Diocese releases Strategic Plan for Catholic Schools

BRIDGEPORT- The Diocese of Bridgeport has released the 2021-2024 Strategic Plan for Catholic Schools: “To Make All Things New.”

This strategic plan focuses on four strategic priorities including ensuring a vibrant Catholic identity,  fostering academic excellence,  and strengthening the operational vitality and financial stability of schools.

The report is the result of a three-year effort by the Strategic Plan Steering Committee composed of diocesan and non-diocesan leaders in areas of education, finance, marketing, and strategic planning who worked collaboratively with the school leadership and consulted with others throughout the diocese.

“My gratitude goes out to all who participated in the planning process and made this strategic plan possible. I am especially grateful to our Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Steven Cheeseman, and his team in the Office of the Superintendent, as well as the members of the Education Commission of the Diocese who spend countless hours supporting our schools with their expertise,” said Bishop Frank J. Caggiano.

The diocesan school system includes 25 elementary and high schools that educate over 7,000 students throughout Fairfield County.

Among the recommendations made in the report is the creation of an Operational Support Network (OSN) to centralize and streamline certain administrative tasks across schools in the diocese, the development of financial and viability plans for all schools, the introduction of new governance models, and a yearly assessment of the Catholic identity in the schools.

“It is my belief that the successful implementation of this plan will lead to long term and systemic change. Through a re-allocation of resources, redistribution of leadership responsibilities, and a reimagining of the ways in which our schools carry out administrative and management functions, our hope is that we can remove much of the burden our school leaders shoulder so that they can focus on nurturing an ever-improving faith-filled academic program,” the bishop said.

Dr. Steven Cheeseman, Superintendent of Diocesan Catholic Schools, said the plan enables the schools to think strategically about their future while remaining student-centered and faith-focused.

“As we look to our future, we must challenge some of the fundamental assumptions under which we operate in order to meet the changing dynamics of our world. We need to ensure that schools can be nimble and agile, and that school-based leadership has the capacity to anticipate and envision the future, maintain flexibility, think strategically, and engage the broader community. Most importantly, as we think strategically about our future, we must always remain student-centered, and faith focused.

He said that as the schools move into the future, one of the biggest challenges remains the financial stability of the diocesan system as it is currently configured.

“With a concern that the true economic impact of the pandemic has not yet been fully revealed, we have to reexamine the financial health of our schools to reimagine how we share resources and services across schools, how we determine funding strategies given the financial strains of our families, and how we determine the number and location of schools needed in the system given demographic shift and community engagement,” Dr. Cheeseman said.

A realistic strategic plan for growth supports the entire diocesan school system and encourages further investment in schools challenged by demographics or other serious impediments, he said.

“The current educational, social, and economic realities represent the context within which this plan was written and require us to take bold action. It is against that backdrop that this strategic plan, To Make All Things New has been developed,” Dr. Cheeseman said.

The Strategic Planning Committee developed the To Make All Things New plan based on four fundamental guiding principles:

  1. Above all else, schools must be “Catholic First”
  2. Schools must provide academically superior educational programs
  3. Schools must demonstrate the vitality and financial stability
  4. Community stakeholders, including staff, parents, pastors, and board members must work collaboratively and engage the wider community in support of the school

The Strategic planning process was led by the Education Commission of the Diocese of Bridgeport who work collaboratively with the Superintendent to provide students with an academically rigorous education rooted in the Catholic faith and to ensure the future viability and vitality of our Catholic schools.

Click here to read the full strategic plan.