BRIDGEPORT—Bishop Frank J. Caggiano has introduced a new governance model for Bridgeport Catholic schools that will lead to greater participation and involvement of the laity in the mission and planning for the four schools.
On January 29, the bishop spoke with teachers, board members and parents in three separate meetings held at St. Raphael Parish to explain the new plan, which is “all about further strengthening the schools and helping them continue to grow in the future.”
The bishop said that Catholic schools are first and foremost a ministry to form children in the faith within a framework that encourages academic excellence.
“Education is the pathway to success in life,” the bishop told teachers and parents as he announced plans for the new governing board, “and we want to share the gift of Catholic education with as many children as we can.”
Each Bridgeport Catholic school presently has a school advisory board to advise individual principals. In this new model, a single board of directors will oversee all three Bridgeport Catholic schools. The board will provide professional expertise in governance, strategic planning, marketing, facilities, and financial needs enabling principals to focus on their role as educators and spiritual leaders in their respective schools.
“This is good news. The measures we are taking will help us to spread an excellence in education to many more students,” said the bishop. The board will plan for the long-term growth and vitality of schools, which are expected to increase enrollment. Currently, the enrollment in all four campuses totals 950 students and represents one of the most diverse student bodies in Fairfield County.
Under the new plan all four campuses will legally become one school, sharing the same board of directors and a large number of committees to support its major initiatives. However, this change will not alter the everyday experience of the children who attend the academies.
Bishop Caggiano said that while the board will have much greater responsibility, the schools will remain under diocesan auspices. He and Sister Mary Grace Walsh, ASCJ, PhD, superintendent of schools, and Msgr. William Scheyd, vicar general, will serve as a three person “Member Board” whose function will be to oversee the board of directors.
When introducing the plan to more than 50 faculty members and administrators, Bishop Caggiano said that transition to the board of directors model will be largely seamless in terms of present operations and leadership. However, he expects the board will bring great expertise to the schools and increase resources in the long term.
The new board of directors will consist of some of those who presently serve on the individual advisory boards, along with new members who will be identified based on their interest and talents in key areas such as finance, building and academics.
“We don’t want to lose a single advisory board member,” the bishop said. “We really need to put everybody to work,” he added, noting that advisory board members will be asked to serve on key committees that will create plans and recommendations for the schools.
During the hour-long meetings, the bishop also distributed the application form for the new Bishop’s Scholarship Fund 2015-2016. The fund will make $1.45 million available in scholarships to families with children attending a diocesan-sponsored Catholic school throughout the diocese.
The Bishop’s Scholarship Fund is designed to help families afford a Catholic education. “Through the generosity of donors who believe in the mission and impact of Catholic education, this new fund will bring a Catholic education within their reach,” says Sister Mary Grace, ASCJ, PhD, diocesan superintendent of schools.
This is particularly important for families who enroll multiple children in a Catholic school.
Scholarships will be renewable each year for as long as the student attends a diocesan elementary or high school and remains in good standing. The fund will disburse its scholarship grants beginning in the 2015-16 school year.
The first year of the fund will be reserved for PreK-grade 8 elementary school students. After that, high school students will also be able to apply for scholarship aid. The bishop said he hopes to see the total scholarship amount grow to $3.5 million in three years.
As part of the application process, families will have to fill out a FACTS Grant & Aid Assessment as well as an application form.
Children who enroll in Bridgeport Catholic schools also benefit from the existing scholarship program set up by the advisory board. This year, a total of $1.8 million in scholarship aid was given to 600 students who would not otherwise have been able to afford the cost of enrollment.
Bishop Caggiano fielded questions following the meetings and also encouraged teachers and parents to promote the Catholic schools they love so much. He told parents that they must become the “bishop’s ambassadors”—active collaborators in Catholic education. “I want all parents to become ambassadors of Catholic education to the community at large and to share the great treasure that our schools represent.”
The bishop also urged teachers and principals to “share the news of the scholarship fund,” and to let people know that the diocese is doing everything it can to make Catholic education an affordable choice for families.
(For more info, contact your local school or visit www.dioceseofbridgeportcatholicschools.com. The Bishop’s Scholarship Fund application form is available at www.bishopscholarship.org.)
Sister Mary Grace Walsh, superintendent of schools, consults with parents at a January 29 meeting with the bishop to discuss a new governance model for Bridgeport Catholic schools.