of religious affiliation, for the sake of filling seats, rather than engaging in the outreach and, yes, marketing that it takes to attract and keep Catholic families in the schools. The primary mission of a Catholic school should be to educate Catholic children. It's not so much that the school is providing a "moral environment" for children of any faith, although naturally that happens. It's that the school should be providing a "faith environment" for children of the Catholic faith.

I believe very strongly that parishes and schools have absolutely failed in this regard. They have rolled over and watched as family after family pulled out of Catholic schools in favor of public schools, sometimes with very lame excuses. My pastor informed me yesterday that he believes that the parochial-school model is dead; regionalization is the only way that any Catholic schools will survive--essentially because of finances. That may be true now, but my belief is that this is due to that failure by schools and parishes to teach parents the value of a Catholic education. My husband commented yesterday, "They have lost a whole generation." We both believe that once you lose people in the Catholic school system, you don't get them back. You don't get their children back either.

Frankly, sometimes it gets discouraging to have a commitment to Catholic education when the schools keep being pulled out from under us. Middle Sister started fifth grade in her THIRD Catholic school--and we had not moved during that time. We're hoping the school she and Little Brother attend now will stick around until he graduates.

Meanwhile, I am putting together a list of questions. Some of these have come directly from yesterday's comments (thank you again!) If my pastor (who approached me about this) cannot answer them, I will request that he put me in touch with someone who can. I'm going to post my questions here and probably add to the list as I think of more.

--What exactly is expected of a school board member in terms of time, service and financial commitment?

--Why are they looking for someone outside the school community to serve?

--I don't know if my parish is considered a "sending" parish--I doubt that we have ANY children in that school. Is it that they want students from my parish, and would I be expected to market the school to other parents in my parish? (That would leave me with a huge conflict of interest, as I would have a hard time marketing a school in which I refused to enroll my own children.)

--What expertise are they looking for me to bring to the table?

--After painful experiences with a school closure in the past, I harbor a certain distrust of the diocesan committees that are set up to "seek feedback" but that I believe have already made the decisions before seeking the feedback. I've been in that position before. Am I being asked to participate in such a venture again?

--Why would the school board want a participant who was opposed to the concept of that school, who will not send her children to that school, and who does not have faith in the school's chances for success?

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