MfM Tutorials on Governance & Administration

Jack Peterson
Managing for Mission

This month’s post is a compendium of video tutorials on faith-based school management produced by Managing for Mission over the last 4 years, all in one place. With a new school year beginning, it’s a good time to remember as administrators and trustees that, like our students, we also need to keep growing and learning. And if you’ve been trying to explain some of these best practices to someone else at your school, you can send them the link to a tutorial instead. They can also be accessed on MfM’s YouTube Channel, or in the original blog posts by using the search function in the panel at the right of the screen.

Strategic Planning for Faith-based Schools 6:31 min.

1.pngThis tutorial explains how faith-based schools can do Strategic Planning which is truly strategic, broadly owned and implementation oriented. Such planning is critical to the survival and growth of faith-based schools. Given the dependence of the school on its support community, its planning method requires some special characteristics. Take a few minutes to find out what those are.

Setting Goals in a Faith-based School 6:26 min.

2.png

A step by step process for setting annual Board goals, showing charts and tools used. This same process can be used in other group goal setting situations, e.g. setting administrative or committee goals, or setting goals as part of strategic planning.

 Four Models in a Faith-based School 5:01 min.

3.pngThe leaders of faith-based schools must manage not just a business model, but three other models in order to accomplish their mission. This video explores the relationship of the school’s Apostolic, Pedagogical, Community and Business models.

Chain of Care 3:22 min.

4.pngEveryone in the school – whether teacher, administrator, or trustee – is part of a Chain of Care that supports the students’ experience of God’s loving, creative presence in their lives. “Managing for mission” means strengthening that Chain to transform students’ lives. Learn more about the importance of the Chain of Care and how it works in this video tutorial.

Diversity in the Faith-based School 2 parts 3:28 & 4:58 min.

5.pngAs president of Bellarmine Prep, Jack Peterson knew there were some communities that were under-represented in the school and students from them often had trouble feeling fully welcome.  He decided he wanted to find out why and it began a journey of revelation and treasured relationships. In this tutorial, he shares the four questions that he learned need to be answered honestly.  And he shares a few practical approaches that make a big difference.

Development Plan for a Faith-based School 7:54 min.

6.pngFaith-based schools rely heavily on fundraising to maintain quality programs and relieve pressure on tuition. Because of the unpredictable nature of donated funds and the tendency for immediate demands to take all our energy, every school should have a written, trackable Development Plan. This tutorial explains how to formulate an effective plan with an accompanying free template available at ManagingForMission.com on our Resources page.

5 Requisites for Development Success 4:26 min. 

7.pngManaging for Mission’s Jack Peterson explains the 5 core requisites faith-based schools need to focus on to achieve their fund development potential. These 5 should drive strategy, time invested and performance evaluations, by both the Board and Administration.

8 Steps of a Major Gift Ask 6:21 min.

8.pngSuccess in procuring major gifts is key to effective fund development for faith-based schools. This tutorial breaks down the eight essential elements, from preparation, to making the ask, to following up. And it explains how to ask in a way consistent with the mission of the school.

Branding for Faith-based Schools 7:01 min.

9.pngMany types of schools are competing for resources and for students in an ever-changing environment. To succeed, they need to be clear not just about their mission, but their brand–how that mission is actually experienced by school families and potential school families. This tutorial explains basic concepts and approaches to branding for faith-based school as the foundation of marketing strategy.

The Board’s Role in a Faith-based School 7:57 min.

10.pngHealthy boards are crucial to their schools’ vitality and connect them to the communities they serve. Yet their role is often misunderstood. Jack Peterson explains the board’s role in a faith-based school and how board members and administrators can clarify the various hats trustees wear, so that these complementary components of the leadership team can fully contribute to the school’s success.

4 Best Practices to Becoming a Great Board 8:10 min.

11.pngThe 2nd tutorial in the Board Basics series discusses best practices for becoming a great board in four areas: Recruitment, Formation, Self-evaluation and the Board Policy Manual.

 

4 Best Practices for Doing the Board’s Work 6:22 min.

12.pngThis third tutorial in the Board Basics series explores four areas where proven approaches can ramp up the faith-based board’s effectiveness: committees, strategic planning, evaluation of the chief administrator and board philanthropy. Hopefully every school’s board is paying attention to these areas, but they may not be aware of a few key tools that make all the difference to the school’s accomplishment of its mission.

Discernment for Boards – Introduction 3:12 min.

13.pngThis Introduction is the first in a series of five tutorials about group discernment. These tutorials apply the principles of discernment developed by Ignatius of Loyola to the decision-making process of boards, and particularly those of faith-based schools.

The Spirit of Discernment 5:27 min.

14.pngThis is the second tutorial in MfM’s Board Discernment series. It explains the spirituality that underlies Ignatian Discernment and how boards can embrace that spirit and incorporate Ignatius’ insights into their decision-making.

The Habit of Discernment 5:48 min.

15.pngBy developing the habit of discernment in our daily lives, we can better participate in the discernment which boards must do together. This tutorial explains four habits that will strengthen decision-making in our personal and professional lives, as well as our work on the board.

The 6 Components of Discernment 5:42 min.

16.pngIn this 4th tutorial in MfM’s series on Board Discernment, we discuss the six components that are part of every group discernment. By giving advanced thought to these six components, and adapting them to our particular group and the questions it is facing, we can harness the power of God’s desire to see fruitfulness in our work and lives.

 The 4 Core Tools of Discernment 4:16 min.

17.pngIgnatian Discernment can seem so complex that boards put off embracing it. But the four Core Tools discussed in this tutorial are fairly easy to implement and can move trustees a long way toward becoming a truly discerning board.

Designing the Board Retreat 8:52 min.

18.pngThe boards of faith-based schools need dedicated time for work that can’t fit into their regular meetings. This includes planning, improving their own process, spiritual formation and team-building. This tutorial talks about how to incorporate all four of these elements into an effective and grace-filled board retreat.

Posted in Managing For Mission | Leave a comment

The Development Plan

Jack Peterson
Managing for Mission

Fund development is perhaps the hardest area of school management to plan for, and yet the area that needs planning most. The temptation is to say, “Well we’ll do our best and see what happens.” Given how much we depend on developed funds, that’s just not good enough.

I realize that there are many unpredictable elements in fundraising. But rather than being an argument against having a Development Plan, it’s actually a reason to be more intentional about our goals and how we intend to accomplish them. A written Development Plan keeps the advancement staff focused, widens the circle of those who can be involved, and gives the president and board a meaningful way to evaluate progress.

When I ask schools about their Development Plan, what they often show me looks more like calendar of events and appeals and how much they are expecting from each. The schools often feel these events and appeals are maxed out and the only way to increase revenue is to add another. I don’t want to denigrate this approach, but we can do better. To reach its full development potential the school must tap into the giving capacity of its donors and prospective donors. The question must shift from, “How much can this event or activity raise for us?” to “How much could our donors give if they were properly asked?”

In an earlier tutorial I presented the 5 Requisites for Development Success—Case, Prospects, Asks, Askers and Resources. Focusing on these five elements of the fundraising process will help us shift away from event-centric development to donor-centric development. Events and appeals reach a point of diminishing returns as we try to involve more people in what are mostly small transactions. We call that event-centric fundraising. Schools need to move toward realizing the aggregate giving capacity of the people who support, or would support, them. We call this donor-centric fundraising.

Managing for Mission has developed a template for formulating a donor-centric Development Plan. We offer you this template to lead the board and administration, development staff, and the development committee through a process of creating a collaborative plan for reaching the school’s full development capacity. You might want to download this template now to refer to as you read the following explanation of the process.

The Case Statement
In the first section of the template you will focus on the first of the 5 Essentials: The Case for support. Clearly, success depends on making a compelling case for support of the school. A Case is a value proposition in which the donor will see how their funds will be used. They need to see how they will benefit the school, its students, society at large and the donors themselves. The Case for support is based on the school’s mission and the strategic plan the school has formulated to accomplish that mission. It should be expressed in visionary and outcome-based language, but it also needs to identify important details about the school’s plan. I recommend including both operating needs and the bigger needs that might be sought in a capital campaign so that the school can see the whole picture.

The Case statement will eventually take different forms, adapted to various kinds of Asks and the types of marketing materials needed to support them. But this section of the Development Plan will serve as the source for shaping all versions of the Case Statement.

Prospects
In the next section you will focus on the 2nd of the 5 requisites: Prospects. Funding the school’s plans will require a few donors making large gifts and many other donors giving at various levels. Not all will give at the level we hope. They may have other priorities, financial constraints or simply aren’t used to giving yet. So the pool of potential donors must be significantly larger that the number of gifts we hope to receive. The template shows how to build a Gift Table indicating how many donors, giving at what levels, will be needed to raise a certain amount of money. Often filling in this table will itself provide the first glimpse of the feasibility of the school’s goals.

Asks
The 3rd Essential for Development Success is Asks. That we need to make enough asks to achieve our goals might seem so obvious it’s not worth mentioning. But for many schools, maybe most, it is the Achilles heel. Too few Asks are being made in the right way. There are 4 rights to a meaningful Ask: asking for the right purpose, at the right amount, in the right way, by the right person.

Events and appeals are ways of asking, and they will remain part of a complete Development Plan. But they can’t be the only way, because they generally don’t move donors toward their full giving potential. So this section of the template helps the school identify the best ways to ask top prospective donors.  It helps us determine where events fit into that strategy. And it lays out how we will track the process from identification to research to cultivation to asking to follow-up.

Askers
The 4th Essential for Success is Askers, people to do the asking. Again, events like auctions and annual giving appeals are ways of asking, but to realize the full potential of those who have the most potential, we need to ask them directly in the right way described earlier. This section will help determine what role school leadership and staff will play and what role volunteers will play. And it helps the school identify the training and support that will be needed to make these Askers successful.

Resources
The final Essential is Resources. What investment will the school have to make to be successful? The big items are salaries, technology, consultants, publications, donor recognition, events and entertainment and travel costs.

Key Steps
After the 5 requisites, the template has a section for key next steps. This is important because the complexity and long-term nature of the plan can tempt us to stay in the abstract. The purpose of the plan is not to plan, but to act. This section is updated constantly and shows what we need to be doing now, to end up where the plan is pointing us.

If you would like a free copy of our Development Plan Template, you can click here and find it on our RESOURCES web page, where you will also find a more detailed explanation about how to write and Development Plan using the template. Or you can email me at jackpeterson@managingformission.com. There are other resources on our website at managingformission.com to assist faith-based schools on development and other governance and administrative issues.

Thank you for all your efforts to make sure your school has the resources it needs to accomplish its mission. It’s a blessing to your students and to the world your school serves.

Posted in Managing For Mission | Leave a comment

Setting Board Goals

Jack Peterson
February 2018

Boards fly at the 30,000 foot level, but the brushfires that commonly occur in schools can take our eye off the big picture and put our navigation at risk. A good process for setting annual board goals can help us stay on course.

The goal setting process described in the following is well-suited for Boards, but it can also be used by administrative teams and as part of the strategic planning process. It incorporates an acronym that many of us are familiar with, producing SMART Goals. An internet search will come up with a variety of words to match the initials in S.M.A.R.T. I’ve chosen ones that best correspond with the needs of faith-based schools.

S is for Significant. A goal that is not significant, will fail to capture people’s imaginations and fail to address the important needs the school faces. Goals by their nature should help us focus on what’s most important.

M is for Measurable. Goals are meant to guide us, but they can’t if we don’t see exactly where they’re leading or how close we are to getting there. We need metrics to mark our path. For some goals, especially those which are perhaps subjective but nonetheless meaningful, it’s hard to identify quantifiable metrics. But we must still know what it will look like when we’ve achieved the goal. And what it looks like if we don’t.

A is for Attainable. Before we set off on the journey, we better be confident we can finish it. What will have to happen, or have to not happen, if we are to achieve our goal? Does it depend on a good economy, the strength of feeder schools or decisions being made in the political realm?

R is for Responsible, as in who is. Many people will likely have to contribute to reaching the goal. But who will be responsible? Who will make sure participants get recruited and the meetings take place? If that person or group can’t be identified, the goal isn’t a goal yet but a wish.

T is for Timed. Running a mile isn’t much of a goal, if it takes me two weeks to complete it. But running a mile in 8 minutes, now that’s a goal! At least for me. Setting a completion date will help us schedule all the steps and make time for them in the busy board or school schedule so they actually get done and the goal is accomplished.

Collaborative goal-setting

The different between a successful and an unsuccessful strategy is that a successful strategy is one that people make work. And people will make a strategy work if they have ownership for it. So it’s important to use a collaborative process to the formulate the goals, involving those who will be key to achieving it.

In the case of setting annual Board goals, the first step will be to identify the issues board members consider the most important for the coming year. A way to do this is to list on a flip-chart all the issues members feel are important. At this stage we want to make sure nothing is overlooked, but this list will probably be too long to be effective. Goal-setting is one of those cases where less is more. The more we can focus on what is most important, the more likely we are to accomplish what is most important. So we need to decide as a group the three or four issues that rise to the top.

We do this by giving each Board member a fixed number of dots (3/4” peel-off dots available at office supply stores). I like to give them a number equal to the number of goals we want to end up with, plus one. I’ve found that most boards can focus on about four major goals successfully in the course of a year, so I like to give them five dots. Each participant goes up to the list we’ve created and places their dots next the issues they find most important. They can expend their dots however they like. If they think only three items are important enough to be considered, they can distribute all their dots only to those three.

After everyone has voted, the dots are tallied, and the top three to four issues are identified. The group then breaks down into smaller groups of equal size, one for each issue selected. Each group is given a large sheet of paper already prepared with fill-in spaces for the SMART goals. Each small group decides what the goal needs to be to address the issue they’ve been assigned, gives it a short 3-5 word name, and fills that in at the top. Next, they put a one or two sentence description of what the board is going to accomplish with this goal.

Then they briefly answer the SMART Questions on the sheet: Why is this Significant? How will we Measure whether we’ve accomplished it? What needs to happen, or not happen, for it to be Attainable? Who will be Responsible? And what is the Time-frame for beginning and completing the activities needed to accomplish the goal?

Then each small group presents its SMART goal to the Board as a whole. This is an opportunity to make sure all Board members understand what they are committing to and that the SMART characteristics have been addressed adequately.

Often the board chair, or the small groups themselves, will do some final editing and formatting outside the meeting. The goals are then confirmed at the next meeting and the board reviews progress at each ensuing meeting.

If you’d like to get more information about planning for faith-based schools, please explore our website www.managingformission.com, or to receive a free template for formulating SMART goals contact me at my email, jackpeterson@managingformission.com. You can also watch the video tutorial at the top of this post, which will show some of the tools described in this post.

Thanks for your extra care to make sure your school’s work is focused and effective. God bless.

Posted in Managing For Mission | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Designing a Board Retreat

Jack Peterson
November 2017

Most governing boards schedule an extended meeting time at least once a year to accomplish what can’t be accomplished during regular meetings. This is precious time for the board, so how can we design it to be most productive?

We call these special times together “retreats,” although they often aren’t retreats in the traditional sense of taking time away from our routine to center ourselves more on God. During the course of the year trustees find themselves making many decisions, but they long to step back to see how all these decisions fit into an overall direction for the school. They realize they need to set aside time to do this.

Their motivation is often just to do planning for the future, but there are three other important reasons for setting this time aside: strengthening board process, prayer and board formation, and strengthening board relationships. With proper design, and coordination with the regular meetings, all four can be accomplished. Let’s look at each of these four objectives.

Planning:

Board planning can range from setting annual goals for the board itself to setting a strategic vision for the school for the next five to ten years. If annual board goals are needed, the board can generally use a meeting or two to identify potential goals and use the retreat for deeper discussion and adoption.

If the need is for institutional strategic planning, satisfying that need may require three major steps. The first might be a retreat at the end of one year to initialize the process. Then most of the next school year may be needed for a steering committee and a number of subcommittees to engage the community in helping to develop the plan. Finally, at the end of that year, it may need another retreat to thoroughly review and approve the proposed plan.

Whatever the level of planning, it’s important to design the retreat to provide necessary information and incorporate sufficient discussion, yet work within the time available to bring closure to at least one step of the process.

Board Process:

There are many best practices for making boards more effective and no board has mastered them all. For instance, are agendas designed to allow for substantive discussion? Is there a policy manual that keeps a record of board decisions over the years? Is there a robust process for selecting and orienting new members? The board retreat is a good time to review those practices.

A helpful tool for doing this is reviewing the board’s annual self-evaluation (which is itself a best practice). By doing this at the retreat, the board can delve more deeply into its own needs, and set goals for the coming year to up its own game.

Formation:

In faith-based schools, it’s important that trustees, individually and as a group, embody the spirituality and ethos of the school. As lay people who work in the secular world, they bring some of this with them when they join the board. But given the role they now play in guiding a ministry, it’s critical that they continue to be fed spiritually. This can be done to some extent during regular meetings, but an opening and closing prayer, as important as they are, simply won’t fill the bill.

Even a personal commitment to spiritual growth doesn’t necessarily translate into a collective commitment. The retreat is an opportune time for the board to renew its commitment to the school’s religious foundations and explore how to better incorporate them into its work. Studying the school’s values and spiritual foundations is important, but board formation must also include an experiential element. Here we come closer to the traditional understanding of a retreat as a time away to renew our relationship with God.

While this was the original purpose of a retreat, it often gets lost in the press of handling weighty business matters. Even during regular meetings, boards would do well to pause for silent prayer, communal prayer, and reflection on scripture or other foundational documents. But these will be more effective if during retreat time the board can go deeper, learn and practice forms of prayer that enrich their reflection, and experience those graces that require time to develop.

Relationship-building:

We don’t often think of boards as teams. We think of them as people with various connections to the school who assemble to make decisions on behalf of the people it serves. They want to make those decisions carefully, but also efficiently. The idea of working on how they relate to each other as human beings seems like a luxury and not central to the work they do. And yet we all know the difference between a functional and a dysfunctional board.

A dysfunctional board struggles to get anything decided because members are distracted by each others’ perceived agendas and constantly in defensive mode. A functional board is one where mutual respect and appreciation allow members to focus on the issues at hand and draw strength from diverse perspectives and skills. I call it traveling at the speed of trust.

While boards often feel there’s not enough time for team-building activities, my experience is that they give back more time than they take. The board retreat is a great time for people to interact on a more human, relational level. It’s best if they can engage in activities that allow them to be more vulnerable and that put everyone on an equal footing.

An overnight retreat is a great way to build relationships, as is simply sharing meals together. I’ve also used everything from sing-alongs and drum circles to chowder cook-offs and Frisbee golf to break down the barriers. Invariably these additions to the agenda meet with suspicion and some anxiety. But they are often what people say later made the most difference in how they approach their work.

The question is how do we squeeze planning, process, formation, and relationship-building into one half-day or even day-long retreat? You may have noticed as you read the descriptions for each of these, that they are not independent of each other. Planning requires good board process. Prayer is a good way to build relationships. Formation can strengthen planning and working on process can be part of team-building

There are ways to blend these elements together. For one board, some elements may need to be emphasized more than others. In some cases greater development of an element may have to be take place beyond the retreat day. For instance, the retreat might kick-off a prayer program that trustees commit to which is revisited briefly at each board meeting throughout the year.

The key is to be thoughtful, the way schools are in designing their curriculum. Schools look at the big picture of what they want their students to become, and develop a curriculum to support that. As school boards and commissions, shouldn’t we use an analogous approach to design our meeting and retreat time?

I hope the foregoing has provided you with some principles for designing your board or commission retreat. You can scroll to the top of this page to watch a video of this post, or share it with others at your school who work on board development. And if you want to learn more, please explore the rest of this website, www.managingformission.com. You’ll find more information that can help you in your role with the school, or you can contact me and ask me your questions directly.

The work you do is important enough to set aside some special time for doing it better. You won’t regret the extra effort to use it well.

Posted in Managing For Mission | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Four Models in a Faith-based School

Jack Peterson
August 2017

If you’re the administrator or trustee of a faith-based school, you have a tough job. Saying our schools are complex organizations doesn’t make it any easier. But it would be helpful to have a framework that brings greater clarity to what we’re doing—both for ourselves and the people we lead.

Every business knows that to succeed it needs an effective business model, and faith-based schools have learned that they do too. But they also need more. In fact, faith-based schools need to manage four different models at work in their school. Each model must be functional in itself and must support the function of the other three.

Let’s take a closer look:

As religion teachers and campus ministers will be happy to remind you, faith formation is at the core of our schools’ mission. It’s what makes us special. But it doesn’t happen by accident. We need to orchestrate a number of activities: To provide spiritual formation to our staff, build religion classes into the curriculum, develop a campus ministry program, service opportunities, and a way to tie our spiritual values to actions for social justice. All these components and others need to be organized into an effective strategy for engendering faith in our students. So we can say we have an Apostolic Model. A rudimentary representation might look like this:

1

But we’re schools, and as such, we need to prepare students for success in college and later life. To do this we need a college prep curriculum (even if we’re k-8, by the way). We need to put in place professional development, technology and facilities that support that curriculum. To pay attention to our student-teacher ratio and design an effective class schedule. We even need to consider how extra-curriculars like athletics support our pedagogy. Coordinating all this requires thought and skill, and so we can say, we must have a Pedagogical Model.

2

But anyone who works in a faith-based school knows that learning happens only in a nurturing environment, a fabric of relationships that supports the student in her growth. Again, this doesn’t happen by accident.

Having a strong community means attracting a committed and diverse student body. It means having skilled faculty who must be supported with professional development, appropriate salaries and benefits. But faith-based schools also need a wider “cloud of witnesses” that support the students, which includes parents and graduates, who are now alumni. Creating a healthy learning community is an intentional act and our strategy for doing so can be called our Community Model.

3

We don’t usually think of our schools as businesses, but like any business we live with the uncompromising reality that our revenues have to exceed our expenditures. We need to run on a budget, which requires, first of all, a healthy enrollment and tuition revenues, but our schools also require philanthropic support, from annual giving, events and endowment. And we also need to raise money through capital campaigns to provide the needed facilities. This all has to work, year in and year out, so, like any business we need a functioning Business Model.

4

Clearly for our schools to survive and flourish, each one of the models, our Apostolic, Pedagogical, Community and Business models, have to be well-managed. But here’s the challenge: not only does each have to be functional in itself, they also have to support each other. Most of the people in our schools live in one or another of these models, and may not even be sure why we need the other models, or whether they’re that important. But if you’re a trustee or a chief administrator of a faith-based school, your job is to unite them all into one overall model for an effective school.

5

As I say, you’ve got a tough job. Managing for mission is the process of aligning all the elements of the four models so that like oarsmen in a racing shell, they all pull together toward the school’s mission. We use tools like strategic planning, appropriate governance models, spirit inspired discernment, thoughtful human resource practices, communications and institutional advancement to achieve this alignment. More can be learned about these tools by exploring the resources on this website, www.managingformission.com.

If you’d like to see a visual presentation of this explanation of the Four Models in a Faith-based School, or use it to share with others in your school, go back to the top of this post and click on the video link.

And thanks for all you do to support faith based education. Keep up your good work on behalf of God’s beloved children.

Posted in Managing For Mission | Tagged | 1 Comment

The Chain of Care

Jack Peterson
Managing for Mission

Faith-based schools exist to help students experience God’s loving, creative presence. And God’s loving, creative presence is always experienced through the love and care of the people in our lives. The tradition of St. Ignatius of Loyola refers to this care as cura personalis.

When a child is born, nearly everything God desires for him is mediated through his parents. Through their love and care he first experiences God’s love and care. As he becomes more autonomous, though, it is others who refract God’s love into his life.

In school, teachers become the mediators of God’s love. The cura personalis they show frees the student and empowers him to grow, to take risks, to inquire into the purpose of his life and what God desires to give the world through him.

Part of the teacher’s care for the student is holding him accountable. Teachers in our schools will not settle for students being less than what they’re capable of. The teacher-student relationship forms the first link in a Chain of Care that supports our students.

Just as the student grows in the warmth of his teacher’s care, the teacher herself must experience cura personalis in her own life. If she experiences love, care and respect from her administrators, she will have a well of love to draw from for her students. The administrator-teacher relationship becomes the second link in the Chain of Care.

In order for an administrator to give cura personalis, he must experience it from the board, both in their support and their encouraging him to be the best administrator he can be. If he feels unappreciated, he won’t be able to draw from his own well and model care for the teachers. This is the third link.

The board itself needs to draw from the loving support and guidance of the school’s sponsoring entity, and the sponsor from the Church, and the Church from Christ. And even Jesus is part of a community of love and support, which we call the Trinity.

To have a rich, sustained cura personalis for the student, therefore, there needs to be a Chain of Care from the student, back to the teacher, back to the administrator, back to the board, the sponsor, the Church, and Jesus and the Trinity itself.

A chain works only if you don’t skip links. An administrator can’t exhaust her time or energy in direct care for the students and have too little left to support the teachers. Her best way to care for the students is to care for their teachers.

The same is true for the board. Its special responsibility is supporting the administration, including holding it accountable. The board should receive love, support and guidance from the sponsoring entity that represents the Church. It should also return that care in the form of loyalty, honesty and trust.

This reciprocity is important at every level of the Chain of Care and will lead ultimately to students experiencing, throughout their time in the school, the loving, creative presence of God in their life.

If you want to learn more about how to manage your school around this chain of care, click and follow this link to Managing for Missions’ website. I especially encourage boards and administrators to review the posts and videos on Discernment, an approach to decision-making that uncovers God’s deep desires for the school and strengthens the Chain of Care. You can also view a video version of this post by clicking here.

Achieving the aspirational mission of faith-based schools requires more than just a chain of command. The school must exemplify in its very being the care for persons that Christ modeled for us. We do this by enlivening the Chain of Care at all levels to support our students’ experience of God’s loving, creative presence in their lives.

image.png

Posted in Managing For Mission | Tagged | Leave a comment

Diversity for Faith-based Schools

Jack Peterson
Managing for Mission


If the second Diversity video doesn’t start automatically, click here.

Most schools struggle with the challenge of diversity. They want to serve all kinds of students, but they often can’t attract under-represented minorities or fully involve them in the life of the school. Working on diversity was one of my greatest challenges as a school president, but also one of my greatest sources of joy. In the process, I learned that to understand why our schools struggle to achieve their diversity goals, we have to answer a few questions and we have to answer them honestly:

Why is Diversity important?

What do we mean by diversity?

Why is it so difficult to achieve?

And what is our goal?

First, why is diversity important to us? As faith-based schools, we’re in the business of forming students with competence, conscience and compassion. If ours school were transplanted to the 1850’s, we’d like to think that the education our students now receive would give them the intellectual clarity and moral courage to recognize the evils of slavery.

But the views we would have been educating against were deeply woven into the culture, and opposing them would be as radical as anything we can conceive of today. The reason that diversity is important, is that after hundreds of years and many generations of weaving, the racism on which slavery was founded is still woven into our culture. In American cities we think of today as diverse, people of color are still experiencing exclusion from opportunity.

White people like me may not experience racism directly, but those whose skin is brown can experience it in some form on a daily basis. And it still has a huge influence on who has access to the rich opportunities our schools can provide.

So if we’re serious about fostering diversity in our schools, we have to face the legacy of slavery which, in many ways, continues to perpetuate the racism that is still alive today, even in the communities we serve. And doing something about it will arouse deep feelings, which can include fear, resentment, guilt and denial.

The second question is “What does diversity mean to us?” There are many kinds of diversity: economic, gender, academic or even geographic diversity with international students. As important as they are, the biggest challenge is including students whose families have been treated for centuries, to borrow Jesus’ words, as the “least of these.” Reaching out to the most excluded in our culture is still the apostolic frontier for faith-based schools, and at some point we have to cross that frontier and make a commitment to do things differently in order to achieve different results.

The third question is why is achieving racial diversity so difficult? I used to think that publishing our Equal Opportunity Statement would ensure that the barriers would be removed. But it became clear that most of the barriers are hidden. Barriers may be finances, language, location, lack of awareness and the symbols we use. Each of these must be addressed if a school wants a student body drawn from all communities, and many schools have made heroic commitments to eliminating these barriers.

But perhaps the biggest barrier is one we don’t see. “Whose school is this?” No one wants to attend someone else’s school. If I am black, I don’t want to attend or send my children to a school that is clearly intended to serve white people. Because at some point, I will encounter something that tells me or my child, this isn’t “your” school. It may be the parking lot supervisor who interrogates me when I come to pick up my child. It may be being called on to give the “African American perspective” during a discussion of Huckleberry Finn.

Closely related is “Whose voices are heard?” Are there people on the board or in the administration or faculty who understand my experience because they have also lived it? If I am one of a handful of Latino parents, do I have to go to the parent information night where no one else would have my question or concern, or ask it in the same language? If the campus doesn’t always feel safe to me, is there a safe place I can go to get myself grounded again? And do most people at the school not understand why that safe place is even important, because for them the whole school is their safe place?

Finally, “What is our real goal here?” Is our goal to be able to say our school does not discriminate? That shouldn’t be hard to achieve. We don’t have to actively discriminate in a system where the barriers are built in. Maybe our goal is more substantial, like being inclusive and welcoming. This requires us to become more aware of the hidden ways in which we are not welcoming.

But the mission of our schools calls us to go a step further. Our institutions and our students have a responsibility to use their intelligence, skills and resources to dismantle and finally eliminate racism not only in ourselves but in society. To be anti-racist.

So here’s my advice to administrators and boards who are serious about moving the needle on diversity in their schools.

First, take time to have honest conversations about the questions we talked about above. Use the same depth of discernment and involve the same levels of the organization you would use to formulate your mission statement.

Second, if you are white like me, put yourself in situations where you are in a minority, like attending a Black or Latino church service, and ask what it would take for you to feel at home. Then imagine what it would take for the people around you to feel at home in your school.

Third, provide safe ways that students and parents of color can educate you about their needs, perceptions and challenges. It’s difficult for them to express this in a setting where most people don’t already share their experience. You’ll have to earn their trust, because many before you have lost it.

Finally, you’ll have to dedicate great effort to recruit faculty, administrators and trustees of color, and support them in the challenges of isolation that they will feel. One of the best ways is to keep in touch with your own students of color and invite them back to join the team. It’s a long game, but there is no short game on this one.

It’s hard to do this topic justice in a few paragraphs. If you want to learn more about discernment and other tools that can help you approach this and other school challenges, please explore our website at www.managingformission.com. Click on one of share buttons below to send this blog to others who are key to meeting your school’s commitment to diversity. And thanks for having the courage to assure that the blessings of your school are available to all God’s children.

Special thanks to Dr. Saj Kabadi of Regis Jesuit High School, Barbara Henderson of Bellarmine Preparatory School, Matt Balano of St. Ignatius College Prep, Dr. Donna Andrade of Fairfield College Preparatory School and Gwen White for their contributions to this post.

Posted in Managing For Mission | 4 Comments