School surveys reveal ‘opportunity to foster growth’ for archdiocese

Kijewski Kijewski

DETROIT — Recent surveys of Catholic parents, educators, laity and parish leaders revealed both a positive image of local Catholic schools and a recognition of room for improvement, said Kevin Kijewski, superintendent for Detroit archdiocesan schools.

Two surveys, conducted in February and March with the help of researchers at the University of Detroit Mercy and Madonna University, sought feedback from Catholic school stakeholders as part of the archdiocese’s efforts to re-envision local Catholic education in light of Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron’s pastoral letter, Unleash the Gospel.

One survey sought feedback specifically from parents, educators, pastors and supporters currently involved in a Catholic school, while the other asked for feedback from laity and clergy at parishes without a Catholic school.

Both constituencies are important for the future of Catholic education in the Archdiocese of Detroit, Kijewski told The Michigan Catholic.

“Like the archbishop said in Unleash the Gospel, Catholic education is the responsibility of all the faithful,” Kijewski said. “We wanted to hear from a broad range of people.”

The studies indicated strong support for Catholic education in the Archdiocese of Detroit, as well as “an unprecedented opportunity to foster growth and innovation,” Kijewski said in a letter to Catholic school supporters.

“In sum, we see that parents, pastors, teachers, students, and supporters see the value of our Catholic schools; however, we also hear loud and clear that a comprehensive and cohesive plan should be created and implemented so our school system may become one of the best in the country,” Kijewski wrote.

The studies — which Kijewski said were “statistically significant” — asked for both qualitative and quantitative feedback.

“We didn’t just want people to say ‘strongly agree’ or ‘strongly disagree,’” Kijewski said. “We actually wanted to get their qualitative feedback, too. Some people wrote a little, some people wrote a lot.

“Everyone sees the need for Catholic schools one way or another,” Kijewski added. “They may express that a little differently, but this is feedback that we’re taking to heart, and we want to analyze and put that into a compelling vision, a roadmap of where archdiocesan schools need to go,” Kijewski said.

While each school’s strategic planning commission will receive localized survey results, which in turn will be used to develop local plans and priorities, some issues that touch on Catholic education as a whole, such as ways to improve academics, enrollment, finances and Catholic identity, will be part of a broader vision put forth by the archdiocese.

“We can certainly have some refinement and improvement when it comes to our academic programming, financial practices, promoting affordability and accessibility, and to make our schools even more Catholic. The question is, how can we continually improve in those areas?” Kijewski said.

Kijewski said the archdiocese plans to share its vision with schools in the coming months as schools seek to develop strategic plans by the start of the 2018-19 school year.