By Bonny Van

The Catholic Commentator 

As teachers, staff and students prepare to go back to school, principals are preparing for the future with a three- to five-year strategic plan. 

 

Strategic Planning wkshop.JPG

Scott Baron leads a workshop on long-term strategic planning for principals at Catholic schools in the Diocese of Baton Rouge. The workshop was held at the Catholic Life Center in Baton Rouge in June.  Photo by Bonny Van | The Catholic Commentator  

 

“You need to know, ‘Who is your target market and who is it not,’ ” explained Scott Baron, CEO and founder of School Growth LLC, during a strategic planning workshop at the Catholic Life Center in Baton Rouge earlier this summer.  

“Right now the education market in the greater Baton Rouge area is more competitive than it’s ever been in the history of the area,” noted Baron. “So, our challenge here is to create meaningful school improvement plans that connect with families, that enable us to really distinguish our schools from the others that are in the market.”  

Principals, assistant principals and other administration members from the 31 Catholic schools in the Diocese of Baton Rouge filled the conference room to learn how to get started with a long-term strategic plan.  

“We were doing an annual plan, so now we’ll be stretching it out for a five-year plan for the future,” said Paula Pochè, principal at St. Peter Chanel School in Paulina. “We’ve been doing it every year, so we kind of said, ‘What do we want to see for the future?’ It expanded our thinking in a way.” 

“All of our schools complete an annual improvement plan for accreditation that has to do with teaching and learning, but most of that has to do with the educational part,” explained Dr. Melanie Palmisano, superintendent of Catholic schools in the Baton Rouge Diocese. “The strategic plan that the diocesan school board has asked the schools to do is look at ‘Where do you want to be in three years and five years?’ I call it a ‘balcony view’ of the direction we want to go in as a school.”  

Among the items that fall under strategic planning, according Palmisano, are an increase in enrollment, new buildings on campus and financial viability. She said the process “raises the level of engagement” between the schools’ advisory boards and faculty for “future visioning.” She also said that on the diocesan level, the long-term strategic plan includes three areas: mission and ministry; financial vitality; and advancement.  

“There is nothing broken in Catholic schools right now. They’re doing very, very well,” said Palmisano. “Our schools are happy and we have lovely communities. I just love visiting the schools because you feel that sense of belonging and that sense of love that I think our church has called us to in Catholic education.”  

“I’m learning how to do strategic planning, all the steps. (The workshop) has been very helpful,” said Cheryl Domino, incoming principal at Redemptorist St. Gerard School in Baton Rouge, who hopes to get her school working on a long-term strategic plan in August.  

“The biggest thing that we’re helping the schools do is to tell a story that invites faculties and families into a journey together. Schools that are growing the best are learning to do that,” stated Baron. “They’re not pitching the school in the same old way. So when (schools) begin to discover their story, you’re going to see a level of energy that they’ve never had before.”  

“We really are grateful to our volunteer advisory board members, on the diocesan school board as well as on local school boards throughout the diocese,” said Palmisano. “They really have taken leadership of this process and worked very well with the pastors and principals to focus on the future.  

“What we want to do is continue to be relevant, continue to be viable and continue to serve to the best of our ability,” she said.