Foundation Begins Work with Schools in Archdiocese of Boston

March 6, 2019

Six parish elementary schools in the Archdiocese of Boston will implement the Healey Education Foundation’s Advancement Methodology beginning in the 2019-20 school year. They were selected following Foundation representatives’ interviews with principals and pastors to assess their readiness for change and based on schools’ growth opportunities and on feedback from the Archdiocese. The schools are:

  • Our Lady of the Assumption (Lynnfield)
  • Sacred Heart School (Roslindale)
  • St. Catherine of Genoa School (Somerville)
  • St. Jerome Elementary School (Weymouth)
  • St. Joseph School (Medford)
  • St. Mary of the Assumption Elementary School (Brookline)

“When my father started the Foundation, his vision was to strengthen the infrastructure of high-quality Catholic schools so they would sustain themselves over time.” — Christine L. Healey, President, Healey Education Foundation

“Many Boston families have come before us to secure schools, and we are so proud to join Cardinal O’Malley in his continued investment in the schools of the Archdiocese as we double down on meeting today’s challenges in this work,” said Christine Healey, President, Healey Education. “This can only be done together.”

Kathy Mears, Superintendent of Catholic Schools for the Archdiocese of Boston, has been instrumental in establishing the partnership. “When I first came to the Archdiocese, I explained that I only know how to work on teams, not as isolated individuals,” she said. “A network of schools helping each other makes sense.”

“In beginning work with this cohort, Healey has thrown a little pebble into the pond. What these schools learn will help others too.” — Kathy Mears, Superintendent of Catholic Schools, Archdiocese of Boston

Healey Education Foundation brings a knowledge of the private independent school marketplace through Dan Rocha, Vice President of Operations, who will oversee the daily collaborations with Boston-based schools along with a new Director of Schools at the Foundation. The Director of Schools will be hired specifically for this assignment. Barbara Mooney, Vice President of Operations, offers expertise in the for-profit early childhood education space. 

This breadth of experience should serve well in addressing needs of individual schools as best practices are introduced across the board. “This was not a cookie-cutter selection; the schools are different from each other,” Mears said. They represent a good mix – suburban and urban, a range in size from 155 students to over 300, and each school in its own place with student populations, academic development and its current approach to enrollment management. Yet standards for all schools are the same.”

One Principal’s Perspective

In her six years as Principal of St. Mary of the Assumption Elementary School (Brookline), Dr. Theresa Kirk has already tackled some of the issues that the Foundation often faces alongside its partner schools. While strong academically, the school is surrounded by excellent private schools within a two-mile radius. St. Mary’s hosts four widely attended open houses a year, initiated the successful Walk-in Wednesdays and – most importantly – knows its population and employs the family approach. “There’s nothing like a prospective parent talking to a current parent before signing on the dotted line,” Kirk said.

Students of St. Mary of the Assumption Elementary School (Brookline), one of six parish elementary schools in the Archdiocese of Boston that will implement the Healey Education Foundation’s Advancement Methodology

Other tactics include an October 1 Kindergarten entrance date, which is both a preference and a convenience for many parents, as well as a plan to secure international students in seventh and eighth grade. Students graduating from St. Mary’s go on to attend a variety of Catholic, independent and public schools, such as Boston Latin School, Boston College High School, Winsor School and Dexter Academy.

But the school has not yet achieved optimal enrollment, has facilities issues to manage and is still operating with an advisory board rather than a decision-making board with financial accountability. St. Mary’s also could use guidance with development and an annual fund.

“The opportunity to work with the cohort and Foundation at this time is a huge boost for us,” Kirk said. “Six years ago, I would have had too much else to focus on and had not yet built trust within the school.”

She described the “a-ha moment” she felt when recently attending the kickoff meeting and hearing about the Advancement Methodology for governance, enrollment management and development. “Everything mentioned by the Foundation was exactly what we’re looking for. I’m all in. And I’m also looking forward to the six of us schools getting together to support each other as a cohort because not a lot of that has been happening. It’s tough to orbit around yourself.”

One Pastor’s Perspective

Rev. Msgr. Francis H. Kelley, Pastor of Sacred Heart School (Roslindale), has also signed on for the change now in store. “Many of the financial and governance issues discussed with the Foundation in recent months are insoluble in my own situation, and the proposed ideas make sense to me,” he said. “I may have even thought of some of them in the past but with no real capacity to implement. Much of what we need is what they’re bringing in. Specifically, we’ve not solved the financial issue, and the Board of Specified Jurisdiction seems like the chance we need.”

The school has made strides with its STREAM curriculum and religious education pastoral model, including service projects and practices of prayer. Last year, Sacred Heart raised $1 million through its Dream BIG 100th Anniversary Fund. “That will go fast just to keep us going,” Kelley said.

He views the Church’s vitality as directly linked to the school and describes Sacred Heart parish as young, welcoming and diverse.

“We’re one of the places in Boston that will tell you what the future of the Church will look like. When it comes to evangelization, the biggest tool we’ve got is the school.” — Rev. Msgr. Francis H. Kelley, Pastor

Momentum

Reading Buddies. At St. Mary of the Assumption Elementary School (Brookline), Grade 5 partners with Kindergarten each week to assist with ELA and other fun activities.

Kathleen Driscoll, Secretary for Institutional Advancement & Chief Development Officer, is overseeing development for the Archdiocese’s contribution to this initiative that will strengthen and reposition Catholic elementary schools for long-term sustainability and growth. “People really want to see Catholic education succeed here,” she said. “The mission has great momentum and is a leading interest of benefactors across the Archdiocese.”

Among supporters, Driscoll explained, are both Catholics and a growing number of non-Catholics including parents who know what Catholic school education provides. “I love the partnership of this initiative,” she said. “With so many invested in the schools’ success, both financially and through their talent and time, we’re bound to strengthen these schools and many more for generations of students to come.”

The Foundation is currently leading a Comprehensive Assessment phase for an in-depth look at each partner school’s family experience, student achievement and fiscal results. This phase will also include a market analysis and review of the school’s current enrollment management, development and board governance practices.

During a Readiness Period over the summer, an Advancement Director will be hired at each school and board leadership will be recruited and will begin work on the school’s strategic vision.

 


Healey Education Foundation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, invests in PK-12 Catholic schools. The Foundation provides a high-impact program delivered through a coaching relationship with dioceses and schools that are ready to embrace change. Healey’s work For the Future of Catholic Schools empowers grant recipients to deliver sustainable results through effective governance, enrollment management and development. Since its establishment in 2004, the Foundation has grown to serve 85 elementary and high schools across seven dioceses in Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. The Foundation also co-founded and continues to support the Catholic Partnership Schools in Camden, NJ, through board participation and an annual grant.