Committee Drives New Governance Model, Financial Decision Making

| February 1, 2013

Catholic School Finance Committee Draws Business Leaders, Alumni, Clergy 

By Caroline K. Reff

Keeping our Catholic schools financially sound is a team effort, and recently the team has been expanded with the establishment of a Catholic Schools Finance Committee. At the request of the Bishop, the School Finance Committee became part of the Diocesan Finance Council in 2011. Chaired by Steve Gorczynski, this group of alumni, local business leaders, higher education experts, attorneys and clergy reviews school budgets and monthly financial results, discusses school direction and addresses issues of the diocesan school system. As part of the Finance Council, the committee provides advice to the Finance Council and the Bishop.

Gorczynski worked throughout 2012 to establish a solid committee membership tasked with adopting sound fiscal practices and increasing development opportunities at the individual school level.

“Schools are best run locally,” said Superintendent Christopher Mominey. “It is our intention to give the individual schools the skills and leadership training needed to create sound, independent financial practices, targeted strategies and innovative ideas that will keep our Catholic schools thriving long term. The School Finance Committee provides the Bishop, the Finance Council and me with the expertise to ensure that these things are being executed.”

Committee Chair Gorczynski is a product of area Catholic Schools, including Notre Dame High School and Le Moyne College, and an avid supporter of Catholic education. He brings with him his expertise as administrative vice president of commercial banking at M&T Bank and a certified public accountant. Gorczynski has been working to gather a committee of “outstanding individuals” from the greater community (see side bar), while also working with individual schools to establish their own boards.

“Steve has really taken the bull by the horns,” said John Barsanti, COO of the Syracuse Diocese, of Gorczynski’s efforts. “He is out at the schools helping them form their own strategic goals and encouraging them to be more autonomous in order to succeed. We at the diocesan level realize — and encourage — schools to be more focused on the local boards in the decision-making process, and Steve is really driving that.”

“The more we allow our schools to be entrepreneurs, the better they will be. It’s impressive to see how passionate and committed some of the boards have become,” added Barsanti, citing Seton Catholic Central School as an excellent example of progress. “We can’t properly execute without these people. We have their commitment, and now we need to let them run with it.”

While Gorczynski acknowledges that the diocese will never completely step out of school operations, he knows that future success depends on a much greater level of ownership at each of the diocese’s 22 schools.

“It’s a cultural change, or course, and a balancing act. We can’t change just for the sake of change, but we can’t be afraid to change either,” said Gorczynski. “Our challenge is to balance a degree of patience while these ideas take hold, while also acknowledging the reality that the dollars are real and we can’t wait forever.”

Gorczynski hopes the Catholic Schools Finance Committee will help individual boards see the need for increased development efforts and encourage schools to use college and university-based models to drive fundraising and alumni support. He believes this will require the laity to “step up” and support the schools at the local level with their expertise and commitment to Catholic education, and there is an overall expectation that pastors will get involved as active participants at the local level.

“We need to maximize our resources, and trust that individual schools can or will develop the know-how to make the best decisions for their students and their futures,” he said.

While there is work to be done, there are positive financial signs, as parish assessments have come down and schools are embracing the need for a greater level of fund development to offset expenses not covered by tuition. In addition, Barsanti reported no loss of market share in 2012, as last year’s Catholic school enrollment in the diocese was down only one percent. This is a loss that Mominey considers a positive. “Ten years ago, we were looking at enrollment drops of 8 to 10 percent. Today our enrollment is stable and our enrollment numbers are in keeping with the national population trends for both Catholic and public school,” he said.

Gorczynski is confident that the Catholic School Finance Committee will provide schools with the support and resource they need to thrive and become more financially independent.

“I hope we create a system that puts me and my committee out of busi-ness one day,” he said. “With the right people and a com-mitment at the local level, we can make this happen – ensuring our schools will continue to thrive.”

Caroline K. Reff is a freelance writer based in Syracuse, NY, and a marketing consultant for the Catholic Schools Office.

 

Catholic School Finance
Committee:

Stephen Gorczynski, chair
Administrative Vice President, Commercial Banking,
M&T Bank

Basil ARiglio
CEO, Rome Hospital

Frank Caliva
COO, CenterState CEO

Rev. Christopher Celentano
Pastor, St. Agnes & St. Michael Church

Stephen Chabot
Vice President, Operations, INFICON

Andrew Hagen
Financial Advisor, AXA

JonElle baskin-Kelley
Controller, ASC SUNY Cortland

Patrick Kilmartin
Attorney

Dr. Linda LeMura
Provost, Le Moyne College

Rev. John Manno
Pastor, St. James Church

Carl Speicher
Vice President, Business Banking, M&T Bank

 

 

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Category: Stewardship

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