Responding to the growth of media attention about the changing landscape of Catholic schools, deans of schools of education at 19 major Catholic universities called for a greater role in supporting and sustaining a seamless Catholic education last week at a historic meeting in New York City hosted by Dr. Jerrold Ross, dean of The School of Education at St. John's University.
Never before have higher education administrators united behind such a "game-changing" effort to support the lower grades, recognizing the contribution Catholic schooling has made to the church and the nation. Concerned that these opportunities may be slipping away during our time, the deans agreed that meeting the challenges of federal and state reforms, as well as providing the research and practice that would retain Catholic school values and commitment to social justice is paramount.
"Catholic schools need to retain their identity, their traditional values, their adherence to social justice and response to the needs of new populations who are 'the hurting people of society,' " affirmed the deans in a consensus statement.
Reaching beyond their traditional service of helping to shape curricula, training leaders of the schools and certifying teachers, the deans proposed partnering with K-12 schools to generate new knowledge and thought, providing the research to help curtail the decline of these schools through strategic planning and promoting 21st century learning in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), the arts and humanities, and global understandings.
The deans said that, as Congress debates changing policies, the manifold needs of new immigrants - especially urban, suburban and rural families of limited means and children whose parents have already secured a piece of the American dream - demand the support and sustenance of Catholic schools, and must be addressed.
According to the deans in attendance, pre-K programs in Catholic schools receiving public assistance and the emergence of quasi-religiously based charter schools also demonstrate the critical need to reconsider some church and state relationships as they benefit underserved groups of all faiths. The group will issue a position paper in the near future, making these concerns public beyond their local dioceses to its widest distribution at the national level.
The deans who participated included: Dr. James Carl, Sacred Heart University; Dr. Debra Colley, Niagara University; Dr. Susan Douglas Franzosa, Fairfield University; Dr. Walter Gmelch, University of San Francisco; Dr. James Hennessy, Fordham University; Dr. John James, Saint Louis University; Dr. Kevin Kelly, University of Dayton; Dr. Maureen Kenny, Boston College; Dr. Christine Maziar, University of Notre Dame; Dr. Brian McCadden, Providence College; Dr. William Merriman, Manhattan College; Dr Luis Miron, Loyola University of New Orleans; Dr. Debra L. Ponec, Creighton University; Dr. Jerrold Ross, St. John's University; Dr. Merylann J. Schuttloffel, The Catholic University of America; Dr. William Welsh, University of Scranton; Dr. Mary Williams, La Salle University; Dr. Myriam Zayas Zengotita, Pontifical Catholic University of Puerto Rico Ponce; and Dr. Paul Zoints, DePaul University.