By Celine Klosterman
OTTUMWA — Seton Catholic School is drawing a road map for its future.
The board of education for the school, which this year educates students in prekindergarten to fifth grade, launched a strategic planning process last month to name long-term goals, identify specific ways to meet them and determine how to measure progress.
It’s the first time Seton has undertaken such a process, Principal Duane Siepker believes. “I’ve been asking the board to do this because I’ve done it at other schools and found it to be profitable,” said Siepker, who worked at schools throughout Iowa before joining Seton in 2010. “My goal is to ensure this school is here 100 years from now and is financially stable with a great curriculum and great staff. All those things have to be in place if we want to continue to be in Ottumwa.”
Board members kicked off the planning process March 21 by discussing Seton’s strengths, areas for growth, challenges and how to overcome those challenges. Lee Morrison, superintendent of schools for the Davenport Diocese, and the National Catholic Education Association’s self-assessment package “Measuring the Mission” offered guidance.
“This was in essence a first brainstorming session to see if we’re all on the same page,” said Mary Beth Delaney, school board president. “We need to share a vision.”
Ultimately, “What we want are some concrete goals and a strategic plan for meeting those goals.”
Siepker said schools might simply state they aim to increase enrollment, but that goal is useless without specific plans to achieve it. “We have to ask: How are we going to do that? How many students do we want next year? In two years?”
Seton currently has 123 students; it had 125 in the 2000-01 school year and 124 in 2005-06.
In addition to enrollment, Seton also will look at board operations, personnel issues and finances. “Our base pay is the lowest in all four Iowa dioceses,” Siepker said. “What do we need to do to get ourselves in line with other Catholic schools?”
Morrison said every school should engage in strategic planning at some point and that many schools in the diocese do. “We’re trying to move our schools from survival mode to revival mode.”
He applauded Seton for using “Measuring the Mission.”
In addition to its regular meetings, Seton’s board of education will meet again in May to continue strategically planning. Delaney said board members hope to have a plan by the school year’s end to share with the Seton community, including St. Mary of the Visitation and St. Patrick parishes in Ottumwa. For years to come, the board may continue to review and enhance that plan.
“I think we’re all excited about this,” she said.