It’s Catholic Schools Week! I’m gushing this week about why we love it so and dishing on five questions every parent should be asking the principal, a letter to prospective Catholic school parents, the very best gala class project ideas and there’s even an interview with my own kids in the works. Fun week! Let’s hop to it.
My husband and I are huge proponents of Catholic education. Five of our children attend Catholic schools and we have loved our time in them. I recognize that the choices you make for you children’s education is highly personal. No one path is holier, or more Catholic. This just happens to be the right fit for our family.
In the last eleven years of Catholic school education, we’ve learned a few things – some the easy way, but most the hard way. If I could go back to my pre-kids in school self and share five things? This would be it. Go ahead and schedule that appointment with the local school principal and ask him or her these five questions. I think you’ll be glad you did.
1. What payment options can we make for tuition? The number one reason people tell me they don’t choose a Catholic education? Cost! Always cost. For most, I think we peruse the website, click on the “tuition” button, faint and then decide it isn’t for us. Y’all. Don’t be that family. After first looking at your own finances and deciding what are the “must-have’s” and the “must-want’s,” sit down with the principal and ask him what payment options are available. Is tuition assistance an option? Deferred billing? Scholarships? Uniform resales? There are so many options to make school affordable (here’s 23 practical tips!), but most important is your desire. Often, when a principal sees that a family really desires a Catholic school education for their child, something can be done. I say, give it your best shot and see what happens.
2. How can we help the school? A gift of treasure is always appreciated, but the reality is that most of our schools rely on our generosity in other ways – time and talent, for sure. Each year, our diocese honors these “heroes” at a dinner and awards ceremony and I am always struck by the boundless gift of self these people give. Your principal is most aware of all the areas of need and perhaps a school need matches with your gifts. Are they seeking someone with marketing or graphic design skills? Math enrichment programs? Robotics instructors? Art or drama leaders? I can tell you with 99.9% certainty there is some need at your school that needs filling and I’m pretty sure it’s bigger than stacking chairs or making photocopies. ASK!
3. What’s your long-term vision for the school and what steps are being taken to make it happen? Just this weekend, we had the chance to visit with a founding member of a brand-new Catholic high school in Houston. When we asked her the vision for the school? Her eyes lit up and she began sharing the school’s future and the steps they were taking to ensure it became reality. That’s the passion you want to see in your principal. That’s the kind of school you want your kids to attend. A school grows and thrives because of parents and families who support the faculty and staff. This question gives you a good sense of just how serious your school is about spreading its wings and furthering the mission of Christ.
4. Name the one activity or event that defines your Catholic identity as a school. We’ve seen Catholic schools and we’ve seen private schools. I prefer the Catholic ones, thankyouverymuch. An administrator once commented to a parent, who was hounding him about future athletic programs, “Ma’am, my job is to make your kid a saint. Not an athletic superstar. One is eternal, the other temporal.” What is your school doing to prepare your child for sainthood? St. John Bosco definitely did it while teaching St. Dominic Savio, am I right? Certainly, we care deeply about the academic rigor our children are receiving. Trust me, if you were at my dining room table each night, you’d know just how much my children are being challenged. But, on a larger scale, I care even more about the moral life lessons my children are gleaning from their school environment. How much does your school care?
5. I have a problem, can you help? My poor principal knows me by name and I’m sure sometimes she’d rather send my calls to voicemail. But you know what I love about her? She’s a problem solver. She listens. With five kids in school, our odds are certainly higher in the “most likely to have a meeting with the principal” department. Hey, problems come up, a child needs redirection, there’s a challenge with the athletic program or you’re frustrated with carline. Whatever it may be, how willing is your principal to help you navigate through it? No school is perfect, but one that recognizes its limitations and strives for success is definitely a keeper.