School revitalization plan asks for public input

The Diocese of Charleston kicked off the process to revitalize and strengthen its schools with a meeting of the task force steering committee at Christ Our King Church on Sept. 30.

The steering committee, comprised of 14 members, received an overview of the coming year from Regina Haney, executive director of the National Catholic Education Association Boards and Council Department, and Frank Donaldson, president of the Institute of School and Parish Development.

They looked at goals and timelines, as established by the vision of Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone.

First up will be a meeting of principals and pastors to discuss the individual challenges faced by their schools. This will be held in Myrtle Beach on Oct. 16.

Next the diocese will seek input from the public at four regional meetings planned for Columbia, Greenville, Myrtle Beach and Charleston. Visit prior to the meetings to confirm locations.

Lydia Doyle, diocesan director of Research and Planning, said they will compile the information gathered from principals, pastors and the public, plus data on areas of import such as demographics and enrollment, to create a diocesan-wide plan for the schools.

In her opening remarks, Sandra Leatherwood, diocesan director for Catholic education, noted the drop in enrollment that occurred with the recession in 2008. She said the schools have regained ground, but are still looking for enrollment solutions.

In 2007-08, total enrollment was 7,212 students, according to diocesan records. For 2013-14, that figure was 6,218 students, with some schools recovering better than others.

Leatherwood said one of the goals of the revitalization process is to address the huge shift in how education is delivered, especially in areas of technology. All of the schools are addressing it, but for some, the age of their buildings and the cost of the required infrastructure is a challenge.

Other changes include a higher cost of instruction, more variety in teaching methods to meet individual learning styles, and the inclusion of special needs students, Leatherwood said.

By December, the task force will begin to address the challenges that have been identified and start looking at solutions. The goal is to present a finalized plan to Bishop Guglielmone by May 2016, followed by a diocesan-wide Congress to present it to the public.