The excellence of Archdiocese of Louisville schools has come to be a given, a blessing that the people of the archdiocese might take for granted.
If such nonchalance is true toward our schools, it is almost a forgivable shortcoming because local Catholic schools have been top-of-the-mark for as long as anyone can remember. Terrific schools, terrific educators and high-achieving students have become the standard, as familiar and expected in this archdiocese as cold air in the winter.
That’s what makes the newly-launched consideration of Catholic elementary schools so exciting — who doesn’t love the chance to make something good even better?
Last month The Record reported that the people of the archdiocese are being asked to think about the way elementary schools are governed and funded. It’s an effort that has grown from the completion of the recently published Catholic Elementary School Report. The report represents a plethora of information about Catholic elementary schools and the people who make use of them — and those who don’t.
Without being too redundant, let’s recall that the stories last month noted that every Catholic grade school in Jefferson County is within a 20-minute drive of families who want to use them. Outside of the Louisville area, elementary schools are within a 35-minute drive of people in rural areas. The study also revealed that a majority of the 37 percent of families who don’t avail themselves of Catholic elementary education list something other than cost as the main reason.
There’s more, lots more, in the report. But what should not be lost or forgotten when we examine the numbers and charts, the percentages and graphs, is a single word that this effort represents — opportunity.
There’s great opportunity afoot, opportunity to perhaps make Catholic schools even stronger, more economically sound, more diverse.
It’s an effort that can be built on a remarkable foundation. Numbers rarely deceive, and the numbers that lie at the heart of Catholic school excellence testify to that verity.
Just take the graduating class of 2012, for instance — in most cases, those students are products of Catholic elementary educations that well-prepared them for the challenges of high school.
Ninety-seven percent of this year’s graduates are pursuing college or post-secondary training. Among them were 18 National Merit semi-finalists; 11 National Merit finalists; and 36 National Merit commended scholars. Their average ACT score was 24.2; on the SAT their average score was 1193 — both solidly high figures.
The class received more than $114 million in college scholarship funds, and included 49 Governor’s Scholars and 10 Governor’s School for the Arts members. Together, the class of 2012 and all other students in Archdiocese of Louisville schools performed more than 115,000 hours of community service.
Dr. Brian Reynolds, chancellor and chief administrative officer of the archdiocese, said in a recent interview that area Catholic high schools are thrilled, too, with the thought of possible improvement in elementary education. “They know,” he said, “that solid and secure elementary schools help insure the continued success of the high schools.”
Copies of the Catholic Elementary School Report have been sent to every parish in the archdiocese, and people — through their parish councils — are being asked to respond to it. They’re being asked to consider new ways of governing elementary schools; new ways of providing funding for them. They’re being asked if they think these changes are necessary, or if they want to leave things just the way they are.
Ideas, the chancellor said recently, are pouring in. They’ll be published in February, and chances are there will be some remarkable suggestions to be considered.
With declining enrollment and rising costs always at the forefront of concerns about Catholic education, the people of the archdiocese — already blessed with excellent schools — have the chance to make them even better. There’s a chance to increase enrollment, which would then lower costs. There’s a chance to produce new ways of governance, organization and administration. There’s a chance to make our schools more welcoming to the ever-growing numbers of Hispanics, Vietnamese and other immigrants.
There’s opportunity knocking here, and you just know the people of the archdiocese will take advantage of a chance to make things better. Why do we know that? Because that’s what they’ve always done.