CUA expert in strategic planning to lead commission
It is no surprise that Dr. John J. Convey is the author, co-author or editor of eight books on Catholic education.
As the St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Professor of Education in The Catholic University of America, who joined the faculty in 1974, his professional work has been focused on research and strategic planning for Catholic schools. During the past 30 years, Dr. Convey has conducted diocesan-wide planning and evaluation studies across the country, and, at the invitation of Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., will now be working with the diocese’s new Commission for the Study of the Sustainability of Our Catholic Schools.
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As he looks forward to his work with the new commission, Dr. Convey stressed that it really is “all about the word sustainability.” It’s about “securing the future of Catholic education in the Diocese of Trenton … and making it as affordable as possible to as many people as possible.”
We need to “ensure quality of education, if necessary, and provide the best possible Catholic education that we can,” he said.
The process for achieving these goals will be one that is “well-organized, structured and timely,” assured Dr. Convey, referring to methodology he has used in some 20 major studies nationwide.
Two of Dr. Convey’s most recent books, “Weathering the Storm: Moving Catholic Schools Forward” (2009) and “What Do Our Children Know About Their Faith?” (2010) highlight critical elements during a time when Catholic schools are facing significant challenges to growth.
In reality, “challenges are always present ,” said Dr. Convey, in a recent interview. “We need to be sure we’re offering best possible product.”
That product, he explained, is a school that has a strong Catholic identity, with a quality academic and religious education program in which the “teaching of the Church is taught with same rigor as other content … and integrated into other subject areas.”
Enrollment is the “linchpin to sustainability of Catholic schools,” Dr. Convey stressed, “and Catholic identity is the value added component” that encourages parents to enroll their children and dedicate monies for tuition.
Dr. Convey explained that Catholic identity is the culture created in schools. It is a faith community that needs to be established, nurtured and strengthened, needing “good leadership from the principal, and teachers being on board to support that community.” There must be an “intentionality of the people to create the culture,” he emphasized.
Of course, finances play a critical role in sustainability, said Dr. Convey, noting the need to evaluate ways to raise efficiency, change how tuition subsidies are distributed and educate parents to the true cost of tuition.
Dr. Convey reiterated that enrollment is affected by finances, and as the cost per student increases, affordability for families decreases.
He was also quick to point out the high value and effectiveness of Catholic schools, which, research shows, is particularly effective for disadvantaged children.
“Catholic schools provide high expectations,” Dr. Convey stated. “If there is guidance within a caring, supportive atmosphere and nurturing environment, we see significant gains in achievement,” he said.
Dr. Convey is the recipient of numerous awards including the 1991 C. Albert Koob Award, given by the National Catholic Educational Association for outstanding national service to Catholic schools; the Benemerenti Medal by Pope Benedict XVI in 2005 recognition of his service to The Catholic University of America and to Catholic schools, and, in 2011, the National Catholic Educational Association at its annual meeting awarded him the Neil D’Amour Award for his work with Catholic school boards and the President’s Award at the annual Seton Awards Gala for his research and strategic planning for Catholic schools nationally.
Dr. Convey is currently a commissioner on the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, and a member of the Committee on Education of the Bishops and Presidents Committee of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.[[In-content Ad]]