By Tim Johnson
Catholic Schools in the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend are offered consultation and policy recommendations through an 11-member Diocesan School Board. Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades has chosen to establish the Diocesan School Board to assist him in fulfilling his responsibility for Catholic education.
“The board is established as a consultative and policy-recommending body in matters of elementary and secondary Catholic school education for the diocese,” reports Superintendent of Catholic Schools Marsha Jordan.
She says, “The board recommends policies that will guide the Catholic schools of the diocese, and annually assists the Catholic Schools Office in review of policies that effect administrators, teachers, students and the financial operations of our schools. The board works with the superintendent to fulfill diocesan and board goals for our Catholic schools by providing thoughtful discussion and advice.”
“As superintendent,” Jordan says, “I value the insight board members are able to bring to our diocesan school board meetings. As representatives of various elementary and high schools across the diocese, these individuals are able to convey the concerns of local boards, and pastors regarding a variety of educational issues, personnel concerns, school and community relationships, as well as financial issues impacting diocesan schools.”
The board consists of 11 voting members, which includes two priests from both sides of the diocese, two high school representatives — who alternate with the two Catholic high schools in Fort Wayne and Saint Joseph in South Bend and Marian in Mishawaka. The diocesan vicariates recommend the board members who serve a three-year term and may elect to serve a second term. The bishop selects three at-large members.
“I have been blessed to work with many devoted parents who willingly choose to give extra service as members of the Diocesan School Board,” Jordan says. “The insight, support and advice of the board has provided guidance to me as superintendent as together we work for the benefit of all of our diocesan schools and students.”
Secretary for Catholic Education Carl Loesch says, “I appreciate the input and advice from the Diocesan School Board. Our 42 Catholic schools cover 14 counties and range in size from under 100 to over 1,000. While many of the schools are in the cities of Fort Wayne and South Bend, we also have schools in smaller towns and rural areas. When we are reviewing policies and the direction for our schools, it is important to consider the schools from Avilla to Yoder and Besancon to Plymouth. The diverse talents and professional expertise of the Diocesan School Board members are very helpful in advising the Catholic Schools Office and Bishop Rhoades.”
Father John H. Delaney and Father Timothy A. Wrozek are the two priests who currently serve on the board.
Father Delaney, the pastor of St. Jude Parish in South Bend, says he brings, “a pastor’s concerns that our schools always uphold Catholic teaching as well as actively give witness (through our students and staff) of what it means to live as a Christian in the otherwise secular world.”
His three-year term will close in May. Father Delaney says he most enjoys “seeing the total dedication of the school’s office we are so blessed to have, as well as the dedication and concerns expressed and so carefully thought through on the part of the lay members of the board.”
Father Wrozek, pastor of St. Joseph Parish in Fort Wayne, is new — just three months — to the Diocesan School Board.
Father Wrozek says serving as a board member “helps me to maintain a wider perspective in my own local situation and as mundane as some of the tasks of the board are, gives me a sense of helping with the overall good of the diocesan school system.”
“I have a school, which is new with growing pains. The students are mostly Hispanic,” he says. “I am a priest so hopefully I bring a spiritual perspective.”
Board members come from diverse backgrounds.
Andrew Paluf, from St. Anthony de Padua Parish, South Bend, is the associate vice president for finance and controller at the University of Notre Dame. Paluf reports he brings “not-for-profit financial and operational matters in addition to board experiences with other primary and secondary Catholic schools, both in and outside of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend.”
He has served on the school board for two years, but also served on the Marian High School board for six years and the St. Ignatius High School board in Cleveland, Ohio.
He says, “(I) appreciate the diversity of the schools in our diocese along with the strong commitment and dedication of the faculty and staff in our schools. We are truly blessed to have such great role models for our students.”
Lori Wagner, a parishioner of St. Rose de Lima Parish in Monroeville, brings a small-school perspective to the board. A registered paralegal by profession, Wagner says, “I am from a small school with a limited budget” and offers that perspective to the board.
Wagner, a board member for two years, says, “I like learning more about how the diocese operates and all of the programs they try to implement to help the children enrich their Catholic faith.”
Amy Urban, a parishioner at St. Vincent de Paul Parish in Fort Wayne, has a daughter who attends St. Louis Academy in New Haven.
Urban, a corporate wellness consultant by profession, says, “I bring the perspective of a parent with a special needs student. In 2012, my daughter was enrolled in the special needs program that was started at St. Louis Academy. It was shortly thereafter that I joined the school board. I am encouraged and inspired to know that my daughter, as well as other students with special needs throughout our diocese, are able to attend our Catholic schools.”
Urban has served on the board for three years. She says, “Serving on the school board gives me the opportunity to give back to our Catholic schools and community.”
Board member Angela Jansen is a legal secretary and a parishioner of St. Mary of the Assumption in Avilla.
This is Jansen’s first year serving on the board, but she has also served as president of the St. Mary School Board.
“St. Mary is a small, rural school that continually strives to give our students every available opportunity with limited resources,” says Jansen. “I hope to bring that perspective to the board.”
Jansen notes, “Every meeting is a new opportunity to improve the education and well-being of our entire diocesan school system with Bishop Rhoades directly involved. This fact alone humbles me and (sometimes) overwhelms me!”
Tom Guinan, a member of St. Anthony de Padua Parish, South Bend, is an administrator at the University of Notre Dame, responsible for the overseas administration.
“I have backgrounds in both accounting and theology,” says Guinan, who is completing his sixth and final year on the board, “and so I’m able to engage in business and policy issues with a very strong and deep connection to the overall mission of Catholic Schools. Much of my time on the Diocesan School Board has coincided with my time on the St. Anthony de Padua School Board and also the St. Anthony Finance Council. These overlaps have enabled me to bring a local perspective on issues to the Diocesan School Board in real-time and vice versa. This was particularly important during the implementation of the School Choice (voucher) Program.”
Guinan points to two aspects of the school board that he enjoys the most. First, “the annual in-services with the local school boards can be the most effective way to share ideas and best-practices across the diocese. The level of commitment and dedication to Catholic education on display at these sessions is inspiring.”
Second, he likes “the annual review of the school strategic plans. Hearing principals, local school board members and others talk in great detail about the plans and aspirations for their schools is equally inspirational. I feel honored to be a part of that process.”
Kenton Kiracofe is a parishioner of St. Aloysius, Yoder, and is a Wells County Circuit Court judge.
“I think a unique perspective that I bring is that I am a convert and attended public schools; however, my children attend St. Aloysius,” he says. “Further, I bring a view point from a small rural school, with different problems and perspectives than some of the larger schools.”
Kiracofe adds, “Finally, as I mentioned my children are currently attending a Catholic school, my wife teaches at that same school and she has the privilege of attending 12 years of Catholic education, first through 12th grade.”
Christian Nyikos also serves on the board.
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