Eastern Region Leads Development of Localized Business Models

| April 16, 2015


Decentralization, regionalization … by any name it means a new direction for the Catholic schools of the Syracuse Diocese. The joint effort of the diocese and local communities has been reinventing the way Catholic schools operate. All diocesan regions and schools are at different stages of the business model transition. Now schools within a region will begin to work together as smaller, more independent systems where decisions can be made closer to home.

Notre Dame in Utica, New York, is, in many ways, the trailblazer for the Eastern Region. A transition committee began discussing the business model with the diocese several years ago and drafted a Statement of Strategic Vision in 2011. It articulated core values of the committee to create a vision for the restructured schools and outlined strategic goals, governing principles and identified critical challenges.

Vin Gilroy, a Notre Dame alumnus and former member of the transition team, sits on the new board. “There was no manual to tell us how to go about this entire process. We’re still in the process with board development and working more closely with our region’s schools. There have been growing pains and we’ve learned a lot along the way. Today, we’ve got a better, stronger school because of it,” he said.

The pieces of the transition puzzle include newly-crafted and adopted by-laws and recruitment of a professional, more autonomous board of trustees. These nine business, education and church leaders are authorized to make key decisions on school policy, organization oversight and finances. The voting board members bring accounting, marketing, religion, technology and educational skills to the table where vision for the schools is articulated and strategies are formulated.

Under the board’s guidance, key management positions have been created or expanded, and the reporting structure is illustrated in a new organizational chart. Local professionals were recruited to enhance the management team. Sr. Anna Mae Collins continues to take the academic helm for both the junior/senior high school and the elementary school with Mary Rossi in place as elementary principal. In a newly created position, Chief Financial Officer Ken McCoy handles all financial and many operational matters directly from his office just inside the front doors of the junior/senior high school.

Jim Jones, former development director from St. Peter’s Elementary in Utica, shifted to Notre Dame Schools where his role grew to include the areas of enrollment, marketing and development. Jones now focuses directly on enrollment. On his watch, the school exceeded its target of 4 percent enrollment growth to reach 7.5 percent and instituted an international program bringing students from three different countries, including China, to Notre Dame. By the time the new by-laws were in place, Dyann Nashton, a former Catholic school advancement coordinator, stepped in to take the position of development director and is coordinating a $10 million capital campaign. The management team is supported by several new staff members. A second experienced communications professional, Kari Puleo, was hired to provide marketing and alumni support, and in the past year, Jake DerCola brought college level athletic experience to assume the role of athletic director.

“The creative enthusiasm that has surrounded the decentralization model has been exciting and impressive to witness. There is a passion within each of the buildings moving toward more autonomy and local decision making,” said William Crist, superintendent of Catholic schools. “This model has proven successful in other areas of the country. Success can be defined here by providing a growing and sustainable Catholic choice in our junior-senior high schools. I am confident this will only bring further success to the Catholic schools in the Diocese of Syracuse.”

Dyann Nashton is the development director of Notre Dame Schools.

Category: Stewardship

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