by Joe Bollig
KANSAS CITY, Kan. — They have their Catholic faith in common, but the 36 elementary and six high schools of the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas are hardly cookie-cutter identical.
They’re in small towns, cities, suburbs and the urban core. They draw students from all socioeconomic categories. Some are rather small, and others teem with students.
And this diversity presents a challenge: How does the archdiocesan schools office understand what these schools need, and what’s the best way to support them?
The answer, according to archdiocesan superintendent of schools Vince Cascone, is a blast from the past.
With the help of Michael and Patty Morrisey, Catholic school advisers and heads of the School Advancement Program, Cascone has resurrected the archdiocesan commission on education.
The commission held its first meeting on Nov. 30, 2021. Its next meeting will be on Feb. 22.
“In a different form, this was a group that existed a number of years ago under [former superintendent] Kathy O’Hara,” said Cascone. “In the last few years, there hasn’t been a commission.
“I thought it was important for us to hear the voices, opinions, wisdom and knowledge of pastors, school leaders and others throughout the archdiocese — to hear what’s going on in their communities, so the archdiocesan school office could have a good understanding of what’s happening on the ground and what schools need for support.”
The commission, whose members were nominated by Cascone and confirmed by Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann, has more than a dozen people. These include principals, pastors, school leaders, someone from the Holy Family School of Faith and staff from the archdiocesan schools office.
The commission’s mission is to gather information, report and make recommendations.
“The goal is to gather information about the best practices at schools throughout the archdiocese so the Catholic schools office can better meet the needs of our local schools,” said Cascone. “Our goal is to support pastors and school leaders. We have to make sure we stay in touch with what are their real needs.”
The schools office does this in a number of ways, and the commission is another tool in the toolbox, according to Michael Morrisey. The commission members are divided into four-member teams, each focusing on different things under four broad areas: catholicity, academics, social-emotional learning, and enrollment management and marketing. The teams report back to the whole commission.
“As a result of keeping our fingers on the pulse of the schools, we hope to learn how best to support those schools,” said Morrisey.
Shelly Buhler, commission member and president of Hayden High School in Topeka, described a kind of synergy the commission will generate for the benefit of all schools.
“There are a lot of different issues we can come together, as a board, to research,” said Buhler. “And we can take back [what we learn] to our regions, all of our individual schools and beyond. There is definite value in coming together and learning about the issues that impact all of us and how we can have stronger and highly effective Catholic schools.”
Cascone expects that the commission will evolve and develop. He has a lot of confidence that each member will make valuable contributions.
“When we had our first commission meeting, I was amazed by the talent of the people on it,” he said. “It was such a great gathering of wonderful people from throughout the archdiocese.”