Updating the Progress

March 13-19, 2003
Updating the Progress
By Howie Mansfield
Halfway through the first year of the diocesan strategic planning initiative many schools are doing an excellent job. During the latest round of meetings during the week of Feb. 21, schools made strides toward solidifying mission statements while completing their assessment narratives.

Steven Virgadamo, senior development consultant for Catholic School Management, Inc., met at Holy Trinity Church with members of the planning committee from Most Holy Rosary School in Syracuse on Feb. 21 to discuss their progress. Virgadamo first looked at the school’s mission statement. Most Holy Rosary’s team had its mission statement ratified by Sister Mary Anne Heenan, diocesan superintendent of Catholic Schools, and Father Fred Mannara, pastor of Most Holy Rosary Church.

“Now that your mission statement has been approved and ratified, it should be prominently displayed in the school. It should be included in all school publications,” Virgadamo said. “This is a significant milestone, to reach consensus on the mission statement.” Next the assessment narratives were discussed and looked over for the final time. Lisa DePoala-Haber and Beth Trunfio, co-chairs of the Most Holy Rosary School planning committee, said they worked on Saturdays starting in December to complete the narratives. The group told Virgadamo the narratives were completed. Sister Helen Ann Charlebois, IHM, Western Region superintendent for Catholic Schools, and Father Charles Vavonese, assistant diocesan superintendent for Catholic Schools, studied the final assessment narratives while Virgadamo talked about evaluating the narratives.

“I want you to fill out this evaluation matrix. Read each narrative and vote on it. Is this a strength of our school or a weakness? Then put your thoughts in a complete sentence,” Virgadamo said. “You must decide one way or the other. It will be easier to figure out and compile. After you are done with the evaluations, compile and tally the results. Don’t change anything, copy everything verbatim.”

Virgadamo said the evaluation matrix would form the backbone for the school’s three-year goals and first-year objectives. “The goals will have to address the issues and concerns the school faces in the future,” he said. Father Vavonese and Sister Helen Ann gave their impressions of the assessment narratives, telling the planning committee only small things needed to be done to finalize them. Father Vavonese was impressed with the Catholic Identity narrative. Technology was addressed in the narrative, Father Vavonese noted, which is important. “Technology is a big draw to parents. We know we are ahead of the Syracuse City School District on technology and parents of potential students should know that,” said Father Vavonese.

Most Holy Rosary School chose March 18 as their deadline to complete the evaluations. From the evaluations, the team will create a Strengths-Weakness-Opportunities-Threats (SWOT) analysis. Next, the goals and objectives will be formulated. “Remember the goals are for three years and your objectives should be SMART — specific, measurable, attainable in a realistic time frame,” said Virgadamo. “How you carried out your objectives is the strategies you put in place.”

Father Vavonese, Sister Helen Ann, Virgadamo and Father Mannara were all very impressed with the Most Holy Rosary planning committee’s work to date. “You are a model for the diocese,” Virgadamo said. “We are really moving forward here and you’re in great shape.” Barbara Messina, principal of Most Holy Rosary School, said she’s pleased with her school’s planning committee and their continued involvement.

“After much prayer and suggestions from faculty, parish and school community members, I asked the members of our committee to serve. They accepted the challenge and worked hard as individuals and together as a group to provide accurate and comprehensive narratives,” Messina said. “Our committee co-chairs [DePoala-Haber and Trunfio] are skilled at keeping the meetings focused and efficient.” Messina recalled Virgadamo’s comment early in the process that it would take some committees longer and some less time to finish their tasks. Messina believes her committee is on track to finish the process sooner because of their dedication. “Their gift to MHR School has been their devotion to providing an invaluable service to our school— the provision of an effective plan for a healthy future. I am so very proud and privileged to work with them,” said Messina.

The entire strategic management process has allowed individuals outside of the Catholic Schools Office, serving on the planning committees, to become invested in the future of the school. “I had one gentlemen from one of the committees say, ‘I’m scared. I’ve looked at this and the decisions we make affect people’s lives in the school and the parish. I never realized this.’ The principal of that school said, ‘Welcome to my world,’” Father Vavonese explained. “It’s a good sign to have committee members coming to that reality. Every principal and every person in the Catholic Schools Office is glad to have more people to collaborate with. I think it’s an indication of the success of the process. We are making strategic management a part of the life of the school. This is not a flash in the pan thing, we are creating something institutional.”

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