By Barb Arland-Fye
The Catholic Messenger
Scott County Catholic Schools (SCCS), a consortium of five Catholic schools in Davenport and Bettendorf, is now a registered nonprofit educational institution in Iowa, dedicated to being the “premier faith-based learning system in the Quad-Cities,” said SCCS President Andy Craig.
Catholic schools across the country have adopted the regionalized schools model, which supporters say will better serve K-12 students in the Davenport and Bettendorf area. SCCS comprises Assumption High School and All Saints, John F. Kennedy and St. Paul the Apostle elementary schools in Davenport and Lourdes elementary school in Bettendorf. SCCS could provide an impetus for other schools in the diocese to consider regionalization, supporters say.
“The more we desire our parishes and schools to thrive, the more we need to work together and the more we need to be in communion with one another,” said Bishop Thomas Zinkula. “After all, we are ‘ONE, holy, catholic, apostolic Church.’”
Lynne Devaney, diocesan Superintendent of Schools, offered this assessment: “From a spiritual viewpoint, this is a great opportunity for us as a collaborative group of educators. It provides a perfect opportunity for us to join forces, link arms and tackle some of the bigger issues we need to tackle for young people. A collective vision is always more powerful.”
“From a managerial point of view, it allows us to develop common ideas and efficiencies — everything from maintenance of buildings to finances to the scope of what schools offer instructionally,” Devaney said. “We can be more intentional in terms of offering high quality and rigorous curriculum. It’s great for teachers, keeping them up to speed on evidence-based instruction rather than on the flavor of the day. From a marketing perspective, we help people to see all we have to offer for a wide range of students.”
SCCS has been several years in the making and continues to be a work in progress, Craig said, that will lead to greater educational and spiritual benefits for students and families through enhanced program offerings, improved efficiencies and resource sharing, common tuition rates and updated facilities. SCCS also plans to offer competitive compensation and benefits packages for attracting and retaining top-level teachers, administrators and staff. “We started with the idea of what we wanted to build. Every step in the process adds more to the frame.”
Obtaining the Articles of Incorporation and approval of bylaws “are major milestones for Scott County Catholic Schools and the diocese,” said Rosie Barton, who co-chairs the SCCS Strategic Plan with Craig. “It has taken us 18 months of hard work to reach this point, but these are two of the most important steps in our regional reorganization process.”
A regional school system lends itself to cooperation not competition, she said. “I think it definitely makes us a stronger Catholic school system.” Leveraging resources is another incentive. She and Craig emphasized that staff will not lose their jobs or take pay cuts. Restructuring of some positions is a possibility in the future.
Priests of the eight parishes that support SCCS and the schools’ principals will have more time to focus on their overarching responsibilities rather than administrative paperwork. “We have tried to be transparent, seeking feedback from boards of education and finance councils,” Barton said. The eight supporting parishes are Holy Family, Our Lady of Victory, Sacred Heart Cathedral, St. Alphonsus, St. Anthony and St. Paul the Apostle in Davenport and Our Lady of Lourdes and St. John Vianney in Bettendorf.
“As a parish, we see a lot of advantages in cooperating with other Catholic schools in the area,” said Father Jake Greiner, pastor of Our Lady of Victory, which operates John F. Kennedy School. “Establishing a regional school system creates more opportunities; that’s what I’m excited about.” Most importantly, SCCS is in the best interest of the students. “I wouldn’t be serving as the priest representative on the SCCS Board of Directors if I didn’t think this regional system would be best for the kids.”
Father Greiner envisions benefits that reach beyond Scott County. “For the Diocese of Davenport in general, we, as Scott County Catholic Schools, have a larger system that can do the hard work, such as developing innovative programs that can help other schools in the diocese.”
He said regionalization responds to the demands of the times in education:
• Changes in technology.
• Increasingly rigorous expectations for outcomes for students.
• A teacher shortage, particularly in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) fields.
“This is different from anything we’ve done before,” Father Greiner said. “The opportunities are worth the challenges.”
Transfer tuition credit program
A new marketing campaign promoting a $1,500 transfer credit program is proving to be a successful project of Scott County Catholic Schools (SCCS). The initiative developed during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic when parents of students in public schools expressed interest in enrolling their children in a Catholic school in Scott County, said Andy Craig, president of the new SCCS regional education system.
The initiative provides a $1,000 tuition credit for the first year of enrollment and $500 for the second year. “The goal is that parents and their students will fall in love with the Catholic school,” Craig said. The transfer tuition credit has drawn 40 new students to Catholic schools in Scott County for the coming academic year.